19 HOUR LAYOVER FROM HELL - GUANGZHOU, CHINA

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

On my way to Bali I had a 19 hour stopover In Guangzhou, China. To be honest, because I’ve been travelling so much these past few weeks, I haven’t really had the time to do any research on the places I’m visiting beforehand. So, I’m basically winging it and hoping for the best.


When I visited Guangzhou in China, I wasn’t even half-prepared for what I was about to experience. So, I’m writing this blog post so that you too are aware and nothing comes as too much of a culture shock or surprise.


Disclaimer: This is in no way bashing China, as I was only there for less than a day. However, this is just MY experience, which I hope not many can relate to.



When I first arrived, I had heard through the grapevine, that in order to visit China, one must apply for a visa. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Chinese officials were offering temporary permit visas to tourists who were stopping over for 144 hours or less...for FREE!




The good news started and ended here. Upon requesting a permit, I was handed a ticket and was put in a waiting room with plenty other people waiting for the same thing. The process was long and gruelling and it didn’t help that I was already restless.



After nearly two hours of waiting around (without any access to social media because...YEP, they blocked it all, Whatsapp too) I was finally called to the desk where they checked my documents and gave me my temporary permit.



Soon after, I was ushered into yet another queue, where they checked my passport, permit and took my fingerprints before finally letting me through to explore Guangzhou.



I had it in mind to do a stopover tour, since I was going to be there for 19 hours. However, it took me such a long time to locate someone who spoke enough English for me to communicate this to. I was on a wild goose chase for about another hour before finding gate 50 who had staff there that were dealing with temporary tourists’ concerns.



I managed to communicate to the kind lady at the desk that I wanted to go on a city tour - only to discover that there was only ONE city tour that left the airport per day... and this left at 08.30am every day. (Could’ve made it if I didn’t have 61 people in front of me in the queue waiting for a temporary visitor permit 🙃but life goes on...)


The lady spotted how devastated I looked by this news and quickly offered a resolution. She gave me a free 24hour metro card to conduct my own tour of the city, along with a train map and two free tickets to two different Museums which I appreciated and thanked her for.





She also let me know that I could put my hand luggage in a storage unit in the airport, but since this wasn’t free and my bag was only small (i.e I was being stingy), I politely declined - which was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my travel life. Keep reading and you’ll understand why lol.


So, after collecting all my freebies, I decided to change £20 at the Airport Bureau De Change which gave me ¥130 after commission.



I’m not sure if that was what I was expecting, but at that point I didn’t care, I was feeling exhausted after trekking up and down the massive airport (no joke, it’s absolutely HUGE) so I just took it and scurried along to the Metro, excited and anxious about what awaited me on the other side.




Just before getting on the Metro, I had to clear security again. I mean, I’m glad that they take the security very seriously in this country but I couldn’t help but think... c’mon guys, AGAIN?!?!


I placed my belongings on a conveyor belt to belt to pass through security and collected them at the other end once I got the all-clear.


As you can imagine, it took me another 10 minutes to gather myself together and make sure I didn’t forget anything on the conveyor belt before heading onto the Metro.




My first stop on the Metro was Yuexiue Park , where I stopped at the Museum of the Nanyue King of Western Jan Dynasty. Where I learned a lot about Italy and Mount Vesuvius. I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I should’ve done simply because there were no escalators, only stairs all over the museum which wasn’t ideal for Dora the explorer and her carry-on suitcase.


So I cut the museum short once I had seen enough and my legs started to ache and decided to head to Gongyuanqian, which was a few stops down on the same line of the Metro.




I wandered around for a while and admired their beautiful Comic City, which was filled with restaurants, vintage clothing stores, jewellery stores and much more. I did notice a lot of the locals whispering and sniggering at me as I walked past because I’m wearing dread locs at the moment that are quite big. Still didn’t see what was funny to be honest, but I ignored it and carried on with my day.


I didn’t expect to see so much temptation in one place. Luckily, they didn’t accept card payments so I was very restricted in my spending anyway.


At this point, my ¥130 that I had changed earlier had already reduced to less than ¥100. So I grabbed some trendy sunglasses (the only thing I could afford😢) and decided it was time to head back to the airport instead of torturing myself by window shopping any longer.

(I wasn’t about to risk my card being swallowed in China when I still have Bali to do for the sake of clothes either!)


I headed back to the airport on the Metro which was a pretty straightforward route.



This time, the train was a lot more packed than it was on my way coming. I was receiving a LOT more stares than usual and a lot more whispers too, which was now starting to tick me off.


Finally, I was off the train and at the airport again, more exhausted than you can ever imagine. After battling the language barrier, constant stares and sniggers and walking around for ages, I just wanted to rest.


Of course, before entering the airport they clear you with security so there was yet another delay, but once I was through I scurried off to sit down- totally deflated.


