So if you are like us and you like to see the world as much as possible, you have to save money wherever you can (see our blog on traveling luxuriously without breaking the bank). If you are going by air, then plane tickets are normally a big chunk of your budget. When planning for our recent trip to Bali, Indonesia, we expected to pay around $1200 for a reasonable ticket. When skyscanning, we stumbled upon tickets for $840!!! The catch was that the trip took 51 hours. That may seem daunting, but the trip only had one stop… a 26 hours stop in Guangzhou, China. Guang-where? That’s what we said. But Guangzhou happens to be China’s third largest city, behind only Beijing and Shanghai. Whattttttt!?!?! We embraced this exciting adventure and had long layovers both to and from Bali. Here we are going to share how we spent our time, and a a few things you will need on your next trip that has a long layover.
You Need Enough Time
This is first because it is important. If you are flying somewhere, let’s say Thailand, and you have a 7 hour layover in Tokyo, it’s pretty risky to plan on sightseeing in Tokyo. If you are leaving the airport, through customs, and have to re-enter through security, we would recommend you have at least 8 hours to quickly explore a layover destination. Along with how much time you have, it matters what time it is. If you have a shorter amount of time, it’s ideal that your layover is during the day. If you have a stop closer to our length (26 hours), ideally you arrive at night, get to sleep, and then have part of the day to explore. It will be helpful if you have an idea of what you want to do so you can plan efficiently too. We used Visit China’s Instagram to guide our planning in Guangzhou, and it help us use our time effectively! Overall, just know that your time is limited… and use it wisely!
You Need to Sleep… Preferably Comfortably (SPLURGE)
If your layover is somewhere that your currency is strong, this may be a place to splurge! Splurge or not, if you have a really long layover, it is SUPER important that you get some good sleep. Most likely you are coming off of a long plane flight where sleeping is rough, and you will be getting on another, so you need to take any opportunity to get some uninterrupted shut-eye.
During our time in Guangzhou, we stayed at the Park Hyatt. This five-star gem is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Guangzhou, and has incredible views of the Canton Tower. Our room had amazing views with floor-to-ceiling windows, and our bed was so comfortable it was hard to ever get out. We had breakfast in the hotel and indulged in their buffet, which had traditional Cantonese food, healthy granola and fruit options, and even waffles! Consistent with the Park Hyatt brand, the food was phenomenal. Throughout the hotel was beautiful art, specifically wooden sculptures by world-renowned artist Tadashi Kawamata. The wooden pieces were inspired by Kawamata’s conception of the building as a dragon flying into the sky. Within the hotel you can find the dragon’s legs, body, nest, and other wooden interpretations.
We spent a good amount of time at the Park Hyatt in our amazing room, and the rest at the pool. We've stayed at a few Park Hyatt's in the past (TOKYO!), and they know how to design a pool. The pool in Guangzhou is overlooking the skyline, and the designs above the pool are similar to the architecture of the Canton Tower (which you see while you swim).
The Park Hyatt allowed us to feel refreshed and replenished, giving us the energy to explore Guangzhou and be ready for our next flight. We hope to stay here again soon!
You Need to Rally When You Get Tired
Since you are in between flights and your internal clock is out-of-whack, you’re just going to need to suck-it-up when you get tired. Your time is short, so drink a cappuccino and keep going. For us, this happened when we were perusing the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street. It is a long road of fun shopping, and right when we got there we both got a little sleepy. We shared a coffee, got a little snack, and pushed through. Shortly after that we saw some locals doing some really entertaining dancing and we visited the Chen Clan Academic Hall (a really cool temple), so it was definitely worth it!
You Need to Embrace the Culture
This really comes down to where you go, and what you eat. Don’t just do the most touristy things… try to find some locals and see what they are up to. After spending the night at the Park Hyatt, we got up early (to beat the other tourists) and headed to Shamian Island. This is a really popular tourist spot, but we heard that locals gather here in the mornings to exercise. Do they ever! Something really neat about the culture here is that tons of people workout together daily. Not what we imagine – at a 24-Hour Fitness, in nice workout clothes, wearing headphones and pumping iron. The locals here are dressed casual and are hanging out while practicing various exercises. It looked fun, refreshing, and healthy!
As for food, we really try to eat and experience as much as possible during our layover. We had some yummy dim sum, some delicious dumplings, delightful Cantonese fried rice, and some scary street food (we don’t even know what it was). Sadly, we did not have time for some of the truly Chinese delicacies, like shark fin soup or roasted duck. Next time!
If your travel plans allow it, we would highly recommend the long layover! Plan it efficiently, embrace the culture of wherever you are, and prepare to blitz through a destination. The goal is to see, do, and eat enough that it gives you a feel for the destination, and hopefully makes you want to come back. Thanks for the (quick) memories, Guangzhou! We’ll be back soon!