China on a Transit Visa

At best I thought I was going to have to spend the night in a hotel room under armed guard, at worst chained to the wall of a jail cell with only the wails of a tortured woman for company. But as it turns out, China’s not that bad.

I successfully flew from London Heathrow to Guangzhou, China, then I had to wait 3 hours for a connecting flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. I had both boarding passes and my rucksack was in the system so I’d pick it up in Hanoi. Everything was perfect. What I hadn’t planned on was my own damned stupidity. I had the boarding pass with the correct departure gate on it – A02 – but I spent my 3 hours at A102. I didn’t notice my mistake until it was too late. Bye bye mister airplane!

I mean, honestly, a 6-year-old could’ve done that right. I’m not even exaggerating: all young children spend their days doing is matching colours and symbols and shapes. And I’m on level 335 of Candy Crush Saga so I know I’m good at matching games too.

Candy Crush 335
Please send help.

Then I played another game loved by children: pass the parcel, only I was the parcel. I was passed around various airport staff, some with child-friendly gold stars on their shirts pointing out how well they spoke English — no stars meant “no English” and the maximum four stars apparently meant “not much English either, but I’ll give it a shot”. After an hour or so, the music stopped and the parcel was unwrapped. I was expecting to have to stay in a quarantine zone in the airport, but they gave me a transit visa, a free hotel room for the night, and a recommendation of a few things to do for a day’s visit. It was the best prize of any game of pass the parcel I’ve ever played, apart from that one rich kid at school who put Rolex watches in everyone’s goodie bags.

In the end, I didn’t do much with my time. I really didn’t want to risk missing my flight again. After getting checked in at the hotel, I went to explore the area. I walked past a McDonald’s, a KFC, various clothing stores, then through a street market selling the same street market junk sold everywhere (I didn’t want a beaded necklace in Camden Town and I didn’t want one here). Disappointingly, nobody gave me the slightest attention while I wandered. There were no other westerners around so I was hoping some cute Chinese girls who look about 10 but are actually 27 would glance at me out of the corners of their eyes and giggle shyly, but everyone just acted like I wasn’t there.

Guangzhou Skyscraper
Causing me to nearly get run over four times.

I was going to have to eat at some point but I decided against any kind of restaurant. Nobody spoke any English at all and even pointing at menus seemed risky here because I had no idea what passed for regular food. Sure, there was rice and dumplings, but there was also eggs boiled in urine. Yeah, I’m not even making that up. I probably could’ve gone to McDonald’s but instead I just bought snacks. I spent a good while in a small supermarket browsing my options. This is what I ended up with:

Chinese snacks
Yep, that’s a Snickers.

After eating my thoroughly nutritious meal in my hotel room while watching a TV show I didn’t understand, I headed down to the hotel bar. I imagined myself as Bill Murray in Lost in Translation: the lonely, depressed, rich guy reflecting on life, wondering what the point of it all is. I ordered a whiskey, no rocks, downed it in one, slammed the glass down, slid the glass across the bar, nodded at the barman to refill it, then looked along the bar expecting to see the most beautiful woman in the world wearing a revealing red dress and a big flirty smile. She’d wait for me to charm her with witticisms Oscar Wilde would congratulate me on, then she’d finish her own drink and find an excuse to hand me her hotel room keycard, I’d slip off to join her, then just as the first glimpses of skin are shown the director would spoil everyone’s fun by fading to black and moving to a scene of dull exposition in a diner in which somebody would either order eggs or coffee.

None of this happened, obviously. The whiskey was too expensive so I ordered a coke, the barman for some reason didn’t understand what my subtle nod of the head meant, but the girl along the bar held some promise. I wasn’t going to see her on the cover of a magazine anytime soon, but she was pretty. We stole a few glances at each other, she smiled shyly, then I said,


She said something in Chinese.

I said, “You’re so beautiful you make my heart beat like a thousand butterflies flying through a field of tulips in the Italian riviera.”

She said something in Chinese.

I said, “Your eyes sparkle like the afternoon sun shining off a crystal blue lake in a forest untouched by the desolation of man.”

She said something in Chinese.

I said, “Your skin looks as soft as an old banana.”

She said something in Chinese.

I said, “I’m guessing you don’t speak English?”

She said something in Chinese.

With a sigh, I finished my coke and went back to my room, got into bed and played Candy Crush. Why must the movies be so unlike real life? Just once I’d like to see Ryan Gosling have an awkward moment in a bar that sees him frustratedly getting out his phone to send a tweet that says,

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 21.06.23

Anyway, the next day my visit to China on a transit visa ended and my adventure continued when I met a girl called Cristina.

One Comment Add yours

  1. amenajariinterioare82 says:

    Very interesting your blog. Thank you and also add more interesting posts.


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