It was great having him over as he kicked off his summer break from university and it gave me a chance to have a little down time and do a few touristy things while exploring my surroundings properly.
It’s fair to say that in the 5 months I’ve been here I have not had any time to do anything like this so its been great.
Before Leo visited he had excitedly researched everything about Hong Kong and Guangzhou and had a long list of places he wanted to visit. Once he learned we would be visiting Thailand and Macau during his stay he turned into a mini travel agent and I was more than happy to take a back seat for once.
What I guess most of you won’t know is that the city I live in is the 2nd biggest city in the world with an estimated 23 million people living here. As a number that’s pretty huge but it’s not until you start wondering around here that you really get a scope for the size of this place. It is pretty much the definition of a concrete jungle. There are now plans to expand it further to a metropolis twice the size of Wales with a population of 43 million people. I moved here because as one of the oldest export trading areas in China a lot of factories have offices and showrooms based here. This allows me to cover a lot of ground while remaining in one place.
Guangzhou is home to some amazing buildings and as a past student of Architecture some of these really blow me away. The Canton tower for instance is built just down the road from me and is the 4th tallest structure in the world. Finished in 2010 it stands at a staggering 600m and is one of the most iconic buildings in China. You can take the elevator to the top and get a great view of all this city has to offer.
It’s fair to say that I have been so busy since I arrived here that I have not stopped to take a lot of this place in, in doing so it makes me think how crazy it is that I’m here. I guess 6 months ago I didn’t have a clue how this would pan out and perhaps still now I really cant believe im living here. Funny how life turns out. Sure it’s hard living here at times, simple things like trying to withdraw money from the bank still make me feel like I’m being made to jump through hoops purely for the entertainment of locals but as a city this is a pretty cool place to live.
My brother visiting has given me time to have a real look around and I thought, though not really business related, I would share some of these sights with you.
Another impressive building just across the river from the Canton tower is the Guangzhou International Finance Centre building. This £280 million project was also completed in 2010 and houses a mix of office and hotel space. At 440m I think it’s the 8th tallest in the world. Around this area is a very modern open public plaza with some great buildings dotted around. I guess all set up for the tourism boom they expected after the 2010 Asian games which does not look to have come yet….
There is also the odd find here including his Catholic Church I came across, could easily be back in England and looks very much out of place here. Something nice about seeing it here though and I must make an effort to go one Sunday.
Amongst all of these impressive buildings is Baiyun Mountain. This range has around 23 peaks spanning just over 11 square miles. It is smack bang next to the sprawling city and once through the gates it is hard to imagine the hustle and bustle behind you. The area apparently absorbs 2800 tons of carbon dioxide a day and releases 2100 tons of oxygen which is why some refer to it as the lung of the city. It’s a beautiful area again giving breathtaking views of the city.
Leo is a keen basketball player and was impressed by the number of high quality public courts offered by the city, the most impressive we played on was this complex of 24 amazing quality courts situated next to one of the main shopping malls here. Playing basketball against the local Chinese, in the floodlight night, against such an impressive architectural backdrop was one of my craziest memories of his trip.
There is a strong presence of sports facilities here, all nestled within the chaos of the infrastructure around the city, many of which are built on prime real estate. That must give an indication on the value the Chinese put on sport and recreation.
Guangzhou is also home to Chimelong Water Park which is the largest water park in Asia. It’s a pretty impressive complex with the most water slides I have ever been on. It also has a huge wave pool which has a stage in the middle. We visited on a Tuesday afternoon and even then there was a live band playing which gave the place a really cool ambiance. Built by the largest water park construction company in the world they apparently contacted them and asked for “One of everything you make” which is so very Chinese. It’s very popular here with visitors reaching 35000 in a single day. It’s also not cheap at something like £40 entry per person so someone is making a nice retirement fund from this place.
Hong Kong is a completely different ball game and it’s not what I expected at all when I first went. I was under the impression that it was just another city in China but that’s not the case at all. It is infact a completely separate entity to China and very much treated as such. Getting between the two requires vigorous border checks and a visa. The biggest difference is that everyone speaks English where as in Guangzhou almost no one does. This makes traveling and using services here a breeze.
