After a leisurely breakfast of egg custard tarts we checked out at 10:00 and soon picked up a taxi outside the hotel. There was no need to check that the driver would use the meter as they always use it in Hong Kong, but he must have misheard me because he headed towards Hong Kong Station, even when I queried our direction. Only at my second query did he understand that we wanted Hung Hom Station (tonal languages are such a minefield!) and screeched a U-turn on Connaught Road. The mistake almost doubled the length of the journey, so with HK$5 for each rucksack, the tunnel toll, and and the tunnel toll for the driver’s journey back to Hong Kong Island, the bill came to over HK$100.
We followed the signs to the luggage check-in but then discovered that we would have to pay over £10 for the privilege – and as our bags were below the size limit to carry them on board, there was no need. While we waited for our 12:23 departure I overheard the ticket clerk tell a walk-up passenger that the next available seat was on the train after ours, so availability on this service seems not to be too much of an issue.
The barrier opened 45 minutes before departure, and we had to put our bags through X-ray before proceeding to immigration, where those who had lost their Hong Kong departure slips had to complete a new one. I was glad we’d sat close to the barrier so we were near the front of the queue. Beyond immigration was another waiting room, and fearing that there would be a struggle for luggage space when we got on board we again loitered near the gate.
In fact there was plenty of space on the overhead rack and really no need for the attendant to move bags around, but she did anyway. It seemed to be a statement of her authority. Once we were all settled she came round with a menu card – it was all very expensive and I was glad we’d brought sandwiches. A few passengers did order food and it was brought to their seats later. If we’d brought cups or a thermos for tea we could have helped ourselves at the boiling water tap near the toilets.
Some time after the lunch boxes had been delivered a woman came along with a washing up bowl full of fried chicken legs, and a guy with a tray of Hagen Daaz ice cream tubs – I’m not sure whether these were official vendors or some enterprising freelancers! Just as I was wondering what to do with our sandwich wrappers (I couldn’t see a bin) the attendant came round with a rubbish sack.
The train moved very slowly through Kowloon and the New Territories, and the relentless buildings, dull grey skies and low cloud made for a depressing outlook. The urban landscape continued after our brief border stop, but eventually some farmland alternated with the concrete blocks, and fish farms dotted the watery plain as we crossed the East River just half an hour out from Guangzhou
Alighting at Guangzhou East Station, we ignored taxi desks in the passage leading from the Hong Kong platform, and instead went outside and got green taxi from the stand. The drive tried to drop us at metro station instead of the hotel, but it was raining hard we made him drive around the one-way system to hotel. The hotel wanted ¥200 as deposit, but after paying the tax we only had ¥100 which they accepted. Happily we’d been upgraded to a business room so we had a fridge – it was a decent room but it was cold, and the beds were rather hard.
When the rain eased off a little we went out to get cash and something for breakfast stuff. According to Google there was a Tesco nearby but we couldn’t see it, and after walking east along Zhongshan 6th Road as far as Gongyuanqian metro station and back we hit the Circle K near hotel for yoghurt, milk and beer, and some mini mangoes from a fruit shop.
For dinner we came across a decent looking restaurant the Peace Kitchen (with menu in English) in Guangxiao Road. The roast goose was nice, but being on the bone it was difficult to eat with chopsticks. Mr V had to pick pieces of ham out of his seafood fried rice, but the seafood was well cooked and the real deal, not crab sticks. Our final purchase of the day was a couple of egg tarts fr breakfast. I was amazed at the the offerings from a small back-street bakery in a non-touristy area of Guangzhou – China had certainly changed a lot since our visit in 1987.