Sunday, May 22, 2011

Guangzhou: Cell Cities

It was fascinating to me, as I explored some of the side streets along the Pearl River, to see so many buildings dedicated to selling various electronic devices... mostly cell / smart phones. Inside, you'll find hundreds of specialty stores or booths. Some deal in certain parts, such as batteries, and some specialize in certain devices, such as hand-held languange translators. Alot of Chinese apparently love to customize their phones, and the variety available to do so is amazing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Guangzhou: Zhu Jiang

Zhu Jiang = Pearl River... China's third longest river, after the Yangtze and Yellow, flows through Guangzhou. I spent an entire afternoon and evening exploring beside it, simply letting my curiosity lead the way. The shops, seafood restaurants (pick one that displays large tanks), promenades, and bridges along the Pearl River are worthy of your time, but I must be honest, Guangzhou is my least favorite city in China. Vast. Dirty. Congested. I would recommend only one day and night there if you have Baiyun International Airport as your connection to other destinations (ie. Nanning, Liuzhou, or Guilin). Make it your final day before returning home... I came down with a cough the evening of my walk, likely due to the extremely polluted air, and it took a few weeks to get rid of it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Guangzhou: Shamian Isle

Shamian Island is a very small enclave spanning only a few blocks (bordered on the south by the Pearl River) that had been divided into two concessions, given to France and England, by the Qing Dynasty government in the 19th century. I spent one night at the Guangdong Victory Hotel there ~ an elegant massage and spa is next door ~ and the White Swan Hotel, perhaps Guangzhou's most famous hotel, is there as well. Both hotels are ideal departure spots for a day exploring beside the Pearl River. All of the original Shamian Island colonial European architecture remains, flanked by trees, tranquil parks, and pedestrian avenues... thus attracting the always busy Guangzhou wedding photographers. In fact, I probably encountered at least 10 couples posing during my late morning walk. Weddings and wedding photography are definitely big business in China!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Guangzhou: Yuan Xuan Taoist Temple

North of Guangzhou is the district of Huadu (just west of the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport). Not much going on there, although like most Chinese population hubs they do have a beautiful and thriving People's Park. But on the western outskirts of Huadu is a gem that somehow has escaped the average China tourist agenda... the largest Taoist temple in Guangdong Province, the Yuan Xuan Taoist Temple. Wow. One layer after another of artisitic majesty, and the new areas still under construction (behind the huge bronze statue of Confucius) while I was there are likely now finished ~ I visited in September 2010. To put the photos below in context, it was 95 degrees that afternoon, probably why I was one of only a few guests walking the grounds at that time. I can assure you, many visual treasures await inside the various buildings, but photos are not allowed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nanning: More About It

A unique feature of Nanning (capital of Guangxi Province) is the divided main roads. As you can see from the photos below, motorcycles, scooters and bicycles travel on the right side of the islands, cars and trucks get the left side... safety no doubt the motivating factor there. You'll notice the cleanliness of the city right away, but that's true with most big cities in China (in Shanghai there are street cleaners with brooms and trash bags every other city block). Also, alot of beautiful palm trees in Nanning.

Chinese women do not like exposing their skin to the sun, so you'll see umbrellas everywhere. A striking thing about Nanning is the ever-present youth... in the many large parks, shops, or out at night. Seems like they dominate the city, in a good way. Other Nanning attractions: The Bird & Flower Market (Yuanhu Road / Zhonghua Road intersection), the Guangxi Provincial Museum (34 Minzu Dadao ~ check out the bronze drums), and the Convention & Exhibition Centre (near the east financial district).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nanning: Zhong Shan Lu

Lu = Road in Chinese. Zhong Shan Lu is Nanning's always thriving after dark
"Food Street" ~ located one block behind the Yongjiang Hotel (where I stayed, 1st photo below, which has a great breakfast buffet, 2nd photo below) and diagonally opposite the Wan Da Plaza shopping center (in the background of the 3rd photo below, which features Nanning's motorcycle taxis... dirt cheap, noisy, and a helluva lot of fun to ride, especially at night!). Definitely spend an evening there and sample the foods of Guangxi, Guangdong, Hunan, and Yunnan Provinces.

