amw (amw) wrote,

Shenzhen → Guiyang, 3 years later

Guiyang is the city i have the fondest memories of from my initial loop round China back in 2017.

Just like now, back then southern China was being hit by monsoon rains. I visited Guilin and the riverside paths were underwater, none of the boats were running and hiking the karst mountains was slippery and dangerous. Guiyang was wet too, and overcast.

You might be interested to read my post from back then: Those were from the days when i only posted photos on Facebook, so you'll have to imagine what it all looked like.

In any case, at the time i didn't realize it because i was too busy being soaking wet and attacked by monkeys, but Guiyang turned out to be the best place i visited in China. For years after that i sung the praises of the city, much to the confusion of my colleagues. Guizhou province is considered poor and backward, and is far down the list of places any self-respecting member of the coastal bourgeoisie would want to visit for a holiday.

The truth is, Guiyang is - or was - the China that i imagined China to be in my head. Pagodas and skyscrapers all jammed up against one other. Mountains rising up out of nowhere. Overpasses providing shade for the street vendors. People pushing carts and yelling. Offal flying through the air. Smoke billowing all over the place. Neon lights and oily rain. Basically i wanted China to be Hong Kong, the version of Hong Kong that got stuck in my head after visiting as a child in the 1980s.

Hong Kong is not like that any more. And Guiyang is less like it now that it was 3 years ago. But it is still my favorite city in China.


Tuesday morning i picked up a can of 八宝粥 (8 treasure congee aka Bubble Joe) and hopped on the bullet train. What i remember from the last time is that the majority of the trip is in tunnels, and even though you are going through some of the most scenic parts of China, the flashes of daylight are too brief to snap a decent picture. But i also have fond memories of Guangxi province, so i tried to capture some goodbye snaps. Here is the best shot i could come up with, zooming past at 300km/h.

Here's another one.

I felt a bit annoyed on the train after once again receiving special treatment. At some point an official appeared to ask me questions about my movements. I had to show i was green on the Shenzhen health code app. They checked and photographed my visa entry date. And - once again - i had to go through the phone company check to prove i had not left Shenzhen in the past two weeks. Nobody else on my carriage had to do any of this, although a bit later on a different official came through to check everyone's temperature.


Jumping out in Guiyang i once again got separated from the pack. I had downloaded the Guizhou health code app, filled in all my personal details, gotten a green result back, but that wasn't good enough because i am a foreigner. I had to go through the exact same set of questions and checks as on the train, and sign in on a paper register of foreigners. Just like the bus station in Dongguan, the Guiyang train station had an IR camera set up to automatically grab everyone's temperature as they walked past, but only mine was written down.

By the time i got through, there was plenty of room on the bus to the city.

The first hotel i went to was the same hotel i stayed at three years ago, and they would not let me check in. Foreigners not allowed during corona times. I tried to make a case, explaining i had stayed here before, and i had stayed at another 7 Days Inn just one night ago in Shenzhen, but nope. They suggested i go to the police station and have the police drive me to a hotel suitable for foreigners.

Well, fuck the police, so no.

I checked, since they show on their listings whether hotels in China allow foreigners or not, then walked to another hotel. I got the same story. I should mention that Guiyang is pretty damn hilly, and the weather was very humid, so traipsing around with a backpack and a frontpack was not fun at all.

I tried another one, a much more expensive one. They started by saying they couldn't do it. I tried to make a case, choking back tears. I said i just wanted somewhere to sleep, i just wanted to have a nice holiday, i live in China, i haven't left China since lockdown, i have all the green health codes, what am i supposed to do? They asked for a nucleic acid test. I pleaded. They made some calls.

I got the room. This is the sight that greeted me walking in.

Y'all, this hotel room is bigger than most of my apartments. I collapsed onto that oversized bed humiliated and exhausted and relieved.


I have a lot more to write about Guiyang. More importantly i have lots of food photos. But this entry got longer than i expected, so i will continue it in another one.

Here's a teaser: sunset, pagoda, mountain, neon lights, electric mopeds, car stopped in no stopping zone, dad with a baby backpack.

Also: he's always watching!

Tags: china, travel
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