Friday, May 7, 2010

Guangzhou - If you can't see the water, you're in underpants!

Jenni and I are now in Hong Kong and finding it very difficult to tear ourselves away from this fantastic city to take some time out to report on what we got up to in our final city in mainland China, Guangzhou. But for the good of the blog, I have tonight torn myself away from the dazzling city lights to write an article about it.

Guangzhou lies in the south of China and is located only 2 hours away by train to Hong Kong. Our original itinerary did not have us going to Guangzhou, but we decided to pass through it upon the recommendation of a fellow traveller. Also, getting from Guangzhou to Hong Kong is very easy as a relatively cheap train runs between the two cities.

Upon arrival in Guangzhou we had a pretty crappy first day. (See Jenni's rant, errrr I mean post, entitled "Three days and counting"). Luckily the following days where better, but still had their moments.

We had a very busy day on our second day in the middle of the city. First off we visited the Orchid Garden. This had beautiful winding paths through lush jungle like gardens with large butterflies flying around. Unfortunately not all of the orchids were not in bloom, if they were, the place would look breath taking. Next to the Orchid Garden in a Muslim cemetery where we saw hundreds of Muslims visiting. Along the small lane to the cemetery, lots of street traders had set up stalls to take advantage of the extra traffic the cemetery generates among the Muslim population. Along with the traders were beggars, some bearing horrific burns and scars all over their bodies, some with mutilated limbs.

Across from the Orchid Garden we walked through Yuexiu Park. This reminded us very much of Perth's Kings Park. The park is spread out over about 90 hectares and has winding roads up along many hills and past ponds and lakes. The walk through this park would have to be the first real reminder to us that we are travelling closer and closer to the equator as we really built up a sweat walking up and down all of the hills and throughout the jungle like scenery. Near the main peak we were able to take some great snap shots of the impressive 10 meter high Five Rams Statue.

Usually a day trip that involved such a large amount of walking would see us heading back to our accommodation, but we soldiered on to the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King after we exited the park. By the time we grabbed a bite to eat and got to the entrance of the museum, it was only an hour from closing time, so we had to be quick. Even though we didn't get a lot of time to see the mausoleum, it is by far one of the most impressive things we have seen in China. In 1983, a bunch of labourers stumbled upon a tomb while lowering the ground to build an apartment block in the middle of Guangzhou city. Upon uncovering the tomb, archaeologists discovered that the tomb housed the remains of Zhao Mo, the second king of Nanyue. Zhan Mo was the king of the 2000 year old Nanyue kingdom before it was invaded by emperor Qian and united as part of China as a whole. So the tomb is REALLY old. What was even more surprising was the fact that the tomb was found comptletly intact, with all of the relics left untouched. Making a find like this is pretty much the equivalent of finding an untouched 2000 year old tomb of an ancient king, on St George's Tce in the middle of the Perth CBD. It is just unbelievable!

The relics have all been removed from the tomb, restored and setup inside the adjacent museum. Before entering museum you can actually walk down and into the burial chambers! Along with the king and all of his treasures (the most notable of which was an entire outfit made of jade plates, woven together with red silk), additional remains were found. They believe that the remains belong to the king's wife, concubines, head cook and favourite musician. When we heard this we thought, "Wow, it must of really sucked to be them when the king finally carcked it!" Could you imagine that nowadays!?! Prince William bites the dust, so Kate Middleton along with a couple of his recent floozies have to killed and buried with him. Along with them, all members of his favourite boy band, the Backstreet Boys, also must be executed and buried along with him; no harm down there in my opinion.... :) Then the entire staff at the local McDonalds find out that the late William really enjoyed his Big Macs, so they have to join him too!!!

The following day we organised our train ticket to Hong Kong and visited some of the shopping areas. We read in the Lonely Planet about the markets along the street, Beijing Liu which was near Haizhu Square. We made our way to Haizhu Square and from there managed to find Beijing Liu. At first we were very disappointed as when we walked down the street, there wasn't really that many markets. After a while we managed to find one stretch of markets, although it only contained underpants. However, if you are looking for an underpants market, this is your place. It was 500m worth of underpants street stalls. It is a bra, bikini and budgie smuggler bonanza.

After some lunch, we decided to have one more crack at finding these fabled Beijing Liu markets. After rounding a few corners, we managed to find them. We came there on a Saturday and the place was CHOCKERS! You could hardly walk, there was so many people around. The markets look like that they have gradually evolved over the years into an outdoor shopping mall with street markets at ground level and towering department stores behind. Unfortunately by the time we found them, Jenni and I were fed up walking around all day and were not in the mood to deal with so many people. To make matters worse, the street hawkers kept seeing us two foreigners and kept making a be-line for us, trying to pull us into their stores. At one point, a hawker tailed me for about 40m through the crowd before I finally turned around and sternly said to him "Why don't you go and pester any one of these other hundreds of people!?!", to which he replied "I pester you!". Upon hearing his cheeky reply, I turned to him and said to him in an very loud voice "Do I need to crack your f**king head open?!?". Upon hearing this, Jenni quickly grabbed me by the arm and rushed me in the opposite direction. As I glared back at him, I could see that he was cowering away to leave us alone.

The following day we decided that we needed to get as far away from the hordes of people as we could in case we might kill someone. We decided to visit Shamian "Island". The "Island" isn't really much of an island. It is basically a few city blocks that are separated from the river front by a 10 meter stretch of water. Originally, Shamian Island was a simple sandbank on the riverside that was used by the British and French to setup warehouses on. Over the years, the 10m stretch of water along with a couple of guarded bridges managed to keep the Chinese out and the Europeans in, resulting in a set of city blocks that all have European style buildings throughout. Unfortunately during our visit, a lot of the terraces and buildings were undergoing major renovations, so it wasn't as spectacular as it could have been. Fortunately one side of the island has the renovations completed and we were able to enjoy an entire afternoon at Lucy's outdoor bar and restaurant, sipping down manys a glass of wine and beer, in the surroundings of the renovated gardens, statues, riverfront and brides and grooms having their wedding photos taken. In a couple of years once all of the renovations have been finished on Shamian Island, that place will no doubt be stunning and will probably become a major tourist attraction.

Guangzhou definitely had some excellent sights to see, some of the best we have seen in China. Perhaps we lucked out by having an unusually frequent number of encounters with really irritating people in this city during our short stay here. But then again, Guangzhou is still in China...

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