Last year we bought our tickets for the December trip already in May. Leo is the master of finding cheap flights, so he found some really good ones from Madrid to Lima and from Quito to Madrid. Perfect! We haven’t been to Latin America yet, so let’s do it. After we bought the tickets we didn’t think so much about the trip, anyway, it was still far away. We just bought flight tickets from Vienna to Madrid to have transportation ready.
About 4-3 weeks before the departure we started more often discussing, hm, ok we don’t have any plan, but let’s just book accommodation in Lima for the first days and then we will see where the road will take us. We were still not sure if we go to Machu Picchu, because it takes so long and December is quite wet, so it’s not so pleasant to walk there. But anyway, we had some basic ideas about what we want to do and see there. We even got a special oil from our friends that were there already against the height sickness. I didn’t know that Peru has such a high altitude before, to be honest.
Getting ready for our trip
A bit over 2 weeks before our departure, we finally decided to look into the accommodation in Madrid and Lima. And Leo again found some nice, good deals and nice apartments. We booked it and finally, I started to feel like, yaay we go to Latin America. The accommodation in Lima offered us a free airport shuttle. Sweeet! Leo was not sure about the name of the airport so he started to look for the email to find out. And then, he accidentally found an email with a subject line: Very important information about your flight nr.. He opened the email, I was next to him and we went completely numb for a couple of seconds, just staring in the text. No words. It was about 1 in the morning.
The harsh truth
The email said, that our tickets are canceled and blablabla they apologize and blablabla and they refunded all the money as well. The interesting part was that the email was sent about 2 weeks after we bought the tickets but my Leo never saw that email or noticed that he got a refund. I was not aware before that he is so loaded that 400 EUR doesn’t make a difference on this account. 😄 Well, the complete silence was followed by a huge laugh. We couldn’t believe it. Well, I guess we are not going to Peru and Ecuador like we were bragging the whole summer. After we realized what happened, we, of course, canceled just booked accommodation and well, we lost money on the flights to Madrid. But that’s not the worst, the worst is that I bought new hiking shoes especially for Peru. Will I ever use them now?
Usually, when we travel, we rent out our apartment, including our room. So, needless to say, that since we thought we will be in Peru and Ecuador for almost 3 weeks, we rented our apartment out during this time. So we were without tickets and homeless at the same time.
What about China?
But Leo is not a quitter. He immediately started to look for alternatives, cheap alternatives of course. Which is not the easiest thing in December. I fell asleep. In the morning, I got a really interesting question. He asked me, what do you think about China? 😄 After comprehensive research, he found flights to China for an affordable price. I was a bit skeptical since we didn’t have a Visa so I was trying to convince him not to buy the tickets yet. We were very tight on time already, I think it was 2 weeks, so I was afraid we won’t get our Visa on time. But after making a little research everything went very fast.
We applied for Visa online and got an appointment in a couple of days actually. Before the appointment, we bought a ticket Prague-Guangzhou. Done. When we came to the agency that is taking care of Visas they wanted to have the address where we will stay in Guangzhou. Of course, we didn’t have it. We just booked something fast to get the address, but then they wanted to have our detailed plan for the whole time being there. This, of course, was not possible to do there, so we decided to go home, book everything and come back the next day. They were quite strict with all documentation but somehow it went smoothly. At home we planned the whole trip, well Leo did most of the job and then we went back, submit everything and we got our visa in a couple of days. It costs about 120 EUR for 2 entries.
Besides Guangzhou, we decided to go to Hong Kong and Macau. That was the plan, all the details we arranged while being there. Yolo.
We started in Guangzhou. Btw, I am still not 100% sure how to pronounce it. The start was great, we found a really nice Asian restaurant in the evening when we arrived, so we made our bellies perfectly full and went to sleep since we were tired af.
Starting in Guangzhou
The population of Guangzhou is about 13 million and it’s one of China’s three largest cities. It’s the capital and most populous city of the province of Guangdong in southern China. We stayed there for a week in the Airbnb apartment. The location was great, loads of restaurants around and places to see. But basically, if you want to see something you definitely have to take the metro. The connection is really good. Sometimes I felt that the distance from one stop to another is like getting from Novo mesto to Ljubljana 😄 It’s huge. Metro really works well, and tickets are cheap. Please note, that ALL Chinese people are using WeChat, their life basically runs on this app, they don’t use cash or credit cards. The problem is that you can’t add a foreigner credit card, so tourists are basically stuck with cash. We walked a lot to find cash machines, they are quite rare around the town.
