Guangzhou sunset

That’s the sunset along the Pearl River, one of the most polluted waterways in China. Guangzhou can still be beautiful despite all of its faults. Just gotta know where to look. Before I hop on a plane bound for Beijing, I want to share a few more nuggets about Guangzhou.

— My favorite neighborhood in Guangzhou is Shamien Island, the former concession area for France and England. Perhaps it’s because of my American upbringing as an imperialist. The island is an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city, the trees providing much-needed shade and respite from the heat. You also have less chance to get run over by a car, since traffic on the island is restricted. And it’s an ideal place to people watch, especially near the White Swan hotel. The hotel is a base for Western parents adopting Chinese babies. On the first day I was there, a Western family was pushing its newest member in a stroller. One of the older kids of the family had a T-shirt that read “哥哥 — ge ge” for older brother. The families piqued my interest but locals don’t bat an eye any more.

— Although the Olympics are only a few weeks away, I think I’ve seen just as many banners and ads for the Asian Games, which Guangzhou will host in 2010. The city is feverishly constructing new buildings and subway lines and renovating roads. It adds a little more chaos to an already chaotic city. Interestingly, people who live in Guangzhou think it’s a slower pace of life than other cities in China, like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

— The Pearl River is allegedly cleaner than it was a couple years ago. It still looks filthy, but they are trying. A couple boats cruising the river picking up trash:

— To be young and rich is glorious in China. Everything is at your fingertips and there are very few rules and restrictions — as long as you stay out of the political arena. Some bars don’t close until the last patron leaves, nightclubs blast beats until dawn and booze flows freely from karaoke bar to karaoke bar. And this is Guangzhou, I’m not even in Beijing or Shanghai yet. If you want to party — and have the cash to do so — China is the place to be.

— Interesting anecdote about Tibet. One of my cousins who lives in Guangzhou is going there for a few days of R&R. It’s a popular place for Chinese to go for some respite from their jobs, family and responsibilities. My cousins suggested I take a side trip there, saying it’s easy to get there. I told them it’s not so straightfoward for foreigners, especially Americans with a journalist visa, to get to Tibet. The news shocked them.

— Although the costs of living are rising, China is still relatively cheap, especially meals. You can get a healthy bowl of noodles and veggies for a couple bucks. My relatives treated me to a meal at a restaurant; there were about 10 of us and we all ate for about $5 per person. One irony: McDonald’s is one of the more expensive meals you can have in Guangzhou.

— Lastly, I know I said in an earlier post that I would be using my Canon SLR more. I lied. I’ve decided to shed as much weight as possible when I walk around the city. The heat and humidity make it nearly unbearable to lug around a big backpack. I think my point-and-shoot (which I had to buy in Hong Kong after dropping mine on the ground) is working OK, for now. I’m just making excuses for why my pictures are sub-par … it can’t be the photographer’s fault, of course.

That’s all for now. I’ve got to catch the airport express to Guangzhou Baiyun Airpot. I’ll check in once I reach Beijing. 再见.