I was so tired that I wanted to book a hotel and just rest. So I booked a cheap airport hotel nearby which enticed me from the pictures and also the fact that they’d be offerings free shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel.





I already knew that my next big task would be getting someone to give me accurate directions to where I wanted to go since nobody really spoke English. I was so tired that I gave up and cancelled the hotel. I decided to choose suffering in silence over stressing myself out trying to communicate about something so simple in my eyes.


I changed some more money and then grabbed some fast food from the airport. Even ordering what I wanted at Burger King was exhausting because nobody understood what I wanted and I was saying.


The lady serving me even short-changed me by the end of the stressful order, which was even more annoying. This left me in a worse mood, so I just scurried off to eat my food in rage to avoid hanging around for a second longer.


I sat down and ate my food and then called my friend to distract me from all the negative things I was experiencing.





We talked for about an hour and then I started to get tired and restless, so decided to rebook the airport hotel and try again, since I had a bit more energy in me to tackle all of the hurdles I’d face in getting the correct directions there.


Since I spent most of my Yuan already, I decided to go back to the currency exchange to withdraw some more for the hotel (since they don’t seem to accept card online for these things in China).


I quickly made my way to the exchange bureau where I was served by the same lady. I already knew the drill, so I reached for my passport which was in my little carry on luggage I was dragging all over town and to my shock and HORROR, my luggage was no longer with me.

I immediately grabbed the money back that I placed on the counter and fled the scene to look for my suitcase that my PASSPORT was in.





A million things were going through my head; “how will anyone help me find it when they don’t speak English?”, “What if they already removed and destroyed my luggage because the owner wasn’t around?”, “what if I have to be deported by the British embassy which means I’ll be stuck here for longer?”... etc



I have never been so scared in my life. I ran to where I was sitting at Burger King and frantically looked for my suitcase which was nowhere to be seen. I asked the staff if they’d seen it and of course no one had a clue what I was talking about. I’m sure my soul left my body and my heart dropped to the floor at this point.





I was praying to God in the back of my mind hoping that peace would be restored and my suitcase found. I knew if it wasn’t I was finished in this town. No more Bali, no more enjoyment that I planned.



I calmly walked towards Burger King to just try my luck and see if maybe, just maybe it was there.... and my God is great because it was!!!!


It was literally perched there at the counter. According to my calculations it had been there for over two hours in an airport and had not yet been seized and destroyed. (If that’s not God, what is please?... I’ll wait)




At this stage, I was hot and sticky from all the panic. I was even more desperate to just go to the hotel and chill before my next flight which was at 02:35am (it was only about 8pm at that time)


I ran to change the money and hunted down the shuttle that was supposed to take me to my hotel.


You’d have thought that the nightmare ended when I found my suitcases and passport...but nope. It’d just begun.


After another wild goose chase and being turned down by multiple cabs and taxis for no good reason, I decided that my only option was to take the free shuttle that was stated on my booking.


I approached the enquires desk and showed them the email and the lady explained that I had to call the hotel. I explained that I’m only on a stopover and don’t have cre— before I could even finish she started shouting that I should go to gate 7 and use the public payphone.


I was so tired and didn’t want to argue that I just went to the alleged payphone which was supposed to be nearby. When I got there this ‘payphone’ didn’t exist.


NOW, I was pissed off. I went back to the enquiry desk and a nice(r) lady offered to call my taxi. I still noticed unnecessary sniggering and laughing amongst the colleagues, including from the lady helping me, but I just ignored it because I wanted to get to my hotel so badly and just relax until my flight.





Once my transport was sorted, I went outside to get my taxi which drove me to my hotel. It was a little scary since the driver didn’t speak any English whatsoever and I wasn’t sure of the route. Nevertheless, I kept a brave and serious face because I didn’t want to show any signs of vulnerability.


I arrived at my hotel and was actually quite excited to be getting a chance to shower, freshen up and rest before the second leg of my flight. The pictures on booking.com looked great. So I paid, got my room key and headed to my room.


I couldn’t believe what I saw once I got inside the room. Call me a diva, but it was truly traumatising. So bad that I couldn’t even shower, use the toilet and I didn’t even risk lying on the bed...which is what I paid to do.

At this point, I broke down. I burst into tears and fled the scene of the accommodation.



I let the receptionist know once I got downstairs that I wasn’t happy with the room but couldn’t even risk being too brutally honest about things in case they said that they wouldn’t drop me back at the Airport with their shuttle service. (I had no way of calling or ordering my own taxi)


Of course, they offered to change my room but I declined since I had lost all faith after what I saw even walking down the corridors of the hotel.


To make things worse, while I was waiting in the reception I saw a worm crawling across the floor and cockroaches galore.



Eventually, the hotel shuttle took me back to the airport where I eventually just stayed and waited a few hours for my next flight.


The best part of my stopover was boarding that next flight to Despensaar, Bali.


I can laugh it off now, but at the time it was REALLY not funny. Share this blog post to save a life x


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