Running – the best way to tour a new city

Running – the best way to tour a new city

Greetings! Today I woke up a little early before I met with my translator to go to the fabric market. I was so so so happy to go for a run in my new city!

You know, sometimes I feel like walking is a “waste of time” – don’t get me wrong, walking is wonderful, but if you’ve built your cardio up enough so that you can comfortably jog around and check out the city, why not so it, save time, and burn more cals!!?? So yes, that is what I did. Here is my picture tour. Welcome to China POPsters!

I ran alongside a park and ended up at the Guangzhou tower! My translator, Sam told me that it is the tallest building in Guangzhou. Last night I saw it for the first time all lit up in rainbow colors. It’s very impressive!

Then I passed by a super gorgeous hotel that must be soooo expensive to stay in! It looks like one of those Vegas hotels!

Then I kept running, running, running until I ran into this huge river! Sam later told me that it is called the Pure River! The scenery was so nice! I wanted to keep going alongside the waterfront but it was time to get back.

So I made a turn and ran down the city streets. I had to snap a pic of this. See that logo there? I was like “Oh! New Balance has a store front here?” Then I looked closer and it said “We Help.” Haha. When I was growing up, my parents used to take me and Jackelyn to Chinatown all the time and at the tshirt market, we’d always see these recognizable brands that were tweeked just a tiny bit so that it wouldn’t be 100% copying. Hello China!

I started freaking out a little bit because after I made that turn…I had no idea what direction I was headed. I can’t read or even speak Chinese either. So asking for help was no option. I just keep running in the direction I thought was right. I remembered passing this pagoda as I was running away from my hotel earlier…

I got more and more confused. Stopped at  bunch of these signs, frantically looked around, and was was like…”OMG. I am lost in China. I am really lost.”


I ended up seeing that Guangzhou Tower and found my way back! Thank GOODNESS for landmarks! Seriously.

A lot of you may be like, huh wait, you really don’t know ANY Chinese??? The answer is…I know the main things like food and how to count to 5 but no, I cannot communicate in Chinese at all. I used to know cantonese fluently as a 2-3 year old when I was around my grandfather, but we moved away. Language is quickly lost when it is not practiced. My parents tried to enroll me in Chinese school back in the day but I rebelled because it was Saturday School. WORST EVER. Any POPsters out there who were forced to attend these weekend sessions? So yeah, now I can’t speak Cantonese at all and the people here think I am crazy!

{A quickie background check: I am half Vietnamese and half Chinese, born and raised in California.}

Being Asian American and going back to your “home” country is a really interesting thing. I am a foreigner here in China. But I don’t look like one, I look Chinese. In the US, I am an American but have been asked if I can speak English.

Here, initially everyone will start talking to me in Chinese but when I look at them, smile, and say I don’t speak the language they are taken aback. Today I faced this numerous times and at first it didn’t bother me, but now it kinda is getting to me. I am now feeling quite “embarrassed” for not knowing my language. I know I shouldn’t but I do! My translator tells me that the people we meet with keep asking why I look like a Chinese girl but I don’t know how to speak Chinese. Sigh…

For the record, yes I am half Chinese and Vietnamese but I am probably more Vietnamese by culture. Does that make sense? I can speak and understand Vietnamese (even though I speak it with an American accent). I would have loved to take Cantonese or Mandarin in high school as my language, but they only offered French, Spanish, or Sign Language. Obviously, as a Californian, I chose Spanish! Oh how helpful a Chinese class would have been right now…

Here’s a snapshot of parts of the fabric market. There’s literally MILES and MILES and MILES of fabric. I spent my day looking for new bag materials and although fun, it gets very tiring. I was walking all day long and tomorrow we repeat! I am here for 10 days. Seems long but before I know it, it will be March. So I am staying up late tonight, getting some work done before we do it again!