Regarding walking around and using Google maps like we are used to. Nope, not going to happen in China. Their great china firewall will stop you from using all the apps that are part of our everyday life, like Google, Facebook, Instagram. You will have to use VPN to get access (btw, I would definitely recommend ExpressVPN). During this trip I also had to work for a couple of days, so I did have some troubles connecting to my apps using a VPN, so it was not so comfortable to work. I never knew if my connection will be working or not. However, VPN will not help you with Google Maps so much, it is not accurate. We were using Baidu, which is accurate but it looks like this:
Damn, would be great to know Chinese in this case. The same with restaurants. It happened a couple of times that the menu was in Chinese only, so usually, we picked according to the picture or with the help of voice translation between us and the waiters. It was fun.
Delicious Dim Sum
The food. This is my favorite part of traveling. Trying new and delicious food and Guangzhou is a great place to try delicious food. They say it’s a “birthplace” of Dim Sum, we tried different ones, sweet and savory ones. Delicious. They also like to eat chicken feet, I tried but I wasn’t impressed. They were really sticky and they looked like little baby hands. It was just weird to put them into my mouth. Leo enjoyed them more, even if he looks a bit concerned on the picture 😄
During our week in Guangzhou, we also took a little evening boat trip on a Pearl River to see the beautiful skyline, including Canton Tower, which is one of the highest towers in the world. It really looks magnificent, especially during the night.
After a week of exploring Guangzhou, we headed to Shenzhen, a city located on the east bank of the Pearl River estuary on the central coast of southern Guangdong province. It’s known for having one of the largest electronics markets. Heaven for Leo, so to say 🙂 We used High-Speed train and we were there in no time. I think 20 mins for over 100km. We couldn’t even have a proper nap. We also stayed in the Airbnb apartment. It was a bit strange since obviously it was not totally allowed to rent apartments on Airbnb there. It was a huge apartment building, where you could see that a lot of families live there, more like living areas not meant to be for commercial renting. One evening when we were returning home, security guy in the lobby was questioning us, who are we and where we are going. But due to the language barriers, he gave up quite quickly and he let us in.
I think we stayed there only for two nights so basically we don’t do much more than eating and visiting electronics markets. To be honest, there is so much stuff there that if you really want to buy anything, I would recommend having a clear idea of what you want and just go there check it out and bargain for the best price.
I was really looking forward to our next stop already – Hong Kong. Leaving the Mainland China and escaping the great firewall. Crossing borders with China is always a bit scary. Cameras everywhere, strict faces, I never knew what I can do wrong. The majority was just in my head. Anyway, since Leo and I are super cute and nice, we obviously didn’t have any problems. After the border crossing, we took a train to our accommodation. This time we booked a hotel in a really central location. On the monitors on the train, you could see nothing else but reports about the ongoing protests. I opened my phone and of course, found an article that day before there was a big fight between police and protesters, they damaged an HBSC building in the area of Mong Kok. After reading this, I asked Leo “Hey, where exactly are we staying?” He said, “Mong Kok, why?” Ah, nevermind 😄
After a long ride, we finally arrived at our stop, Mong Kok. I was so tired, but after coming out from Metro station I immediately felt like, omg I love it here. The street to our hotel was so lively. A lot of little food places, smiley people, a really special and great feeling. Our hotel was also super nice, so I was already excited to go out again, of course after a short nap and shower. A couple of hours later (lol), we hit the road and have. After a nice dinner, l we saw the convoy of police buses. Yes, actual buses heading in one direction. It didn’t look so good. We walked down the street and more people were gathering, the police was coming to that area, so we just decided to turn and go away. We decided already before, that if something shady is happening, we just go away to avoid any troubles.
Even if it looked bad in the beginning, the night turned out great. We walked all the way to the harbor where we were able to see the beautiful skyline on the Hong Kong island. A long walk, but definitely worth it.
Hong Kong offers so much variety. I felt I could easily live there in the future. I really hope that the political situation will get better and people will get the life they deserve.
