Chennai City to China Town - First international trip!

The story of the survival of a vegetarian in China, 5 days itinerary, cultural-shocks and all other musings on my first solo travel abroad

If my flight was from Delhi, I would have aptly titled it Chandni Chowk to China Town, but since it was from Chennai, I titled it as above. Well, this was how I prepared for my first international travel. It was a hurried affair, with just one week to plan and sort out things.

It was a Monday, and my boss called me to discuss a particular important issue. I went to his cabin as usual with a pen and note and noted down as he said regarding a business meet in China. I had mentally decided that, he was about the go and I had to make some arrangements. Finally after explaining things, he said “So, you can go and come back right…”. Err… Hmmm… What..??? Did I hear it right…??? Me……, taking up the trip…. Oh God.! I had this mixed feelings. Joy of the abroad trip, and the stress of going alone. And well, when is the trip? It’s on Saturday, just a week to make all preparations, including visa! This would technically be my first ever trip to a foreign country.

There were quite a few important documents needed for the processing of Chinese Visa for Indian nationals. I really have to thank my dear travel agent (SOTC), he took all measures to make the trip successful. I think I would have called him atleast 25 times, no exaggeration, on a single day to clear my 1001 doubts… I checked the temperature there and found it to be around 20 to 28°C. I skipped the winter wear and packed the rest. Well, I successfully got my Chinese Visa and took-off to China on Saturday midnight.

Must visit place in Guangzhou - Sun Yat Sen Memorial

View of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall from Guangdong Hotel in Guangzhou

My flight was from Chennai to Guangzhou via Kuala Lampur. I proceeded to get the boarding pass and cleared the customs and went to wait in the lounge. It was around 22:30 by then. My flight was at 00:00. I went to the airport shop and see if I could get any magazines. Preferably a Femina or Elle or any other decent fashion magazine. But the shop had only novels and books. That too as you know in an airport, the price was skyhigh. I thought for a while, and cursed myself for not getting a magazine along. But with overwhelming boredom and the mere though of waiting jobless in Kuala Lumpur airport for 3 hrs for transit, I decided to get a novel for………… 650 bucks. Super expensive! Why are airports shops so expensive?
Then I got into the flight. Thanks to Jet airways, I watched Fashion, a movie I wanted to watch on silver screen badly but couldn’t. It was good. Rather, really good. Hats off to Madhur Bhandarkar. Three and a half hours and I landed in Kuala Lumpur. Then I waited there for next 2 hrs and got my next flight to Guangzhou, China. Traveling along with time, with both KL and Guangzhou in the same time, it was two and a half hours ahead of India.
I reached Guangzhou at 13:30, and took a pre-paid taxi to the hotel, or so did I think. I dunno, what on earth I got into. May be a posh luxury car or limo, he charged me ¥300. Now that’s around 300 x 7, roughly Rs.2100! Note this point as of now, I’ll come back to this later. It was lovely ride with a great highway with greenery on either sides and Chinese men and women working tirelessly on the greens.
Well, then and I reached the hotel and checked in. I was given the 16th floor. Never have I lived in a 16th floor so far in my life. I was given a lovely room with a view. 
The next thought as of now was lunch. I went down to see what’s there in the restaurant. It was a list of ducks, pork, beef, shrimp etc etc etc. Oh my God! I went out and walked through the length and breadth of the road to see if I could get some vegetarian food at all. Nothing of that sort. I went to the neighboring food store to get a few bananas. I got a few bananas and water for ¥14, that’s Rs.98 and went back to room. Know what, all these conversions horrified me. Then I slept off for the rest of the day and had a dinner of Mushroom Peas Masala, thanks to MTR Ready foods that I had carried with me.

China Post logo spotted on a delivery van in Guangzhou, Canton

Pazhou (Flower) Pagoda in Guangzhou close to Shangri-la hotel. Also called Pa-Chow or Whampoa Pagoda.

