Guangzhou (P.R.China) – 28 km (bike is swimming)
01 May 2016
Guangzhou – once upon a time called Canton, perhaps more recognisable for some of us. So check your imagination for a moment …. What picture comes to your mind for China’s second largest city with 14.5 Mil inhabitants. Let me reassure you: you can see, them, feel the vibe feel and sometimes you can smell this fact!
After a rather bumpy landing the airbus releases hardly any ‘western’ faces, Although, nowadays, that doesn’t mean anything much. A super-long queue at Customs, but my less-than-72hrs–temporary-entry-without-a-visa is not a problem.
As feared no sign of the air-port pick-up hotel limmo. Welcome to China’s customer service! I have no idea where to go or what to take, had kind of lazily relied on the pre-arranged pick-up. Seeing a card s with your name on, as you come out the exit gate always generates a little elated and reassured feeling. But not this time. So I turn to the Info counter and one lady speaks English. This middle-aged woman is very helpful, rings my hotel. However, no car is available, nor will one be coming. The nice woman assists me further and orders a taxi. I am saved! Upon loading the luggage it dawns on me that this doesn’t look like a taxi. However, it is clean, it’s dark, I am desperate and since it has no meter inside, it must be a private car, chauffeured by probably her nephew. It rains and the freeway is packed. Three accidents slow us down further and after almost 1 hour we arrive at the hotel. There I learn I have not been saved by this woman, I have been had! L A rip-off fare is requested. The good Samaritan woman not only helped, but also saw a business opportunity to make some money, despite that she is an employee of the info counter at the airport in uniform, there to help… Welcome to China and it’s knack for going after business opportunities quick-smart when it sees one. The Hotel’s Assistant Manager is able to reduce the overcharge somewhat, but I still paid double. Voila, book it as ‘experience’, nothing gained if I dwell on. I am almost certain it will happen again, and again. I shall try to remove, or at least minimise that sign on my forehead Free ATM on wheels and promise myself to bring forward my more ruthless side when seeking taxis.
Guangzhou is a Chinese mega-city! It certainly exceeded my expectations from what it “should” have looked like. One thing confirmed however is the absence of a clear sky, just a 24-hour maze hangs over as far as I can see. That is no more than about 3 kms. Perhaps that is even considered ‘good’ in Guangzhou. Occasionally I can feel the sun trying to pierce through, but she won’t .
I had pre-booked a guided one-to-one tour of the city. A decision which turns out to be most fruitful. With my limited time in G. I attempt to get a fulsome-as-possible impression of it and its people. I have already noticed that this city has more high-risers than I have seen in Chicago. Noticeably many of them come in interesting shapes.
The Pear River winds its way through G. Apparently one can swim in it again, indeed the maire of town made it a public stunt and swam himself in this river demonstrating that one will survive the experience. He did! I spot two brave souls doing the same. Being the 1st if May – a public holiday in most countries – here millions roam the streets. I cannot discern tourists from locals, again I see very few European faces. But I walk a lot, take a bus for 2 Yuen ($A 0.40), the tube (Melbourne take a leaf from this book!) for 4 Yuen and enjoy a Cantonese-style lunch. My guide, Jeanette Lv (all Chinese people working with overseas contacts appear to adopt a ‘westernised’ name) speaks English very well, is knowledgeable and flexible and allows me to see a lot of this huge town. She has been a guide for a while and I certainly can recommend her!
Click here short and good video about Guangzhou It is PRC-approved and my tour guide made this available to me. Whist it is 4 years old it represents this city very well! I probably have seen one third of it, perhaps a little more. Nowadays it has even more high risers.
Canton has a new city with many highrisers, hotels, sports venues in its east, whilts the oder part is more towards its west.
A little island in the Pear River presents another aspect of Guangzhou, a history influenced by French and English colonial powers.Several ‘Opium wars’ were fought.
This part of town immediately transponds you into the nature strip of the main street in a French colonial village. Today it is a well-visited area for all, and it was packed just like everywhere else! Nevertheless, I join in with some schoolgirls playing
badminton and we all have a giggle.
Another gaggle of schoolgirls ask if they can take a selfie with me and I oblige – more giggles afterwards.
Later we walk into on of the dozens 5-Star hotels and see a waterfall and lots of wonderful carvings in the multi-story lobby. Chinese people seem to tread hotel lobbies like public places, as hundreds roam in there admiring the exhibits. The hotel has no worries and is happy to let it all happen.
Early evening I am buggered and turn in early.
The next day I have some spare time, my flight won’t leave before 16.30 – so I take a walk into the People’s Park nearby. What a welcome relief from the traffic noise. However the park is filled with people, manly old ones who engage in all kinds of activities: some dance to – loud – music, including Spanish rhythms, other’s play instruments and sing traditional Chines songs, others do Thai-Chi or just occupy one of the many benches.
I must be a good looking fellow! I get many looks and even more stares, after all, I am indeed the one-and-only ‘long-nose’ in this large park. I wander back to the Hotel, take a cab – this time with the correct price and catch my flight to Seoul.