Guangzhou Airport, apparently pronounced “GUNG-ZEOWWW” or at least that’s what everyone yelled in our face each time we said it wrong, is a bit of a shit hole!
Sorry, but there is no real nice way to put it. Admittedly this is the first time either of us has had a stop over there, but there was just no way we were going to spend 16 hours in an airport and from the stories friends and family have told us even an hour stop over would be punishment enough. Plus, after hours of sitting in a confined space with a bunch of strangers, recycled air-conditioning and god knows what else in the air, some fresh air and a good night’s sleep would be amazing.
A few days out before our flight we had a look online at the visa requirements to leave the airport short term, and as luck would have it, you can leave on a 24hr visa. Any period of time greater than this requires a standard entrance visa. To make things even easier, China Southern provides you with the forms necessary for the visa the instance they notice you have an extended stopover. So we booked a room for the night at a nearby airport hotel (Voyage Service Apartment Baiyun Airport) for the sweet price of $29 AUD total for the two of us, including a free airport shuttle bus to pick us up AND drop us of again in the morning.
Plus, as we booked through bookings.com, we only had to reserve the room and pay on arrival so if things went totally shit or the place was completely fucked we were sweet. Which was a very likely potential given the email we received after reserving the hotel to inform us of all the elusive and dodgy taxi drivers.
Leaving the airport was a breeze, as we already slightly expected, with no one even asked to see the visa forms we had filled out. Borrowing a nice strangers phone to call the free shuttle bus, we were told to only get in the van with a specific license plate. Again, doesn’t sound dodgy at all right?
Turns out it was all very legitimate and we managed to get to our hotel safe and sound. The hotel was about 10 minutes from the airport and quite nice considering what we were expecting for the low price. Heading out immediately for a feed, we realised the only restaurant open at this time of night in the area was the one attached to the hotel. Convenient and well priced we scoffed a meal down and headed back to our room. While we waited for the elevator we learnt our first lesson in travel basics. Always check you have everything before you leave! Thankfully, the staff at the restaurant were trusting enough to let us know we had left behind our backpack containing all our important travel documents. Thanking them profusely we now both have a firm appreciation for the ‘visual sweep’ tactic and won’t be forgetting it any time soon!
As we got in at 7pm Australian time we did consider trying to pull and all nighter so we would be in the same time zone as the UK. But being the dicks we are, we fell asleep trying to figure it out anyway. Oh well, having a full nights sleep and feeling refreshed even though we were still in the wrong time zone still made the second 12-hour flight so much easier and we managed to stay awake till around 9pm UK time so really, it couldn’t have worked out better.
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