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Taxis and Rams

CHINA | Thursday, 20 November 2008 | Views [1867] | Comments [7]

I had a fantastic day exploring the city of Guangzhou today. I awoke at 8am and had breakfast in the hotel resturant. I'm not a morning person at all, but there's nothing like a free breakfast to tempt you into getting up early!

The breakfast here is a full buffet of both western and Chinese breakfast foods. I was happy enough to have fresh fruit and coffee. From my little table by the window I got a very good view of the other diners. One man piled his plate high with bacon (it was towering!) and proceeded to eat the whole plate with chopsticks, and I saw a woman grab two handfulls of little jam packets and sit at her table slurping the jam out of them. Very funny.

After breakfast I headed downstairs to find the business center where I was told the staff could organise train tickets and visas for Hong Kong. Most of the people in this hotel speak very good English, but it was just my luck to get a trainee helping me with my ticket requests! Although to be fair, his English was about as bad at my Putonghua, so I think we were even. In the end I pad Y220 (58AUD) for the ticket and got directions to the train station, including "can you take me to East Train Station" written on a card in Chinese. The guy was insistant that I don't need anything else other than the train ticket to get me into Hong Kong (no visa?!).

I must admit that I am quite worried about my trip tomorrow, but I made sure he understood my question about the probability of needing a seperate visa and he rang to double check. After a very long phone conversation and a few questions, he said that all I need is the ticket and to show my passport once I'm there. I hope to god he's right...I guess I will find out tomorrow.

At about 9:30am I caught a taxi Yuexiu Park. Thankfully, I found a Guangzhou city map in my hotel room which not only has eveything in English, but also in Chinese! So all I had to do was jump in the taxi, point to where I wanted to go and say 'jolie' (which means 'here'). Then I made sure the driver knew what I was talking about by saying 'okay?', which they understand here. Anyway, you can usually tell a confused look from a knowing look. I had no problems with taxis today, apart from biting my lip to stop from screaming every time the traffic merged. Cars just pull out without looking! I honestly don't think you know what terror is until you've been in a Chinese taxi!

Yuexiu Park is the largest park in Guangzhou city and is stretched over 93 hectares. I paid Y5 (1.15AUD) entrance fee and wandered inside. The park was seriously massive and I ended up getting lost quite a few times! I decided to look for The sculpture of the Five Rams. The Five Rams is the symbol of Guangzhou and is derived from a legend: Long ago there were five celestial beings, who wore robes of five colours, riding five rams through the air to Guangzhou, each carrying a stem of rice. They presented them to the people, as a sign that the area would forever be free from famine.

It's a nice legend, but trying telling it to the street beggers that bang their tins on the ground outside the gates of Yuexiu park!

The gardens were beautiful. I walked up and down hills, through glades and over bridges. There were people everywhere and many of them were playing sports of doing exercise. I saw people doing tai chi, aerobics and karate; people playing lawn bowls, table tennis and badminton, but the funniest thing I saw was a group of middle aged and eldely Chinese people dancing to Britney Spears' song, 'Toxic'. I stood and watched them for a while. Seriously, it was hilarious. (I took a short video, which I will put up when I get back to Zhangzhou).

I've seen quite a few groups of people dancing in parks here in Guangzhou. I don't know who organises it, but I think it's a fantastic idea. There were people ball room dancing to Elvis and doing the samba and salsa under ancient towering trees. All this at 10-11 in the morning!I must say, I was quite tempted to join in.

After a good hour and a half of walking around the park grounds, I found The Sculpture of the Five Rams. When all said and done, it is only a lump of granite...but it's a 10 meter high lump of granite in the shape of five rams, so...well yes. It wasn't hugely exciting, but I am glad I found it all the same. Just the atmosphere and the happy people in the park was enough to make me smile.

I left Yuexiu and got another taxi south to Hequn Building and Dongshanhu Park. The Hequn Building as far as I could see, is some kind of government building. I know this only because there were guards outside who refused to let me take photos or go inside. I think they were doing construction on the building anyway, so it didn't matter.

The Dongshanhu park was magnificent and very different to Yuexiu. There is a huge lake covering most of it; little path ways and bridges in some areas, and islands in others. There is water sports of all kinds, including boat hire and fishing. You can also see where they breed the fish for the fishermen to catch (not very natural, but it is a man made lake so it makes sense to have man breed fish in it.) In one section of the lake I saw HUNDREDS of carp all clambering on each other and out of the water in order to be first to reach the scraps of bread being thrown by children. It was quite an odd sight and when I wandered over to the edge of the water a group of fish all swam over to me with their mouths open, expecting to be fed. It made me wonder if fish have a little more intelligence that we give them credit for...or at least more memory.

