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Finally, our great big trip around the world begins. Actually, it began a week ago! But I finally have decent enough internet to write.
We left home July 22 (our 11th wedding anniversary!) without much hassle and only a few tears from Calais. Our flight was early and I was partly expecting to not sleep at all the night before. Luckily, we managed to get everything done by about 11pm, and got in a few hours of sleep. We were up by 4am for our 5:35am flight, dropped off our rental car at the airport, breezed through security and almost walked right onto the plane as the sun started to rise. It was almost as if the sun was rising on our adventure.
And We’re Off
We ate breakfast in Calgary with one of my work-friends (thanks Carolyn!!), lunch in Vancouver, and dinner (and then breakfast/lunch) somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. We had seats at the back of the plane with a small area on the floor beside us where Kacela was able to sleep.
I was actually surprised how much we all slept on the plane! This helped a bit with the jet lag.
We’ve arrived in China! Taking the bus from the plane to the Guangzhou airport.
Our first travel mistake happened after entering China. We arrived at about 5:30pm and immediately called the hotel for the shuttle to pick us up. We were tired and just wanted to get in and go to bed. I briefly thought about getting a bit of money out of the bank machine, but figured we’d be able to do it the next morning close to our hotel. I was wrong!
We woke up on day one with no food and no money!
Eventually, Randy took the hotel shuttle back to the airport to get money out of the bank machine. There’s only a few banks in China that recognize Western cards, and almost nowhere accepts Visa or MasterCard. Thankfully, there was a cute little restaurant next door to our hotel. As soon as Randy returned with some money, we popped next door for brunch. It was 11:30am!
The plan was to do very little during our 4 days, although there’s a variety of things to do in Guangzhou. We slept, got over the jet lag, and went into town a couple times. There was a cute little park at our apartment that the girls spent a bit of time playing at. It was pretty hot, so playtime was limited to 20-30min at a time. There was also a pool at the apartment complex as well. I was under the impression that it was included with our accommodation, but it wasn’t. We were able to pay to use it, but it cost enough that we only did it the first day. We weren’t up for doing much else, so the pool at least got us out of the apartment to do something.
We were in the capital of Cantonese cooking, of which the highlight is definitely Dim Sum. How could we visit and not find some! Guangzhou Restaurant was a lonely planet recommendation. Considering there were very few (5) restaurant recommendations for a city of 14 million people, it was either going to be really good or really bad. Entering the lobby we were met with a blast of air conditioning. It was a good start!
The menu was the first clue we’d made the right choice. There was no English to be found! Thankfully, the WayGo translator app did a reasonable job of translating so we had an idea of what we were ordering. Calais wanted soup, so we ordered what looked like crab soup with dumplings. It was even better! When it arrived it was a large crab soup dumpling. We were in such a hurry to gobble up the deliciousness that I didn’t even take a picture. We’ll definitely be on the hunt for more soup dumplings when we’re back in China in September.
With our bellies full of yummy food and tea, we jumped back on the metro towards Canton Tower.
A few weeks before we left I saw a picture on Instagram of the bubble tram at the top of the Canton Tower. It looked too fun to pass up. We paid too much money to ride the elevator up the tower, and then had a 30min ride around the top on the Bubble Tram. The view over the city is pretty spectacular, aside from all the smog. About half way through Calais started asking what would happen if the tram fell off. The rest of the conversation was about making bungee cords, or mini airplanes, to get out of the bubble if it fell. They were pretty inventive! Thinking about the bubble plummeting to the ground made the whole experience a little less relaxing.
One successful day in town made us brave enough to venture in the next day as well.
Yuexiu Park is a quiet oasis away from the busy-ness of the city. There’s an amusement park, paddle boats and a multitude of walking paths. If you ask the girls, their favourite part was the water fountains! It was hot, and every time we came across one they’d drench themselves. It kept them cool, and occupied as they looked for the next one.
The park has a few neat temples, although I have no idea what any of them were named or what they were for! They were pretty to walk around and gave us that feeling that we were in China.
One of the highlights of the park is the Zhenhai Tower, built in 1380. It was hard to explain to the girls just how old the tower was. They understand that we’re going away for one year, and that Canada just turned 150 years old. Trying to comprehend something that’s over 630 years old was a bit beyond their ability at this point.
