Guangzhou

Guangzhou, originally uploaded by Bass Tyrrell.

Guangzhou

It is now two days since we arrived in China proper, on the train from Hong
Kong, and it seems very difficult to even access the blog. Whether this is
because the Chinese firewalls see wordpress (at least my blog) as
subversive, because the internet connections are poor or – more likely –
because the combination of controls that China imposes actually just slows
the whole thing down to such a crawl that connections are timing out I don’t
know. I do know my email client is not working properly, WordPress is
inaccessible and sites requiring secure access are slow and time out, making
life quite complicated as far as banking or most importantly booking hostels
is concerned.

We are happily installed in the Riverside Hostel located, unsurprisingly, on
the banks of the Pearl River with glorious if smoggy views across the city
and close to the old foreign enclave of Shimian Island. It’s not exactly
central but then Guangzhou doesn’t really seem to enjoy all that much by the
way of a centre and the metro – clean, modern and efficient – is a ten
minute walk. Even quicker, and landing us directly on to Shimian, is the
ferry that chugs regularly back and forth across the river.

Our three days here has worried us a bit that we are running out of steam:
where is that family that back in Ecuador and Perú never had a day without
something organised and some radically new experience? Here we planned a
side trip to Foshan, overslept, got to the station to find the Lonely Planet
was right when it referred to the station as a seething mass of humanity,
managed finally to organise tickets and then, after the train was delayed
for an hour, abandoned the effort as a bad job.

And went to Starbuck’s for a coffee. Oh the shame.

Still, today has been fun, despite a downpour of rain that has made the city
look more than a little like West Cork (wet and with no taxi to be found).
As we arrived on the far side of the river, the fish market was just getting
going with live fish being tipped into baskets, some landing on the floor
desperately thrashing to find water before the fishmongers pick them up. A
few steps further on, we enter a market area full of the smells of eastern
spices. The stall fronts – neat and nearly identical – on the main road,
full of saffron and turmeric and chilli and huge bags of rice are only the
most visible part as tiny alleys wind their way back into a maze of small
shops, restaurants, and businesses that could be almost anything: a counter
selling chickens next to a man repairing bikes. As in Vietnam, anyone who
finds business a little slow for a few minutes just puts their heads on
their hands and goes to sleep where they are. Then, as suddenly as it
started, we were out of the market and in a bustling pedestrianised shopping
street, lined with clothes shops. At least for that hour or so we felt we’d
seen something of, maybe not the real China of 2009 – the shopping malls are
just as much the real thing – but of a China that is disappearing into the
globalised mass.

Tonight we try Chinese trains: an overnight to Guilin where we hope to see
something more rural and will be staying in a small village called Xingping.
We have yet to see if the Chinese definition of a “small village” chimes
with the Irish one, and unfortunately tomorrow’s weather looks like being
awful so it could all go wrong. I think a few cycles and a crawl through the
mud in the Black Buddha caves may be just what we need to put a spring back
in our step!

IMG_1329 Stitch.jpg

Pearl River by night.

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2 Responses to “Guangzhou”

  1. Pauline Says:

    Looks fantastic….

  2. Mave Says:

    I discovered recently Skydur.com – a little proxy, unfortunatelly not free. I wish it is free but it’s not so expensive neither – just about $5 bucks per month. I can now access all web sites again from China – youtube, twitter, facebook and hulu. Skydur is very fast and works on Windows, Mac and Linux – check it out here – http://www.skydur.com – you won’t be disappointed. Believe me I tried dozens of free proxy programs and noone worked as advertised.

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