Wednesday, January 17, 2007

China Part 2: Scenes from Guangzhou

But first, more mandatory Mambowether!
MandM

Okay, on to Scenes from Guangzhou:

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Just another day in paradise...

We spent a majority of our time in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. This is the third largest city in China with over 12 million inhabitants. We are talking wall-to-wall people and the walls are very close together. The Chinese government supplies the housing and every family-unit gets an 800 square-foot apartment. Oh yeah, the family unit consists of mother, father, one child, grandparents (father's side) and great-grandparents (also father's side).

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Housing units old and new.

The history of Guangzhou goes back to around 214 BC and it has always been a center of commerce. It is set on the Pearl River delta and has many docks. In the past it connected the silk road to the rest of the world via these ports, wharfs, and giant warehouses. Things haven't changed much in that respect. If it is for sale anywhere in China you can get it in Guangzhou. This leads, of course, to excellent shopping. If you want it it can be bought here. Indivivdual streets were dedicated to a single commodity such as the street of toys, the street of electronics, the street of boots, the street of incense, the street of dance costumes, etc...

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Along the street of lanterns.

With access to so many shops a large part of our freetime was spent shopping. Miniwether bought stacks of "Learning Chinese" books while I focused on collecting items for my RenFest garb. I'll write more about shopping in the next post.

On the cultural side of things, Guangzhou is home to The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. This temple was originally built in 537 AD and rebuilt several times due to fires. Apparently burning incense in a 1,000-year old wooden building didn't strike the monks as a bad idea. The main pagoda is over ten stories tall and for a donation of 15 cents American you can climb to the top. In doing so I came to realize the center of balance of a Chines monk is SIGNIFICANTLY lower than mine. The safety railing at the top of the pagoda was about thight-high on me. One stumble and I'd plummet to a holy death.

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These Buddhas were each almost three-stories tall.

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The monks were much shorter than that.

As I mentioned earlier, Guangzhou stretches along the banks and bayous of the pearl River. All day and night dozens of ships travel along the aquatic freeway. Huge cargo ships loaded with shipping containers cruise past tiny traditional Junks. Ships filled with tons of gravel needed for making concrete for all the new construction glide past old men swiming in the highly polluted waters. I spent many hours just sitting at our hotel window watching the boats sail by. It was very relaxing.

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Old and new.

Now is a good time to talk about the air in Guangzhou. You may think that the haze you see in the pictures above is some sort of fog. It isn't. It is air pollution so bad you can cut it with a knife. Every city I've been to in China (Bejing, Lanzhou, Foshan, Qing Yuan, etc...) had air pollution like this. Visibility is usually less than a mile. Anyone who thinks the USA is the dirtiest country in the world has their head up their @$$ and has never been to another country.

At night all the buildings along the Pearl River light up and for two hours an amazing light show is projected into the air up and down the river. Lazers and spotlights peirce the night sky while amazing visual displays are projected onto the sides of the buildings. All of this is choreographed to music being blasted throughout the city. It was wonderful to watch. Even the boats on the river fired up neon trimming to turn into magical seabeasts.

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Even the open-air restruants along the river got into the act.
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This is one of my favorite shots.

Next up: Adventure! Excitment! Shopping!

1 comment:

Maggs said...

Pearls a gift of love which she will adore and pass down the generations. Give her pearls for Christmas!