I kick started the day at 6:30, dressed up in the power of Power dressing, I went down to see what’s in for breakfast. The sight of the buffet horrified me. I scanned through the dishes on display, only to reminded of what my travel agent said. Chinese prefer Fish oil in frying even vegetarian stuff...!!! I settled for a few leaves of boiled lettuce, a 5 cm boiled corn, yoghurt cup, a cup of Rasna and bun filled with cream. A soup spoon served as a normal spoon for me and I went off to work.
On my way, I checked out the window site-seeing. I passed through the Pearl River, China's third longest river. Also, I crossed the Pazhou (Pa-Chow/Whampoa) Pagoda aka Flower Pagoda. Constructed in 1597 and completed in 1600, the Pazhou Pagoda is situated on a hillock, which was a small island in the middle of the Pearl River. Because of its special location, the pagoda was far more than a Buddhist monument. Almost every merchant ship sailing for Canton was navigated by this great landmark. It is said that, adjacent to the pagoda were two temples, but both collapsed due to poor maintenance. For this piece of info bout the unknown tower, I got to see thru the window, I have to thank google and I've read a couple of articles that say that the tower is gorgeous both inside as well as its pavilion & garden outside. Looks like I missed visiting one of this important historical places to see in Guangzhou that was built in 1600 CE.
And wherever I could see, it was the designer collection – Chinese alphabets. The funny part was my ignorance to differentiate any logo that prefixes the Chinese shop names or company names. The logo designs and alphabets seemed one and the same for me. This is the China Post logo that prefixes the name.
My lunch consisted of a cheese sandwich and a cuppa cappuccino. My hopes of becoming a vegan from a vegetarian completely vanished after seeing the variety I had there. Cheese sandwich was the only option. It costed ¥12 and cappuccino costed ¥30. Wow, my drink was costlier than my food!
After returning to the hotel I again went to the shop to get water. 2 lts of water was ¥5. I just scanned the varieties available in the shop. It was pretty good. From fruits to dry fruits to icecreams to chips to other things… Errr… Did I just say other things..??? What are those.??? There was a pack of what I though was ‘Mor Milagai’ – Slit chilies immersed in buttermilk and dried, essentially a South Indian delicacy. I tried to analyze the pack when I saw the pack beneath it. It had 3 duck legs soaked in God knows what. I moved away and returned back to room. Dinner was my own MTR Veg Pulav.

Birds at sunset at Guangzhou Sun Yat Sen memorial

Entrance of Sun Yat Sen Memorial, Guangzhou

Again after dressing up in business suit, I checked out, what in for me in the restaurant. Today my breakfast was a few boiled lettuce leaves again, a boiled pumpkin pieces and a cup of juice and a cream filled bun. This day, I tried chop sticks for the first ever time in life. I tried to pick a lettuce leaf with my chop sticks and it flew and landed beside my neighbor’s plate. Disaster! I looked at him and he didn’t seem to bother. I looked up to see if any one else noticed. But all were busy with their own platter. I kept the chopsticks aside and put my fingers to work.
I left to work again. And my lunch was the same as Day 1. I met few interesting people today. One was a native of Kyrgyzstan. But was a Chinese citizen. He was interested to know more about India. He asked “How come Indians speak good English. Do you have it in school curriculum?” I said “Yes, of course”. He was then talking about the best thing Indians and Chinese shared – Population. He informed me that Chinese can have only one kid per home. Indeed a fantastic idea to incorporate in India as well. Another one was from Egypt and was really very friendly. I had a nice chat with him and he was explaining his company logo. It had a Pyramid and river Nile and a World Map. It signified it was from Egypt to the world. As interesting as he was indeed.
By the time the day got over, tiredness and leg-pain with the all work no play day made me decide, the next day had to start with a can of Red Bull. This day I bought a few bananas, a few cherry tomatoes, a few little mangoes, and water, all for ¥13. My dinner was MTR Tomato Rice.

Children playing at Guangzhou Sun Yat Sen Memorial

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Guangzhou Canton China

As I contemplated the horrifying experience the previous day with chop sticks, I decided to settle with those bananas for breakfast. Healthy, indeed. And ofcourse, as I had decided the previous day, Red Bull too. It was 12¥ for a small can. That made it 12 x 7 = 84 bucks. It is Rs.45 in India. Please, let me forget conversions. This is the dilemma of every Indian's first international travel and also the reason why you don't see too many Indians going on world tour or taking a gap-year or sabbatical and go on a back-packing trip to another continent.
Today, at work, I met few more interesting people. A lady asked me if I was an Indian. I said “Yes, Why.?”. She said “Indians’ eyes are beautiful, so are yours”. Oh my..!!! My undereye dark circles appeared ‘beautiful’ for her…?????
Another lady asked me “Isn’t Indian film industry huge?” I guffawed and said “Yes. Very huge”.  She – “Oh! Recently one film is very famous. One Millionaire film”. I said “Slumdog Millionaire”, it is one of the Indian movies that won the Oscar. She asked “What’s the meaning of Slumdog? Does it mean ‘From very poor place’?” Rather a tricky question for me as the glory of India in her vision was in my hands and also an eye opener for the way India was depicted in the movie. I said “Yes. It’s a place near Mumbai, which is poor. Other places in India are very rich”. She said “Ok. I thought so. I got a forward mail from my friend saying India is a rich country with lots of multi millionaire businessmen. Its not like what its depicted in the movie”. I said “Yes. Lots of Indians are rich. Some people in some parts of India are poor”. She said “Ok. I actually love India. It’s a very interesting place. I would come one day”. I said “Sure”, with my mind thinking the impact of the Oscar winning movie in the minds of the people across the world.
Then, my lunch was the same, as if I had options. By this time, I had become an expert in eating cherry tomatoes. I checked the price of Red Bull can in this store, and reality struck me, it was ¥6. It was double rate in corporate complexes. Well, I got my can for the next day from here and retired for the day.
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Guangzhou, Canton, China

