When I travel, I always opt for the shortest flight possible – almost always direct and I only do a layover flight if absolutely necessary, usually a maximum of 2 hours which gives me enough time to transit from one plane to the next and a couple of minutes to check out the airports duty free (free perfume samples!). So you can imagine my horror when I discovered that my flight to Australia had a 13 hour layover in Guangzhou, China. 13 HOURS! What was I going to do in an airport for 13 hours?
Out of desperation, I googled “layover in Guangzhou” airport and I was relieved when I saw that it was trending and there were many suggestions on what I could I do and even better, there is a 72 hour free visa to gain access into China as long as you possess a ticket to a connecting flight. With this information in hand, I was determined to make the most out of my layover and explore China. Google seemed to have all the information that I needed (it truly is a traveller’s best friend), I was able to get a map of the underground train, which I found was the fastest ad cheapest option to go between different locations.
On my way to China, I made a friend whilst we were in the queue at customs; both struggling to fill in the immigration form and as we got talking, we discovered that we both had the long layover. She was thinking of going to the hotel provided by the airline but I convinced her to come out and explore Guangzhou with me and we had the most fun.
Below are 13 things we did during the 13 hours stop over which I’m going to share with you:
- Tackling the storage of our hand luggage – To avoid dragging our hand luggage around town we had to store them of course, it would not look good in our pictures after all. The language barrier was a little bit of a struggle and it took longer than usual but it was soon sorted with the help of a local that understood a little English. With our suitcases stored we were ready to conquer the city.
- Figuring out how to pay for the underground train- I realised that it would be best to get a one-day pass as I will be visiting a few locations and I really didn’t want to face the horrid ticket machine again. Ticket in hand, we were one our way.
- Yuexiu Park, 5 Ram Statue- This location was one of the major places to visit on trip advisor and I came to understand why. Upon arriving there we soon discovered how big the park was. It had its own stream running through it, filled with fresh water fishes of many colours. After 45 min of walking around, we were finally able to locate the Ram Statue and it was certainly a magnificent sight.
- Speak to the locals/ meditation and sports- We established rapport with the locals and most were extremely friendly. I noticed a lot of people meditating as well. We got involved in a ball game with the objective that the ball must not touch the floor. It was an intense game where the participants stay in a circle and kick the ball towards each other.
- Presidential Palace- The garden was bursting with flowers of various colours, easily comparable to Buckingham Palace, but with a lot more swag (don’t let the queen know I said that).
- The Luirung Temple – It was a surreal experience seeing people in the act of worship. Candles were burnt and incense was lit and fishes were presented as sacrifices.
- Khan Academy- This is a definite must see and backed with history! Honestly, we did not want to pay the entrance fee as we did not have much time to explore. Rather, we took pictures outside in meditation poses and had a good laugh. Remember, travelling is not about counting the sites that you see but rather making amazing memories. My newfound friend had to head back to the airport so I was left with my selfie stick to take my pictures.
- China Zoo – I pretty much only went here to see a panda but to my disappointment, the enclosure was closed. I wish they had told me that before purchasing the ticket. It was like going to the zoo in Australia and not seeing a kangaroo. I was able to see some awesome dancing swans and the locals made me feel like a celebrity insisting they take pictures with me. Of course, I smiled and went along with it though I sometimes wonder where those pictures would end up.
- Sky High Bus Shuttle – This provided a 360-degree city view, which was amazing! Anyone scared of heights should avoid this though it could be a good way to overcome your fear. I was lucky enough to bag a student discount on this ticket, which saves me some money. Trust me, every little helps whenever you are travelling.
- Eat local- My travel habits often includes staying off street food being cautious of hygiene but I had to make an exception to this rule in China. I was attracted to the aroma of a steaming ball of something I didn’t know the name of. A lady near me placed an order for two so I followed with the same order. You can imagine how overjoyed I was to discover that was, in fact, a hot roll of bread filled with chocolate. I was so delighted that I felt like walking back and asking for more but some things are meant to be enjoyed once in a lifetime.
- Chicken Feet- One wrong decision I made was experimenting with packed food. I quickly found out that chicken feet covered in soy sauce is not one of my favourite foods but at least I tried.
- Film set- Whilst heading back to the airport I realised I was in the middle of a movie filming which was just my luck! Honestly, looking at the crew, I’m convinced it will be an awesome movie.
- Sleeping pod- After a long day of exploring, I just wanted some me time to nap and some Wi-Fi to keep my family updated with my journey. The best option for a good night sleep is to book a sleep pod at the airport, which also gives you access to free Wi-Fi and a shower area. These were the exact things I needed at that moment in time. I connected to the Wi-Fi, sent the necessary messages, got a power nap in and set multiple alarms to wake me up so as not to miss my connecting flight. Enough time was left to take a shower and prepare myself for the second phase of the journey.
So the question is – would I take a long layover flight again? YES, as long as I have the privilege to leave the airport. Let me know what your longest layover was and what you got up to!
Till then I leave you with this…
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
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