I can’t believe it’s already May and we are into exams! These past four months have been a torrential, colourful blur, and I’m really starting to dread going back home. At the beginning of April I went to Guangzhou for the Easter break. The Qing Ming festival also happened to fall on that weekend so I got a total of 5 days off. HK is awesome in the sense that you are privileged with both Chinese and western statutory holidays. I decided to take advantage of these days to pay a visit to some relatives.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the stampede of Hongers who were thinking the exact same thing. The crowd at the Shenzhen train station was absolutely insane. Probably not as bad as Lunar New Year’s, but I would peg it as a close second. I arrived at around 3:30 and despite having trains leaving every 10-20 minutes, they were all full until around 6:30. Then I had a lovely time with the pushing, yelling, and rushing.
The first attraction I visited in Guangzhou was an area that was built in the style of Lingnan. The whole place was one of those tourist traps where they get you to buy food and pay for cultural ‘experiences’.
The best food was 双皮乃 (direct translation: double-skinned milk). It’s almost like eating cream with the texture of tofu. I had a cold one and it was really good.
Another thing that was pretty cool was how they made ‘popcorn’ with rice (poprice?). A guy was tending the fire for about 10 minutes, then you pour grains of rice into this large cloth tunnel with a metal bit at the end. Once you apply the heat to it, there’s one gigantic POP and it’s done.
In the afternoon I visited the Whampoa Military Academy (黄埔军校). It’s pretty cool to walk through the exact buildings that churned out the figures who changed China as a nation.
We visited a small Sun Yat-sen memorial then hopped on a boat to head back home. I swear I’ve been on a zillion boats in Asia. Everywhere I go, they use boats to get around and I love it. You’d think that was inefficient, but it’s not and it’s very integrated into people’s daily lives.
The next day was pretty packed. In the morning we had 早茶 (morning tea), which was a very Guangzhou retiree thing to do. Generally people will go really early, have 1 or 2 dishes, and sit around drinking tea and chatting till noon. Since we weren’t grandmas, we had an actual meal there. My cousin’s son (13 years old) apparently loves chicken feet. His currently record is devouring 6 bamboo baskets of them by himself. So we stuffed him with all the excess food that we ordered. What a trooper.
After the meal, I paid a visit to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. It’s not nearly as grand as the one in Taipei, but was still a nice place to chill out for the locals.
We took a scenic walk past more public parks to 北京路 (Beijing Street), a popular shopping area. But what was interesting about the place was the display in the middle of the street. When they were digging to build the Guangzhou subway infrastructure, they came across layers of road underneath the pavement – paths that were paved from a long time ago. As they dug deeper, more and older layers were revealed.
We then went to 上下九广场 (Shang Xia Jiu plaza) and OMGWTFBBQ the amount of people there was insane. I hadn’t even seen anything like that in Mong Kok.
There were some food stalls and we grabbed some street food. It wasn’t that large of an area but they had everything from noodles to seafood.
I was pretty exhausted by the time we finished walking around the plaza, so we headed back home. My relatives currently have a temporary place within 中山大学 (Sun Yat-sen University). In China it’s very common for professors and school employees to live on or around campus with their entire families.
The University has the prettiest campus I’ve ever seen. SERIOUSLY it’s amazingly well-kept.
At night, there are ferry cruises along the Pearl River so we went to the dock which was directly in front of the University’s front gate.
What’s interesting is that the area between the front gate and the river is probably more busy than it is during the day. All kinds of people, from kids to grandparents, show up and join in various activities. I saw dancing lessons (all free and taught by volunteers), kickball, and even catwalk practice for little girls. The whole atmosphere was very social and vibrant.
The ferry cruise shows off Guangzhou’s night views and city lights. It takes you half an hour down the Pearl River Delta, then turns around and comes back. The night lights aren’t nearly as glamorous as Hong Kong’s, but it does go on for quite a while, whereas most of HK’s are crowded around Victoria Harbour.
Most of the next day was dedicated to climbing 白云山 (Baiyun Mountain) with the entire family in tow. In total it might have taken us 3-4 hours to get to the top, with ample wandering and photo-taking stops in between.
I found the way down more scenic than the ascend. There were a lot of historical carvings, and inscriptures with famous literature.
What I can conclude is that I love visiting relatives! They take such good care of you, and it’s nice to forget about school, social obligations, and errands for a while. Guangzhou is no less than a world-class city, and that was definitely not my last time there!