It has by far the most sky scrapers of any city in the world and it’s easy to see why. Real estate here is a fortune so towers go as high as they can to get the most bang for there buck.
A nice apartment here is well into the millions and a house in a nice area is a long way out of my reach for now that’s for sure. It’s a great place though and a real break from China when you just want some normal food and a normal bar.
Everything that I send by air goes through Hong Kong so I get to come here quite often to check up on things and drop in on friends here, something i have come to look forward to.
The ICC building here houses the famous sky 100 floor where you travel to the 100th floor and get an amazing 360 view of the city. It is then you realise just why this place is ranked as number 1 in the sky scraper hit list. Look at that view.
One of the busiest tourist attractions here is the Victoria Peak attracting some 7 million tourists a year. We got up there by the tram which took about 2 hours to que up for. At some 552 meters this also gives a great view of the city at a much cooler temperature. There is a shopping mall, art gallery and various restaurants here but to be honest the view is the only thing worth coming up for – this one take just as the sun begins to set over the harbor.
About an hour from Hong Kong a boat trip on the “Turbo Jet” takes you to Macau. This was next on Leos destination list and is Asias version of Las Vegas which apparently generates more revenue per year than the western sin city equivalent. This i assume has a lot to do with just how much money there is over here to begin with. Minimum bet on the starter black jack table at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino was 30.00 GBP compared to 2.00 GBP back home. I guess that’s how they pay for this impressive collection of memorabilia from some great artists. Needles to say this was an expensive trip all round.
A lot of the Casinos and complexes here are much bigger than Vegas. We infact got lost within the Venetian Casino complex for about 2 hours. Genuinely lost, wandering around looking at this beautiful ceiling.
I wont ramble on about what a blast we had here, made even better by the fact my cousin Katie flew over to meet us from her job in Dubai. We had a great time and i suggest that anyone one who is working or traveling in Asia and has a spare couple of days to blow before they return home visits this place – Look at the size of these Casinos, its wild.
This is perhaps the strangest mix of places i have been in my entire life. Half beautiful historical temples half off the rails bars its perhaps the most eclectic mix i have come across on my jaunts. This equates to a strange mix of people from upper class families traveling through the historic sites to working class “Lads on tour” types looking for the more feminine sights. We began our trip staying at a hotel in the busiest bar district in Bangkok, Purely by accident i promise you. As you can see this place was pretty full on and i cant imagine how anyone could stay here for longer than a few nights. Good fun though and i would say everyone has to experience this side of Thailand once.
We spent a couple of days here before traveling south and heading for somewhere a little more peaceful. Traveling by a couple of crazy boats we found our way to this Island. I could not believe this boat was actually powered by a modified Toyota Celica engine where the drive shaft had been turned into a prop shaft. Ingenious.
On this island we met a cool girl traveling here on her own, taking some time out from running her bar in Hong Kong. Sai Sai owns Brechts bar in Causway Bay, i stopped in there last time i was in HK and its a cool individual place definitely worth a visit. I met a lot of business owners themselves taking a little time out and its funny to swap stories with them about what we do on the 9 till 5. Beautiful place and just great to spend some time relaxing for once.
We also hired a boat and took a trip through the crazy canal and river networks of Bangkok where you get to see some of the houses that the locals are still living in today. A real eye opener and perhaps a rapidly dissapearing view of Asia on a whole.
There is an amazing array of temples to visit across Thailand. In between market visits we managed to fit a lot of them in and it reminded me a great deal of a trip we had to Sri Lanka a few years ago. Some breath taking places including a solid gold Buddha statue and an enormous 43 metre reclining Buddha. Here are a few snaps from the trip…. Yes it was very hot!
So there you go, a look at what my brother and I have been up to over the last month between sourcing, exporting and sleeping.
Sorry to those of you who will notice the lack of business context in this post but i guess its little trips like this that are what we are all working so hard for. Moments you can spend with the people you love and think to yourself “Its not such a bad life”.
Here is hoping we all continue to enjoy these moments for many years to come.