Zhong Shan Lu is dormant during the day, but at night, every night, you'll know it's time to eat by the crowds packing the endless row of food stalls and grilling areas... place your order, find a seat, order a beer or two, and enjoy. Check out the metal cooking boxes that accompany the fish orders (2nd photo below ~ somewhere under all that good stuff is a tasty and tender whitefish). At the bottom inside are hot coals, so the food is still cooking, and keeps warm, right on your table! Oh, and fresh fruit smoothies, made to your specifications, are available for only $1 US.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Nanning: Zoo Plus

A stay in Nanning is not complete without a day at the zoo... however, you'll get far more than that, because in Nanning they know how to have fun. Along with the zoo you get a circus (with various daily performances), aquariums and an aqua theater (also with various daily performances), an amusement park (with state of the art ~
and some not-so state of the art ~ rides), and beautiful parks.

According to my friend, the alligator above had a 6 year old boy for lunch a few years back (the kid hopped over the guard rail so he could pet the beast, and it promptly dragged him into the lagoon and down to the bottom). One of the highlights of the zoo is the bird sanctuary, it's a mammoth exhibit, with many varieties I'd never seen before. And the children in fact do get safe and supervised interaction...

My favorite performance of the day was these acrobats (photo directly below). Unbelievable... as good as any Cirque Du Soleil I've seen in Las Vegas. At one point in the show they put black bags over their heads and kept faking that they were about to lose their balance and go tumbling to the ground. Of course, the audience (packed house as you can see) screamed every time. So great!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nanning: Qingxiu Park

7 km southeast of Nanning city center is the expansive Qingxiu Scenic Area. The 15 yuan entrance fee buys you an entire day of exploration: 4 square kilometers of forests, trails, big colorful butterflies, pagodas and temples... huge. Bring a few bottles of your favorite cool beverage, some fruit, sunscreen, and you'll be good to go. At some point you'll arrive at the Tianchi and Yaochi Lakes, some great photo ops there, with a teahouse and a carp feeding area too.

From the lakes you'll see Longxiang Pagoda, on the top of Qingxiu Mountain nearby. It's the highest/largest pagoda in Guangxi Province, a 9-tiered octagonal exterior with dual spiral staircases inside... amazing 360 degree views from each level, well worth the climb. The day I was there I could see the fascinating construction of a major concrete bridge over the Yong River (north), flooding in the valleys (east), and construction of a sports stadium a few kilometers away (south).

to see this bridge completed, please visit this link:

Wandering east you'll come to another mountain forest, and you might discover hundreds of steep stairs leading up to Guanyin Temple (under construction on my visit). Apparently those stairs are the back side entrance, because there's a road leading up on the opposite side, with bus and shuttles for those with tired legs. The architectural detailing and grand ornate interiors of the Chinese temples never cease to impress me. The large grapefruit (2nd photo below) give a sense of scale.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shanghai: 8AM Luwan

The Luwan District, located directly south of People's Square, is part of the old French Concession area, one of the most prestigious sections of the city. The trees lining the main streets were imported from France over 100 years ago. The district includes the historical residences of Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Mei Lanfang, among others. Here are some random photos from morning walks near my hotel...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shanghai: Moganshan Art

If you like modern art, and like browsing galleries, 50 Moganshan Road is your destination... an area once home to factories and warehouses on the banks of Suzhou Creek has transformed into Shanghai's leading creative arts center, a labyrinth of workshops, studios, and galleries that will keep you busy for an entire afternoon. As you explore you'll find paintings, sculpture, photography, and artists galore... even a film viewing room or two, as filmmakers, architects, and graphic design firms have now taken root in this section of the city. When it's time to rest, there are a few nice cafes and teahouses in the area as well. I had a blueberry smoothie and pastry that totally hit the spot. There is no subway service nearby, so taxi is your best choice. Hint: bring a roll of t p as there might not be any remaining in the restrooms you locate.