Lost Archives: Guangzhou’s Shamian Island

Shamian Island Guangzhou China

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2016 has got off to a great start. Justin and I had a fun New Year’s Eve and now I’m just getting ready for my trip to Nicaragua- where I’ll be trying to relearn all the Spanish I once knew.  Today I want to share with you a post I wrote a while back, but somehow forgot to actually post. (Yes, that is a thing bloggers sometimes do, right?). It turns out I wrote this after our trip to Guangzhou but didn’t actually hit publish… So let me introduce you to Shamian Island: a little piece of unexpected China.

The sole purpose for our trip to Guangzhou was to attend my interview at the US consulate, and to (hopefully) get my permanent residency/green card approved.  2016 Note: I don’t wish to spoil the story for you (just in case this is your first time here!), but I passed the interview at the embassy and am now a fully fledged permanent resident of the USA! I must have written this immediately after I came back when I didn’t yet know if America would accept me.. 🙂

I didn’t plan to do any sightseeing or even think much about what Guangzhou was like before the trip.  I was pleasantly surprised that, once the interview was over (my appointment was at 10am. I arrived slightly early and was actually done by 10!) I was able to have what felt like a mini holiday!

Shamian Island Guangzhou South China

Guangzhou is the furthest south I have been in mainland China (we took a three hour flight from Beijing to get there and the eight hour high speed train back) and it couldn’t have felt more different to Beijing. I loved the hot, humid and  semi-tropical air which was a welcome change to Beijing’s brutally dry and dusty spring. I loved how Guangzhou smelled like the memories of my childhood family vacation to Hong Kong (my first time in Asia) and I enjoyed listening to the Cantonese chatter (very different to Mandarin) of the laid back Southerners.

Something else a little different was Shamian Island. After my interview, Justin and I took the metro from the US consulate and walked over a little bridge to Shamian Island. The island is the site of the former British and French concession area. It was gifted (supposedly..) to the two countries in the 19th Century and, therefore, all the buildings are colonial, European style.

Shamian Island Guangzhou China

Shamian Island Guangzhou Cantonese
Justin needed to get some work done so retired to what must be one of the prettiest Starbucks in China, while I explored.  Walking round the colonial buildings, with lush gardens and the tropical, humid air was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours. As I live in Beijing (*spoiler- I don’t anymore!), it’s rare for me to see this kind of European historical building. The island has been well preserved and makes for a pleasant place to stroll. There is also a vegetarian restaurant there which meant we didn’t go hungry for lunch.

While I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to visit Guangzhou had I not needed to visit the consulate (don’t ask why I couldn’t have just gone to the actual Embassy in Beijing! Maybe one day I’ll write a post about my experience as a Brit applying for a US Green Card from China!), I am glad I had the opportunity to experience the colonial and the Cantonese sides of China. It’s so different to Beijing that I felt completely refreshed by the time we returned home to the Chinese capital.

Shamian Island Guangzhou China


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Shamian Island Guangzhou

Have you ever had an unexpected holiday or trip? 

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4 thoughts on “Lost Archives: Guangzhou’s Shamian Island

  1. How surreal to be suddenly wandering around a European-looking area in China. Gorgeous looking place though. Don’t you love that about countries as big as China though? That they’re so big, there’s always stuff around to surprise you.

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