Friday, 25 November 2011

Fri 25 Nov - Guangzhou

Today, we decided to check out the seafood market and the Shiamin island next to it, which is supposed to still reflect the old former colonial architecture and some French influence too.

So, after a “healthy” breakfast at McDonalds around the corner and next to our local metro station, we took the train to Huansha.

The metro here is great. We have our metro cards and just swipe on and off, with most trips costing about 2 yuan, maybe 35 Oz cents or so.
Leaving the station and crossing umpteen lanes of traffic through the mandatory footbridges, we arrived in a different and parallel world.

One of the first things we saw was the local “NRMA” service guy, although this guy looked after bicycles instead of cars.

The seafood market was something else. Even though we were late at 10am or so and many were packing up and cleaning out (we assume that prime time here would be around sunrise) there was still a hive of activity. Given that this is a man’s world and women are merely there in support roles, Di got a lot of stares and some “hellos”.

Among the live animals we saw among all the fish and prawns and crabs were also turtles, water snakes and our favourite, live crocodiles.

Guess what this guy had in a sack at the back of his bike, which was not happy and tried to make a dash for freedom. It made the bike fall over, but no worries, just get him back to the back of the bike and cycle away and have him next to your backside. Amazing.

Yep, it was a live one of these…

These guys are seriously tough! Apologies to any squirmish stomachs…

The restored colonial enclave of Shiamin is just a small bridge away, but a totally different world. We were walking up and down the streets and it has a long narrow park setting in the middle which was just fantastic.
It had the best setting for a Starbucks that we have ever seen, so just to enjoy the atmosphere we stopped and had a drink and rest here.

A funny thing happened when Hans was seeking out the restroom. There was only one single restroom for both male and female and Hans had to wait a while to use it when the door opened and one guy came out, then one more and a third guy. These young kids had used the bathroom to get changed for some theatre play when there was barely room for one person to move around in there. Amazing (again…)
Here they are, getting themselves ready for something...

The island also seems to be a preferred destination for wedding photos as it was very crowded in places as each couple had a photographer with umpteen minders. We even walked by a wedding dress fitting and hire place.

The American and the Polish consulates also had representation here, the American consulate with the usual maximum security around it.  The island was well worth the visit with lovely buildings and parks.

After crossing another bridge, we walked back to the train station of Huangsha and took the train to Martyr Square what we thought would be roughly the CBD.

Well, there was a smallish square there, with busts of old martyrs, but this was hardly the CBD. We wandered around for a while, had lunch in a seemingly popular place (stock standard Chinese duck dish, rice and tea) and found our way down to the Pearl River waterfront.
We found "Anzac Bridge"...

We decided to wander towards Canton Tower along the river. Great views in places, and after passing a number of more exercise areas, (Di had to try it...) we came to wander past some temporary modular housing where it appeared that workers for a huge construction site next by lived.
Somehow then, we ended up in an area on Ersha Island where we shouldn’t be. There were guards and a boom gate and very stern looking senior person, who insisted, with lots of serious looks and pointing, that we walk back the same way that we came.
Well, we walked back a little bit, but we had seen a bridge that would take us across towards Canton Tower and the serious guy came riding up on a bicycle and still tried to direct us back the way we came. We ignored him and went on. Still, clearly a sensitive area with high fences, notes about 24 hours video monitoring and the ever present boom gates and guards although it didn’t seem to be quite the same seriousness as the first guys.

After seeing the first real supermarket, which looked very flash, and what looked like a mum and child, white people, on bicycles, we believe that this area was were the ex-pats lived, gated and protected for their own security.

We had decided to walk towards Canton Tower, this very interesting looking building where there presumably were great views from some observation decks at the top (above, to the right).

So, we are criss-crossing underneath freeways flyovers and across another bridge and finally we get there (and also found out that it had a metro station underneath, very convenient).

Canton Tower is the highest tower in China. Differential pricing for how high up you want to go in the tower. We decided for 67 floors and more than 344 metres and CY100, which is a lot even for tourists and probably explained why the place was so empty CY150 to go to the very top but Di chickened-out.
However, the view did not disappoint and although it was quite a hazy day, we were able to see a lot, including a lot of things that we didn’t know or we hadn’t read about.  

Towards the CBD area there is a huge open plaza and an amazing performance area out in the river, shaped like a boat, with beautifully designed stands for the audience.

By the way, have I mentioned that the maps here are very, very ordinary?

Absolute positives are the metro (fantastic, clean, frequent, information flow superb) and the parks (plentiful, well kept, interesting, and beautiful with lots of different plants and flowers).
Negative number one – maps; awful, very high level and very approximate, major sites not listed and out-dated in places. Exception again is the metro overviews, very good.

By the time we were down at the bottom again, it was around 5pm so we took the metro back to our home station Haizhu Square (we went through a bit of rush hour traffic and had to change metro twice, so that was a bit of an experience, but again, we got there with relatively ease)

Given the precarious state of Hans’s tummy (he blames McDonalds and rightly so), we decided for room service with prawn chowder soup and fried rice. Interesting pricing, some things like simple sandwiches with tuna were very expensive while the soup with bread for example, was very cheap.

Early night after a pretty full on day, must have walked at least 15 km today judging by Di’s sore feet.

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