Check it! These are fabric loading carts. The men are taking breaks but normally these empty carts are piled with bolts of fabric. There are sooooo many bikes and motorcycles in China. Tons of traffic. Billions of people. Loud noises always. But there is so much life here!!!

So hope you enjoyed my running tour of Guangzhou City! Will def take more pics!

So, my question to you today is this – Have any of you been pre-judged for the way you look and didn’t live up to their expectations of you? What’d you do? How’d you feel?

<3 Cassey

29 thoughts on “Running – the best way to tour a new city”

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  1. Mandy says:

    Aw! I love that you are also Cantonese, makes me feel a bit more connected 🙂

    I was raised by my grandmother when I was younger, so I can speak two types of Cantonese (the language spoken from my families’ village and the one in Hong Kong, because my dad grew up there). I kinda regret not going to Chinese school either sometimes because I wish I could have at least known some Mandarin, or how to read or write in Chinese (that alone would’ve been super convenient). Like you, me and my brother (we’re the same age) we rebelled going to Chinese school as well! We went through possibly 3-4 schools, but hated it and always were the bad kids in class because we were put in class with younger students based on our level 🙁 But I’m glad you explored China! I had a great experience there too, didn’t really have anything especially amazing or different when I went to Hong Kong (don’t even get me started with Beijing’s food). Glad you had a great time! 😀

  2. K says:

    Wow, your experience is totally opposite to me. I’m a Japanese, was raised and had lived the most of my life in Japan. I came to Australia four years ago and my English is ok level. I understand the most of what people are saying and so do they. But I have very strong accent and I look 100% Asian.

    But people here in Melbourne assume I belong here. When I am with a bunch of white Australians in a cafe, the waitress choose me to talk about a table setting without thinking if I am a foreigner or Asian Australian. Australians ask me directions even when there are many white people around. Even on the phone at work, people seem not care if I speak messed up American English with strong Japanese accent. They just keep going like hell.

    It’s a really good thing and I feel I’m accepted in the society in real way. But sometimes I’m like “Ok, it’s too much to handle for me as an ESL. I hope s/he finds someone else who can be of help more.”

    1. blogilates says:

      that’s cool to hear!

  3. Amy Rose says:

    I can totally relate, but the opposite. I’m half hispanic (Nicaraguan) and half Swedish, but I was raised by my Hispanic mother. I’m completely fluent in Spanish and totally belong to the culture, but I look like an ad for Sweden. Seriously, blond, blue eyes. Spanish guys hit on me all of the time then get surprised when I answer them back! I get so many people not believing me here in the US that I’m Hispanic, which hurts because that IS my heritage. Seriously, out of my entire family (and my mom has 14 brothers and sisters) I’m the only “halfsie” that turned out looking completely white. Our family pictures, it’s like “one of these just doesn’t belong here!”

  4. Nerissa says:

    I’m a quarter Guyanese Amerindian, Filipina , Chinese and Portuguese
    All the time! It’s irritating and has come to the point where I’ll state it before anyone asks esp older ppl if I speak Tagalog or what what my background is. I can’t speak or understand a lick of Tagalog/Chinese and they often get a confused look on their face when I tell them so. “oh how come you never learned?”
    my reply” I wanted to play outside instead :P”

    Loving the pictures and your descriptions – feels like I’m there travelling with you lol

  5. sarah says:

    I LOVE your running tour! You are really amazing, Cassey! 😀 And your quote about enthusiasm? That is so you – and it’s addictive. 😛 Thank you!

  6. This was such an interesting post, Cassey.

    I’m Puerto Rican which inherently makes me a cultural chameleon. We are a mixed culture by definition, so we don’t really have any specific look. We look very different even among ourselves. When I travel, no one ever guesses “Puerto Rican” first. I find it funny, mostly.