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Guangzhou, Canton, China

My breakfast was again bananas and Red Bull. I got the traditional dress of China called Cheongsam, which is definitely the best souvenir to buy in China. At workplace, I got a bottle of water. A bottle was rated ¥5. There was smaller bottle and I thought that would be enough. I asked its price and was told ¥15! I exclaimed “What…!!!!!!!! Why…???????” She said “It’s a different brand mam”. I opted for the previous one and left the place. Conversions are making me crazy. An effect that every Indian visiting a foreign country for the first time, feels. My lunch was again Cheese Sandwich. I returned.
This day I opted for some sight seeing, it was Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Memorial hall, it was the view through the window I loved watching. Who is Dr.Sun Yat Sen? Well, Dr. Sun Yat Sen is the reformer of Modern China. It was a lovely garden with a museum. I couldn’t see the museum coz it was till 5 pm and I landed there at 6. Again I missed one of the most important places to visit in Guangzhou
It was so lovely to see the kids playing here with their parents or grandparents. It was a fantastic place for those seeking solitude. Awesome place with so many trees and the traditionally built building among the sky scrapers beside. Since most visitors to Guangzhou are business visitors like me, it is practically impossible, unless the trip is extended for an extra day, to see most of the historic monuments of Guangzhou. While there are a few things to do in Guangzhou at night, an evening in Sun Yat Sen Memorial would be the best way to spend the time in peace and it is definitely one of the top places to see in Guangzhou.

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Guangzhou, Canton, China

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Guangzhou, Canton, China

Wow, after a fine trip it was now to return to mother land. I asked the receptionist to get me a taxi to go to the airport. He said that I just need to wave my hand to the passing by taxi. I said that I knew that but wanted him to say that I needed to go to the Guangzhou Airport. He aptly took a piece of paper and wrote the sentence in Chinese and gave it to me. I gave it to the taxi driver and he left me at the airport for ¥100 including a toll gate fee. Now, what was the ¥300 I gave when I came. Well, God only knows that. I should have enquired earlier on how much does a normal taxi cost in Guangzhou, where should we get it and if I should bargain or they run or meter....
I checked in and reached my boarding gate. My mild headache made me opt for the coffee at the coffee shop there. The menu card also said Hot Chocolate. Wow, a great luxury medicine to take for the head ache. It was ¥55, that’s Rs.500 including the card charges!!! But my headache demanded it. I ordered for a Hot Chocolate, but as fate took a twist and I got a damn MILO. I could never forget that MILO that costed me Rs.500!!!
Then I reached the magnificent Kuala Lumpur Airport. It’s so huge that I had to take a metro train to reach the boarding gate from my arrival gate!!! It was a fantastic in-flight food served by Malaysian Airlines. I would swear by their advertisement ‘MH is not just a flight code. Its Malaysian Hospitality.’ Only on dis-embarkment did I find that Silver Screen Actor Shaam was my Co-passenger! A wide smile and a warm ‘Hi’, made him really star worthy!

Places to visit in Guangzhou Things to do in Guangzhou


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. Hey hi... sooper that you went to China....
    But this cost of living when you take money from here is damn high.... wow!!!!!!!!!!! good experience it must've been. Soober... Let you travel around the world :)

    sowmi :)

  2. Actually Bhush... I thought of asking you indha week enga poitu vandha en inum u din post anything nu...

    But sooper.. I enjoyed your musings about the currency problem and designer collection (chinese alphabets) lol!!!

  3. Thanks sowmi. It was great trip and greater were the experiences I gathered. :)

  4. Which organisation do you work for & what was the nature of your work in China?
    Being your maiden trip abroad one can sense your great excitement right through your narration.The MTR packs saved you from starvation.Most food in SE Asian countries is cooked in oyster sauce or some such nauseating oil.Another golden rule - dont keep converting to INR - takes away all the fun from shopping/spending.
    Otherwise looks like you had a great & successful trip to China. Terrific snaps. Congratulations!
    My favourite drink is Cappuccino !

  5. ///The funny part was my ignorance to differentiate any logo that prefixes the Chinese shop names or company names.///

    ha! ha! ha!

    ///A lady with short skirt with long trench coat made me wonder if she forgot her bottoms until she removed her coat!!!///

    ithu konjam over-ah theriyala??

    And kadaisi varaikkum you didn't taste that Chinese Mor Milagai. :-) :-)

    Definitely i would suggest your web page for anybody who visits abroad for the first time. MTR Vaazhga-nnu oru gosham podaliyaa??

