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Travel: A Closer Look at Guangzhou post image

Travel: A Closer Look at Guangzhou

Returning to Guangzhou, only this time I’m going to take a better look around.

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The only thing I’ve ever done in Guangzhou was grimace, say “illl, yauckkk,” get on a train, and leave. I’ve done this more times that I care to recall. Guangzhou, the ancient city formally known to the West as Canton, has never really appealed to me. It is a place that’s always felt better to leave than to arrive in. I’ve always viewed Guangzhou as the exit hatch of China, as a place where it all flows out: rivers, emigrants, exports. A real anus-y kind of place.

Though I have to admit that I never gave it a chance.

Though my take on Guangzhou is less than appealing, the city still has a certain hold on me: it was my first view of China. It was 2005, I remember looking down a street at a pedestrian overpass that ran to the entrance to the train station. I was looking at a landscape that was made up of tens of thousands of bobbing black heads, all packed in together, moving everywhere in a churning engine of entropy. It was the typical view of overcrowded China that I was expecting to see, but having it so succinctly manifested in reality made it seem oddly unreal. So this is China. I will never forget the feeling, that raw excitement of the foreign. I’d been traveling continuously for six years before that — I’d traveled from New York to the tip of Patagonia, I’d hitchhiked all over Europe — but I’d never had this feeling to the extent that I did then. At that moment I knew that it would take me a very, very long time to move through this country.

Nine years later I’m still working on it.

Though I never particularly had the urge to go back to Guangzhou until a couple of days ago. I recently opened up my kid’s passport and saw that it was set to expire this year, and I knew I’d have to go back. At first I groaned. Then the curiosity that comes from an impending journey to a place that you have no real conception of took over.
It is time to return.

I will blog this trip in the old school, full exposure, open narrative style.


Filed under: China, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3688 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii

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  • tristanbul June 10, 2014, 12:30 am

    I actually love Guangzhou. It seems that as the city grew it absorbed old neighborhoods and villages. Pick a central point and walk outwards and you can see the flow from super modern to boring industrial to old village-style living. Quite interesting if you give it the time.

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  • Savi and Vid June 10, 2014, 7:38 am

    I’ve read so much Guangzhou, people either love it or hate it. Will definitely try and visit it to see what the fuss is about 🙂

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