Last weekend I spent four days in Guangzhou.
This is all the way in the southern part of China, close to Hong Kong and Macau.
Initially I had my reservations because people said there was not a lot to do in Guangzhou, and that it was a relatively dirty city.
But after the pollution cleared up, Guangzhou turned out to be a very nice and relatively modern city. It bore a striking resemblance to Singapore. The climate was very similar, be it a bit colder this time of year, but during the day the temperature was nice and warm and the air humid. In addition to the climate, the city itself had a lot of ‘southeast Asian’ characteristics. It had wide roads lined with lots of greenery, and there was a striking mix between the new and the old. Going underground to take the subway surrounded by tall skyscrapers, one can resurface in a completely different area where the highest building is three stories and the streets are lined with traditional Chinese architecture (another characteristic that reminded me of Singapore). Despite what people said, I did not find Guangzhou very dirty at all.
Compared to other Chinese cities such as Beijing and ZhangJiaKou, Guangzhou was really clean. Also, the Guangzhou and Singapore metro system seemed to have a lot in common. Both seem brand-new, or at least very well maintained, with trains running every few minutes. The Cantonese cuisine was much more similar to the Singaporean cuisine, for instance restaurants served ‘dim sum’ (steamed dumpling) dishes, instead of the heaver, baozi (bread dumplings) found in the northern areas of China. Whilst maybe not typically Cantonese, I tried Yak meat for the first time. The texture was very different than I expected, it was really soft and almost mushy. The Yak meat was marinated with slices of pumpkin, which gave the meat a very sweet taste. Interesting to say the least.
The most interesting thing about Guangzhou however was that there were hardly any foreigners. When I walked around Beijing road, the main tourist shopping street in Guangzhou, there was not another foreigner in sight, perhaps there were a lot of Chinese tourists, but I did not see a single American or European walking around. This might have something to do with the time of the year at which I visited, but the lack of foreigners was still striking. Overall, I did not get to see as much of Guangzhou as I would have liked, but it was definitely worth the visit, the atmosphere in the city, as well as the pace and the characteristics were very different from northern cities such as Beijing and Harbin. This just showed me again how multifaceted China really is.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Jason Klanderman, originally from Chicago, grew up in Amsterdam. He has travelled extensively through Europe and Asia. He is an International Politics, History and Global and International Studies triple major, with a minor in Chinese at Penn State University. When not in State College, where he is currently living, you can find him traveling between Amsterdam, Singapore, and various other places, visiting family and friends. His hobbies include reading, writing, cooking and going to the gym. Read about his experiences as he tackles the middle kingdom, China, during his spring semester 2013.</span></p>