A few more pics from Yeuxiu park
Our first almost “tropical” storm
As we started to leave the park we heard a bit of thunder. Kacela wanted to find shelter right away, but it wasn’t raining yet so we decided to walk towards the metro. Half-way there the sky opened up and started to pour. We ran under the awning of a small convenience store, along with a dozen other tourists. The thunder soon turned from a rumbling in the distance to crashing overhead. It was so close it shook the whole store and the lightning lit up the sky. Kacela was freaked right out, and Calais was trying to be brave. It was a pretty awesome storm.
After 30min the thunder had moved on and the rain let up enough for us to venture out. We were ready to head back to our apartment, but the girls really wanted to see the Canton Tower lit up at night. We grabbed some noodle soup for dinner, then took the metro to the Mall of the World for the best view.
By the time we wandered around looking at the tower it was late enough to head back and get the girls to bed. Kacela even fell asleep on the metro on the way!
There was a lot more we could’ve done in Guangzhou, but I think we found a pretty good balance between too much and nothing. The plan was to get over the jet lag a bit, relax, and take a couple days to settle in to traveling.
My final thoughts
Surprisingly, there was no culture shock and minimal adaptation time. I think West Africa cured us of culture shock likely for the rest of our lives! The girls just adapt to the new environment and keep on rolling, without missing a beat. I had thought it might take a couple weeks to get into the swing of traveling, but it didn’t really take any time at all.
I’d say it’s been a pretty successful start to the trip.
We’re ready to move on to a bit more adventure in Uzbekistan!!
You can also watch our journey on YouTube:
You might also be interested in The Route for our RTW, or How Much I Think It’ll Cost to Travel the World for a Year With Kids.
Where We Stayed
Nomo Garden Apartment Hotel
I did almost no pre-trip research on Guangzhou, and didn’t put a whole lot of thought into our hotel. I found a 2-bedroom apartment, close to the airport, for $55 CAD/night. A large apartment with separate bedrooms was perfect for jet-lag, but the location was not ideal. We were directly under the landing path and had planes overhead 24 hours a day.
The description of the complex also included a pool, however it belonged to a different hotel in the complex and we had to pay to enter. There was no public transit close by, and to get into town we had to take the hotel shuttle to the airport and get on the metro.
I wouldn’t stay here again, instead I’d find somewhere closer to a metro line.
Cost: $220CAD for 4 nights
What We Did
This was our splurge, even more so because we paid for Calais when we didn’t have to! Whoops. I don’t think it was worth the money. We got a great view of the city and a real appreciation for the smog problem. The ride on the Bubble Tram was fun, and the girl’s enjoyed it until they started talking about plummeting to our deaths.
Cost: 745 RMB ($139 CAD) for 2 adults and 1 child. This included the elevator ride to the top and the bubble tram.
This was definitely worth our time, and even better, it was free! The park was a lovely place to spend a few hours away from the city. There’s lots to do if you wanted to spend money, and spend the day. We were content just wandering the paths (and flying Randy’s drone!).
Where We Ate
The Dim Sum here was delicious, and there was also a large tea selection. There was no English on the menu, so I’d highly recommend an offline translate app such as Google Translate or WayGo. It took a little while to order, and wasn’t exact, but at least we had an idea of what we were getting. The restaurant itself is also worth seeing. There’s a large courtyard in the middle, and rooms set around the courtyard over three floors. We had a pot of tea and 5 dishes; crab soup dumplings, shrimp spring rolls, fried noodles, pork buns, sesame desert.
Cost: 110 RMB ($20 CAD)
The other restaurants we ate at were little places by our hotel, and I have no idea what their names were!
How We Got Around
Guangzhou has a fantastic metro system. It’s clean, efficient, and we never waited more than 5 min for a train.
Cost: 1-day Pass 20RMB/person ($6 CAD). Single ticket 4-8RMB ($0.75-$1.50 CAD). Children under 1.2m are free.
$612.71 CAD for our travel day from home and 3.5 days in China, including 1 day of SkyRoam ($8 US), 1 day of mobile phone “Roam Like Home” ($10 CAD), and WayGo App purchase ($10 US).
Avg $164.45 CAD/day.