  7. Nabeeha says:

    I feel you on this one, Cassey. I am a Pakistani who was brought up in Dubai and then moved to Canada. Since I was sent to a private UK-board school in Dubai, I grew up learning English before Urdu. In Canada, there were a few times when people commended me on my English (yeah, I had those “Can you speak English?” moments too). But I can’t count to more than 20 in Urdu. This was an inconvenience for me when I was stranded at the airport in Pakistan, and they were announcing the gate numbers in Urdu; so I had to go and clarify with a duty free sales clerk what so-and-so number means in English? They answered but rolled their eyes.
    On a more positive note I have learnt that the entire purpose of language is communication. Hence, as long as we can get our point across, it is good enough.
    Have a good trip Cassey! Really nice pictures 🙂

  8. Ginger says:

    You are lucky! I’m half greek half turkish, both languages are native, but these people dont like each other:) Life is hard with a turkish name and greek surname:)

    Your pics make me wanna take a world tour!!!

  9. Scarlett says:

    Thank You for your Picture Tours Cassey! I enjoy being able to travel the world with you from my Lap Top on the beach in Florida 🙂

  10. Laura says:

    I know how you feel. My mother’s family is all German with my grandmother being born and raised here. I was spoken to in German all the time as a child but answered in English so I never really learned to speak it. I live in Germany now with my family. We all have blonde/ish hair and light eyes and we are mistaken for Germans constantly. I guess it’s a plus that we don’t look like Americans since we are trying to blend it but I am constantly stopped and asked directions in German and I always feel bad asking if they speak English because I can’t really give directions in German. 🙂 It’s gotten to be a little joke. No one wants to go sightseeing with me because there will be an awkward situation where I am approached and asked for directions. 🙂

  11. Maria G says:

    I’ve actually been to Guangzhou and it was years ago but I think we went into that pagoda! Did you see Shamian Island? That was where I stayed.

  12. Linda says:

    Also really really jealous btw xD

  13. Linda says:

    I’m Dutch but I’m studying Japanese. Whenever I go to Japan there are always a couple of people surprised to hear me speak Japanese comfortably xD

    I’ve also worked at a movie theatre for a while and we got a lot of expats and tourists just expecting us to speak their language (the Dutch have a bit of a reputation for speaking multiple languages). I took German and French in high school but I can barely speak either of them now, so that was kind of awkward sometimes…

  14. Elena says:

    Can definitely relate to the whole Saturday school thing. Spent all of elementary school going to Greek school on Saturdays. Thankfully my parents didn’t make me do it in high school too, I think I would have gone crazy! On the other hand though, I do regret not being able to speak my language better. It would be nice to have a real conversation when my grandparents calls.

  15. Alicia says:

    I’m Korean and adopted growing up in the Midwest. I had the same experience with people in Korea when I went back to visit my junior year in high school. They were shaking their heads, tsk-ing, and sighing when I tried to explain I didn’t speak Korean and I was adopted. I wish I spoke the language, but . . . anyway, I know exactly how you feel (and then on the flip side, I had people in college assume I spoke several languages, asked what languages I spoke, etc. it’s everywhere. 🙂 Enjoy the city/country! It’s amazing to go back to the homeland.

  16. Jennie says:

    To answer previous question, i attend Jinan University. Glad you visited Pearl River and GZ tower! I have only walked along the Pearl River and felt tired afterwards. I am 100% Chinese but i only know Mandarin and i can’t read/write Chinese very well. I moved to USA when i was 7 and lived here for 12+ years.But since now i attend school in GZ, everyone assumes i will be amazing at canto or know mandarin fully. I do feel embarrassed that i can’t write/read that well but i am working on it. I agree with previous post, just say you are full Vietnamese. 😀

  17. Karina says:

    Chinese must be one of the hardest languages to grasp. Finally after six months of living in Guangzhou I have managed to pick up a bit of Mandarin to get around so I can do my own thing without having a translator. Love running along the river on Sunday mornings – such a nice change. Let me know if you need any suggestions for any healthy restaurants or places to go. hope you have a great time in GZ.