  6. @Ramakrishnan Sir,

    It was just a business meet in China.
    //The MTR packs saved you from starvation//
    Of course, MTR Vaazhga. :D
    //dont keep converting to INR //
    The problem is since my earning is in Indian Rupees, my spending in CNY was terrifying.

    //ithu konjam over-ah theriyala??//
    Theriyalaye :P
    //didn't taste that Chinese Mor Milagai//
    Please...... I want to live w/o tasting corpses.. Yuck!
    //MTR Vaazhga-nnu oru gosham podaliyaa?//
    MTR VAAZHGA...!!!!! :D

  7. hey, i really enjoyed the "rs.500 for a cup of milo" part..had a hearty laugh..

    one must have seen the expression on ur face after that... can u put a pic of u with that expression in ur next blog... :D..

  8. @ Krish,
    Enna nakkala...???? I still have that bill with me. Its the best memorabilia from China for me.

  9. why dont u put a frame on that.... u can hang that on the wall and show to everyone.... :D

  10. @ Krish,

    Actually not a bad idea. A decent frame would cost much lesser than that Milo.

  11. wow...sounds like u had real fun bhush(if only u had stopped convertin)
    and the pics are real good...

  12. Hey Rev,
    Thanks sweety...

    And, Welcome to my blog... :)

  13. Bhushhhhhhhhhhh i'll tell u something ur blog seriously took me to China. What a way u've adapted to explain all the wierd and good moments that u enjoyed.......That too stunt with chop sticks was hilarious. I was able to imagine ur situation then. I really enjoyed. Feeling so happy that my friend has gone to China. Especially helding high our country's esteem in front of a foreigner was simply amazing. God bless u. Keep blogging.....

  14. Thanks a lot. But who is this..???

  15. good to meet someone like me..
    next time we travel together.. what say?

  16. @Sneo,
    Great to meet you too. Why not if future has it for us in hold!!!

  17. That's such a pity that you struggled as a vegetarian in China. I know how you felt - I spent two years there - but after the first few days of horror, I found more vegetarian food in China than anywhere else in Asia, except India. Strange, yes, but it needs time, and knowledge of the few basic phrases. :D Hope you visit some other time...I can pass on my phrasebook :D

  18. @Soul Muser,
    That's definetely strange. I'll need your phrase book on my next visit. I'll approach you for sure...
    Its indeed a challenge I guess to live in China as a vegetarian for 2 years!!! :)
    Anyways, thanks a ton for visiting my blog and commenting. Do drop in often.. :)

  19. Amazing places to visit Im impress :) Mayby you will be interested in take part in conference “Domes in the world” – You can upload your photos and project and read more about this meeeting. You can also share your photos on more international sites like
    See Ya

  20. RedBull and Bananas...what a funtastic combi...glad you somehow survived that experience with MTR.....i am big fan of their readymade food too- i survived an entire year on it when my mom was transferred to madurai...

  21. @Magdalena,
    Thanks for the info dear. Would look into it.. :)
    Thanks for visiting & commenting. Do drop by often..

    @Ganesh Puttu,
    Ha ha ha... Yeah, somehow I did survive.
    But if it was a years time, you should have learnt to cook... :)

  22. On my first visit to the US, during a stopover in London, I was ravenously hungry. There was only a vending machine, with a chocolate bar for a pound and cococola for 85p - about Rs. 35 and Rs 30, when the prices in India were about Rs.5 and Rs.3 or so. So I starved until I boarded the flight to Houston!

    For the first 4 months, everyone converted the price of everything to rupees. After that we get used to it. I dont know if that still happens. But now I compare Indian prices to last years or ten years back and it's still shocking.

    I'm surprised you found China so pricey. My friend went to Beijing and found everything cheaper than Hyderabad, even hotel room charges. Certainly food was cheaper.Hmmmm.

  23. Gopu,
    Ahaaa... Why??? So sad you ended up starving....!!!
    Btw, China is a huge country. Where I stayed was Guangzhou, an important trade city in China. That too when the world famous trade fair was on. May the prices were high coz they wanted to make the most out of the business season...
    The cost might have been lower in 'off-season' that too at smaller cities of China...
    You can't compare living costs of Bangalore with Singaperumal Koil, right!!! Lolz!
    Btw, veg food, availability itself was miserable, leave alone cheap or not...

  24. I did enjoy a lot your experiences in China. It is one of the countries I have been dreaming to visit someday. If only it is a free visa country for me, it will be my priority. I can't help but laugh when you narrated your experience with the chopsticks. I am not good too when it comes to chopsticks. And I remember, I was trying to eat with a chopstick in the HKIA but I really couldn't eat well. I was just laughing at myself because I think it would take me an eternity to finish everything on my plate. Haha!


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