We took the 20 minute MTR ride from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, and then a 1.5 hour train ride from there to Guangzhou to meet our good friend that studied at CUHK with us. Guangzhou is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province and sits at the top of the Pearl River Delta.
Guangzhou traditional buildings are slowly disappearing due to the rapid growth of the city. Liwan District perfectly encompasses the city’s historic architecture with Lizhiwan, Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street, and Shamian Island.
Lizhiwan area dates back 2000 years ago and was composed by river and canal systems in crisscross patterns. After much expansion of Guangzhou, various branches of the river system were covered to become streets. Our friend explained to us once we noticed the drastic sloping of the streets. He stated that the Guangzhou people simply just built on top of the water.
Shang Xia Jiu Pedestrian Street showcases the traditional Cantonese and European architecture and still inhabits many shops and restaurants that are just as old as the city. Statues line the street depicting traditional and historic daily activities of the Guangzhou people.
Food is the centerpiece of life for the city and it has the country’s largest number of restaurants per capita. Here is the birthplace of what Westerners call “Chinese Food” (Cantonese food). Our friend’s cousin brought us to the 8 story local dim-sum Tao Tao Ju Restaurant that has been open for at least for 100 years. After we gorged ourselves senseless, he picked up our tab. Time and time again, I notice that Cantonese people eat absolutely anything. It is often said that Cantonese people eat anything that has four legs other than a table, anything that flies higher than an airplane, and anything that swims other than a submarine.
We explored Shamian Island which houses buildings and streets of the former British and French concession that have been beautifully renovated, creating an oasis of tranquility in an otherwise bustling and hectic metropolis. The architecture reflects the colonial era of the 19th century where foreign traders lived and traded after the Opium Wars, since the Chinese would not allow them to live in the city. The island is in the middle of the city but has a street-wide moat circling it.
Canton Tower is the tallest structure in China and fourth tallest freestanding structure in the world reaching above 2000 feet. It’s crazy to think while traveling just Asia, I have been to most of the tallest buildings/towers/structures in the world!
Definitely one of the greatest stresses that will continue to nip us in the butt will be China’s transportation. The transportation around China is amazing and quite efficient, but the lack of communication between locals and two foreigners with the brain capacities of two year olds make it difficult. The train station was completely packed with people and we navigated our way inside by shoving people out of the way with our luggage. We would totally be great contenders for football. We were running all throughout the station asking anyone and everyone what platform our train was at since our ticket was completely in Mandarin. After asking about fifteen people and receiving blank stares, one man physically showed us to our train. What a good soul! We made our train by a good two minutes before departure. I would soon learn I would have to trust anyone who points me to a location, whether they understand what I’m asking or they are lying to me or not, because that is the only thing I can do in many of my future situations.