    1. blogilates says:

      OMG there are HEALTHY restuarants??? Please advise!!! So far everything I’ve eaten has been super oily!!

      1. Karina says:

        For healthy-ish fresh sandwiches, salads or grilled fish you must go to Boca Cafe, it’s in TianHe Dong (if you ask your translator he’ll definitely know there area. Then right next door there is a Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant Woo’s, quite possibly the best chinese food in Guangzhou and they have lots of options for steamed greens with oyster sauce, scallops and broccoli, tofu w/ noodles. One restaurant you must try! Also majority of the restaurants are quite accommodating if you ask them to cook with less oil or without msg.

  18. Anna says:

    My experience of being taken as a native in another country was mostly positive. I was in Europe for a semester, and on several different occassions was asked questions in Germany and England. In Germany, I felt bad that I couldn’t respond at all. I was taking German at the time but the professor hadn’t even helped us with really basic conversation, such as “I am sorry, I only speak a little German.” So I could read some German, but was couldn’t understand or respond to spoken German. On the plus side, it meant that I didn’t look like a stereotypical ugly American tourist. In England, a British couple asked me to take a photo of them and once I opened my mouth asked where I was from. I had heard horror stories from other girls who had been abroad and made to feel very uncomfortable by foreign men. I never had any uncomfortable experiences, I guess my German/Italian/Sicilian/Irish genes give me a more European look than others.

  19. Llanina "Nina" says:

    I definitely can relate. I am Mexican American, have really dark brown skin/hair and live in San Diego, CA. I have the most Hispanic name EVER. double “L” is pronounced as a Y and my last name means market in Spanish.
    I was never taught by my family to speak Spanish because my mom doesn’t speak it either and my dad wasn’t a big part of my life. One of my grandmas even went to English night classes to learn to communicate with me (oldest grandchild)!
    I get scolded and attitude by strangers because I live so close to Tijuana, Mexico, I’m Full Mexican, but do not speaking the language.
    I picked up basics from my grandparents/school and can understand pretty well, but can’t communicate my needs well enough.
    I am taking community college Spanish classes to help me out a bit.I guess it’s never to late to learn?

  20. erika says:

    Cassey! I totally feel you on this one. I’m Filipino/Chinese and cannot speak either Mandarin or Tagalog! I’m hopeless. Like you I am also born and raised in Cali, and people have started talking to me in Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, etc all the time and I have no clue what they are saying. Luckily I understand Tagalog but that’s about it. I so know what you mean by being 2 different ethnicities but only being cultured in one. I sometimes don’t even consider myself Chinese since we do not know or do anything related to the culture, not even Chinese New Year! Hopefully I’ll get to go to China one day!

  21. Pansy says:

    I had to go to Chinese School on Saturday mornings then I transferred to a Friday night one which was better but still boring. I always complained about going but I guess I am glad I went (till Sophomore year of high school–no dances for me!) Too bad I’m not that fluent.

    My grandparents were from Guangzhou! Lucky that you get to go there. I might be going next year.

  22. Amanda says:

    I’m fully Dutch, and so are my parents, although my Mum can speak dutch fluently and my dad can a little, they never forced me or my brothers to learn the language and when I went to primary school, all we learnt was Italian and when I got up to High school, we had a choice between French and Chinese, I chose French but dropped the subject the moment I could.
    I kind of wish my parents taught me Dutch though cause for the past few years my Mum and I have been going back from Australia to Holland a lot to visit family and attend funerals and I feel so out of it when I’m the only one not speaking the language and everyone just expects me to. Gets quite frustrating actually.

  23. jeanine says:

    I would be in HEAVEN if I visited a fabric market that was miles long!

    My friend said she has the same problem as you both here and in China. For the rest of your visit, you should have your interpreter tell everyone you are Vietnamese. No one has to know you are half Chinese and it may make it more comfortable for you.

    1. blogilates says:

      That is a good idea!!