Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Guangzhou's Orchid Garden

Our last stop in China, and we almost didn't make it. The Orchid Garden is a tranquil hideaway in the middle of a bustling city. A perfect spot to take a breather after our 12-day backpacking trip across four major cities. But before we ended up in the garden, a mishap almost tragically capped off our honeymoon!

Entrance to the Orchid Garden. Serenity awaits.

After visiting the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King, we had a late lunch at 7-11. Shervin and I shared a ¥14 meal. The museum staff agreed to keep our bags while we ate.

Without heavy load on our backs, we took the opportunity to walk around and look for an internet shop. We wanted to find out which Guangzhou airport Cebu Pacific flies to and from. And then we can check our transport options to there.

I flipped the pages of our guide book in search of hotels with internet services. The nearest from where we were was Guangzhou City International Youth Hostel. We walked about a kilometer to Huanshi Xilu, the street where Baiyun City Hotel sits. The hostel was supposedly housed inside it.

We approached the reception desk and asked about the hostel. The staff told us it's already closed. As in, it ceased operation. So we asked about their internet service and they told us to go to the business center just across the lobby. When we got there, the one and only computer was being serviced. The repair guy couldn't tell how long it was going to take.

Disappointed, we searched for other hotels within the area. One hotel agreed to let us use their computer for free even though we weren't their guests. Well, after Shervin begged. We got the info we needed in no time, we'll be flying from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. We also learned that there are airport buses departing from a station along Liu Hua Lu, which we could check out before picking up our bags from the museum.

Everything was going smoothly, we thought. It was 4:30 PM and we can still get in the Orchid Garden (open 8:00 AM-5:00 PM). We were already about 100 meters away from the hotel when suddenly, I noticed that Shervin was not carrying my SLR anymore. I asked him about it and he too panicked. I realized he must have left it on the computer table at the hotel's lobby. He made a run for it while I briskly followed.

Actually, I just got my camera back before leaving Manila. Shervin's mom left it under a dining table at our wedding party. I asked the catering service owner if any of her crew found a blue plastic bag containing a small gift and a camera. Surprisingly, they were able to keep it (though they never gave me a call earlier to ask if someone lost such). So you can imagine how I felt.

I lost track of Shervin for a few minutes. He emerged from a sea of pedestrians as I was nearing the hotel's street and waved the camera with the biggest smile on his face. That's when I started crying. It wasn't just the camera, it was the memory card I was so scared losing.

Sherv quickly took this photo right after showing me he found it. Look at that pretty face.

Pity I cannot remember the hotel's name. I could have spread so much rave reviews about the staff.

Moving on. We still made it to the Orchid Garden, at 5 minutes to 5! It's just along the same road as the museum (Jiefang Bei Lu). Only ¥8 for the admission fee. When inside, you'd totally forget you're in hectic Guangzhou. It's a well maintained park with winding paths through greenery, bridges over man-made ponds, and they got tea houses too! Oh yeah, orchids are on the spotlight.

Deserted at almost closing time.

We didn't stay long for we needed to pick up our bags from the museum before it closes. As we exited the garden, we saw a lot of Muslims outside the gate selling hats and rugs - and even kebabs. That's because just beside the park is a Muslim cemetery (tourists not admitted) so a lot of them frequent the area.

One of the tea houses in Orchid Garden.

Before going to the museum, we did a quick detour to Liu Hua Lu to look for the airport express station. We asked Mariott Hotel's reception if they know where it is. They instructed us to walk further down the street until we see Dong Fang Hotel. The ticketing office is just across it.

Shervin didn't trust them and thought they were just trying to shrug us off. But after walking for maybe 50 meters, we found the hotel and indeed saw the station. A bus just arrived and a big crowd hopped on board. We were told that the next bus with available seats will pick up passengers at 6:15 PM. Too early for our check in time but we thought we should take it.

Now that's settled, we finally made our way back to the museum to pick up our bags. The guard wouldn't let us in and said they're already closed. We showed our claim stub and pointed at the note the girl at the luggage counter jotted down. He let us through.

With our bags, walking was again such a chore. At least we were in no rush. We bought a takeaway dinner from McDonald's on the way to the station. When we got back to the ticketing office, it was total chaos. We didn't understand what was going on but so many passengers were furious and shouting at the poor attendant. There was no queue. Locals just crowd over the booth. It seems it's the standard operating procedure. Expect to be pushed around. And occasionally, your hair gets pulled - accidentally of course.

Despite the language barrier and the constant butting in of newly arrived passengers, the lone girl manning the booth attended to us. She gave us tickets at ¥16 each. The airport is almost 30 kilometers away from downtown Guangzhou, so the price is pretty reasonable.

Just as we left the commotion and stepped out to the parking lot, a bus arrived. It wasn't 6:15 PM yet but the conductor told us to get in. We sat near the last row. The bus smelt of french fries because of our takeaway. We'll get to the airport in about 45 minutes, and decided to just eat our dinner there. The bus had a television and to my disbelief, it played music videos by Abba. I was the only one snapping my fingers and singing to 'Dancing Queen'.

Ticketing office/station of Airport Express in front of Dong Fang Hotel.

We can hardly wait to escape from the cold. Our estimated time of arrival in Manila's 12:25 AM and guess what... We'll go home to just repack our bags. At 3:00 AM we'll be meeting up with friends at Victory Liner Pasay for a Zambales beach trip!


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ACgrrrl said...
April 17, 2010 at 7:39 PM

Classic yung crying photo mo! I had a lot of those "Oh no you didn't" moments when Schatzi & I were backpacking. Minsan gusto ko lang mag tantrum pinipigilan ko lang. hehehe. Buti na lang you got your camera back. Good job, hubby!

Parang that Orchid Garden tea house was where Anthony Bourdain went and was talked into getting his ears cleaned with a piece of string. Tama ba? Hehe.

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
April 17, 2010 at 9:18 PM

Actually, I got a lot of photos similar to that. Hahaha! It does feel nice to have a tantrum fit sometimes, I understand your sentiment.

I haven't seen that episode. Hmmm, will look it up.

pinoy boy journals said...
April 18, 2010 at 6:06 PM

oh no, i don't know why but sometimes when you're out traveling mishaps to happen... one-when least expected, two-sometimes you can't really avoid them. good thing you found your camera,, if i lost my camera together with all the photos i took of the trip, i think a part of me will say this trip was useless!

☮Pinay Travel Junkie☮ said...
April 19, 2010 at 1:35 AM

I was sooo relieved! If I did lose my camera, I might have lost my mind too. Haha! We won't be able to show our future kids our backpacking honeymoon trip.

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