There’s a lot to love about a weekend in Guangzhou:
Hanging out with my mother-in-law.
Folk Art Museums.
More Dim Sum.
Great Japanese Food.
A really nice steak.
An early morning mother/daughter-in law chat filled with baby talk and cute stories about my husband growing up.
More scarf shopping.
I feel really lucky that Chris’ mom is in the same country as we are for this tour. It’s really cool to have family only a quick 2 hour flight away. It’s also really cool to have a mother-in-law as great as mine. Whenever I see her in action, always on the go, always kind, always thoughtful, always ready to explore, I’m inspired to be more like her.
And whenever we are in Guangzhou with her, we always have a great time.
Guangzhou isn’t Paris of course, or even Hong Kong. But it’s still a step up from Chengdu. For one, they have dim sum–real, authentic, Cantonese dim sum, as well as more (delicious) Western restaurants in one block than we have in all of Chengdu.
For two, they have shopping. As in a jade market that literally goes on for miles. Entire malls selling nothing but leather goods. Blocks and blocks of watch vendors. It’s the sort of shopping people think of when they think of China: cheap and copy-right-challenged. I’m no advocate for IPR violations, but it’s a whole world that we just don’t have in Chengdu and it’s a pretty mind-boggling experience to wander through.
The buying halls are filled with hundreds and thousands of tiny counters and stalls, staffed by young man smoking foul cigarettes, young women boredly texting friends, and young mothers breast-feeding and minding children. On every counter sits a cardboard container of noodles leftover from a lunch.
You see young men from across Africa haggling for truckloads of t-shirts to bring back to the big markets in Nairobi, Lagos and Accra. You see couples from the Middle East with giant black garbage bags filled with scarves. While I was at one stall buying a cheap watch (a genuine Chinese brand, I believe, not a rip-off) a skinny guy from somewhere in Eastern Europe pushed me aside to throw down a stack of 100RMB notes as thick as my hand. For 20RMB watches-pure insanity.
Outside the halls, traffic stalls with big trucks and push carts and food vendors negotiating territory in the overcrowded streets. If you’re brave and hungry you can buy anything to eat from corn on the cob to freshly-cut durian to noodles to Uigher style kebabs and flatbread. The air is thick and humid with the smells of watermelon, cigarette smoke, durian and diesal exhaust–delicious and nauseating in turns. Beggers with horrible disfigurements and women with cheap buzzing neck massagers hound the white tourists (including yours truly) who wander through.
It’s all in such a messy, gritty, vibrant contrast to the wide boulevards and carefully manicured flower beds that seem to define the newly renovated parts of Guangzhou-that define all of new China. So much bland concrete, so little character, so little practicality, so much waste, so few seats, so few trees. I have nothing against progress and renovation, but it just seems there is so little thought put into how the spaces could be used, how they could be made unique from the thousands of identical other projects currently under construction across China.
Anyways. Despite all of the concrete, Guangzhou was wonderful.
Here are some more pictures from Chen Family Temple which houses the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. This is one Chinese tourist attraction that deserves a few hours of your time. Besides all of the models and photographers that took over the place for a photoshoot, my favorite thing in the whole place were these tiny little olive pits carved with minute little pastoral scenes.
You literally needed a magnifying glass to appreciate the milimeter-tall old men perched beneath the tiny willow trees. I tried to take a picture but my camera wasn’t cooperating. Lately it never seems to want to cooperate. I think it needs a good cleaning. It’s only a year and a half old, it can’t be breaking on me already!
Pollution does weird things to a photo. Subjects just a few feet away come out hazy and out of focus. Sometimes the particle matter messes with the shutter speed when I’m not shooting in manual. Sometimes the particles reflect light in weird ways and I end up with over-exposed washed-out shots. I had to do some post-processing on this shot of the model to get it in shape but I think you can get the idea. There were at least 5 models and 25 photographers on the scene.
Bathrooms in China are, as a rule, disgusting, though to be fair, they aren’t any worse than India’s. The green enamel grating on the other hand, is beautiful. This color green is everywhere in Guangzhou, but that’s the only place I’ve ever seen it.