By this time it was already 1pm and I was getting hungry, so I got yet another taxi over to Beijing Lu - the famous Guangzhou shopping strip. I sware I've NEVER been anywhere so crowded; there were people everywhere (just like the carp in the lake)! Every five steps I was confronted by a man holding pamphets of watches or handbags and yelling at me in Putonghua. I'm lucky enough to know the Putonghua for 'don't want!', and I know that saying this and shaking your hand usually lets these people know you aren't interested. One man, however, was very instant and stood right in front of me while he yelled and waved his pamphlets. I yelled back, 'BO YOW!!' and stormed off in the opposite direction. These guys get REALLY annoying after a while. I wonder if they ever sell anything? I've never seen anyone talking to them other than to say no!

The last time I was at Beijing Lu with Dad, we tried a fantastic little Argentinian resturant, so I decided to find it again. It's such a great little place, it's cozy (they have booths, which I love), the staff are friendly and the food is amazing. I had seafood pasta, garlic bread and a nice (cheap) Chinese Cab Sav. DELICIOUS!

I seem to have learnt enough basic Putonghua, but I haven't had a chance to use most of it, so I tried out what little I know on one of the waitresses in the resturant. The Chinese for waitress is 'Showmay' (I'm just spelling it as it sounds), which means 'little sister' when translated literally. I've been told that this word is also used as slang for vagina, so I guess you have to be careful what context you use it in! :D I have also (sort of) perfected the pronunciation of 'Miadan' (the bill) and 'shui' (water). The best thing about the Chinese language (and it's many dialects) is that they don't bother with little words like can, is, a or the, so simply saying one word is enough. When you start to understand the way the Chinese language works, I think it's a lot easier to understand why Chinese people speaking English talk the way they do. For example: in Chinese if you wanted to say 'I am a doctor', you'd simply say 'I doctor'. There is no literal translation for am and a.

I'm exhausted and back in my hotel room now. The sun will soon be going down, so I won't be venturing outside again until the morning. I'm really excited about my trip to Hong Kong, providing I have no problems with visas, transport and hotels. Wish me luck!

Clambering carp at the Dongshanhu Park, Guangzhou city.

Clambering carp at the Dongshanhu Park, Guangzhou city.




Good luck getting through to Hong Kong tomorrow Maz!
I'm sure things will be fine :)
And don't worry about hanging out with strangers.. thats what traveling is all about!
p.s I would have loved to see those old guys dancing to 'Toxic' :D

  Alex Nov 20, 2008 9:00 PM


Now I'm more worried about getting back into mainland China, as it seems you don't need a visa to get into Hong Kong (I could've sworn that you did). I think I'll have to re-apply for a Chinese visa cause the one I have is only single entry. Should be fine cause apparently it's hell easy to get a Chinese visa from Hong Kong. :)

STRANGER DANGER! Hahaha, yeah you are right. It is what traveling is all about, especially traveling on your own. I think you've got more chance of meeting someone and the worse thing that happens is being bored to death, rather than being kidnapped or something.

I just KNOW you would've joined in if you had have seen the dancing. ;) xx

  mazystar Nov 20, 2008 9:41 PM


Good luck Darling and don't worry - as you know, Hong Kong is now part of China, so therefore it's highly likely that you won't require a separate visa (although you apparently need one to re-enter China from HK).

We are looking forward to reading all about your adventures in Hong Kong!

Enjoy yourself and always take care!

Lots of love,

  The two of us Nov 21, 2008 4:58 AM


Yeah, it turns out I will have to re-apply for a new Chinese visa once I get to HK. It's kind of annoying and I'm regreting not applying for a multi-entry visa! Anyway, can't be helped. I'm just thrilled to be going to HK in the first place. It's very different to the China I've been experiencing (As you know I've been in country China for a while!) so it will be interested for me.

Hopefully I'll find internet in the hotel and will post from there. I have to go get ready to get the train now! How exciting!! :)

  mazystar Nov 21, 2008 1:50 PM


This is really good shit. I am very impressed with your reports on your experiences in China. Your articles are well thought out, well written and give readers an interesting insight to a China they might otherwise not get to see. Above all, your articles show the human side to the Chinese people which is what travel is supposed to be all about. I don't mean to sound patronizing but keep up the good work. :)


  Baba Nov 21, 2008 9:50 PM


Thanks Baba! :D
Hong Kong is wonderful, I have to be here funtil Thursday to wait for my visa, but I think I might go exploring some of the smaller islands while I wait. The city is very tiring!

  mazystar Nov 22, 2008 9:30 PM



The execution of a Chinese scientist on Friday (Nov.28,2008) is the latest in a series of executions that are going against the global trend towards a moratorium on the death penalty:


  antique Rose Dec 1, 2008 8:34 AM

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