Anyhow, since I’m not big on politics, let’s move to something that I’m more familiar with and excited about. We found a couple of really great places to eat.
More or less, to all the places we went to, we were greatly satisfied with the food. And when my belly is happy, Maja and Leo are happy 🙂 It’s hard to describe what I liked with Hong-Kong the most. I just had this great feeling walking around, every street is so alive and different, from more fancy areas to more basic, street food places. It is way more expensive if compared to Mainland China but still affordable. And you can always find great and cheap places. We usually use Foursquare to find places nearby and sometimes we just stroll around and stop where we find something interesting.
Macau – Las Vegas of Asia
After a great time in Hong Kong, we moved to our last stop Macau – Las Vegas of Asia. You have basically 2 most popular ways to reach it from Hong Kong. With a ferry or using Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge. We choose the second option because I read that the views from the bridge can be amazing. Also, it’s the longest sea-crossing and the longest open-sea link on earth. Again, going to Macau means crossing the border. We found an agency that has multiple buses going to Macau daily, so we decided to go with them.
Well, the unfortunate thing was that the weather was really bad, so I could quickly forget about the amazing views. Since you need to cross the border, you need to leave the bus when leaving Hong Kong, walk through the immigration and bus is waiting for you on the other side. You jump on the bus, they take you to the entry to Macau, you again leave the bus and walkthrough. On the other side, there are a couple of different buses that are going to different locations, meaning different Casinos in Macau. So make sure to check before where your accommodation is located, so you will take the closest bus.
The accommodation in Macau is super expensive. Since we are not super-rich (yet) we booked a private room in a shared apartment on Airbnb. Again with the great location. We always make sure that the location is good. I think the price was about 50 EUR per night, while other places were 200 EUR+. The host was super nice, she didn’t speak English so we were communicating through Google voice translate, and it worked great. It was a really interesting place. As mentioned, we had a private room and they were renting out another room but the family was staying in the living room. The best part was that every time we came out of the room there were more people in the living room. I think the peak was during the new years when they added 1 bunk bed, 2 extra beds and once when I came from the room I made a quick count and there was, I swear, at least 9 people sleeping in the living room. I guess the host earned a lot during the new years.
Unfortunately, Macau weather was not the nicest during this time. It was cold and raining so we didn’t get much out of it. Plus, we got a bit sick so we spend the new years in bed…sleeping. No, it was not Corona. But before that, we had a day of the sun when we managed to walk around the beautiful streets. Macau was a Portuguese colony, so some parts really look very European. I really liked it. We also did some crazy gambling in casinos, but we, unfortunately, lost everything. All 3 EUR that we invested.
Our flight home was from Guangzhou, so from Macau, we entered Mainland China again and spend one more night in Guangzhou. As mentioned, our health was weak so we just wanted to be back home asap. But it was not so easy. First, we had a flight Guangzhou-Shanghai, in Shanghai we had to change the airport, then 11h flight to Prague, where we landed at 5 am. We had a bus to Vienna from the main station, so since we were half dead, we took a taxi in front of the airport in Prague, which we never do. The taxi driver ripped us off big time, as expected. We overpaid the ride and in the end, he didn’t have a change, so he even asked if it’s ok if we leave the tip to him. Almost 3 weeks in China and nobody was trying to rip us off, we come back to Europe and the first dickhead we see rips us off with a smile on his face. Whatever, I didn’t care and all I can say, karma will hit him one day. All of them. Because it happened a couple of times in Prague already.
China. Very interesting place. It is definitely not the destination that is the easiest and most convenient to travel in but on the other hand, it offers so many cultural differences compared to Europe, that it makes it a great destination to explore. One thing that I absolutely disliked is that they don’t have a culture of sitting around, chilling and drinking beer or wine. They take their bubble tea on the go and that’s it. It was really hard to find a place to sit down and chill while exploring the city. We did walk a lot, so you can imagine that came to the point where we only wanted to sit down and have a drink.
We only saw a tiny part of China and we will return back one day. If I compare it with the simplicity of traveling, food, and atmosphere, maybe other Asian countries have a bit of advantage over China. If you have any questions, or you are planning to travel in this part of the world (after all this Corona stuff is going away), let me know. There is much more that I haven’t shared here, so I will be happy to help you out.