Guangzhou's old airport, Baiyun Airport, closed down in 2003. I was lucky enough to fly into it back during my first few years in China. Guangzhou was a truly different place in those years- it was the real China! Sadly, there is no trace of the old airport left, except for the control tower building (seen above), which has also been revamped to house a high-end Japanese restaurant! The airport grounds have been replaced with a high-end shopping mall and a huge car park. There is no memorial to the old airport and no reminder for future generations to tell them that the old airport was here (sad): Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
For over 400 years, Guangzhou has been a city famed for trade, namely with the Middle East and Africa. Guangzhou is home to China's largest African and Middle Eastern communities. If you go to areas such as Sanyuanli and Xiaobei, you may be forgiven for thinking that you've suddenly arrived in Lagos, Nairobi, Dubai etc. The road signs are in both Arabic and Chinese, and there are many restaurants serving authentic African and Middle Eastern cuisine, all operated by the natives of countries from those areas. As one may expect in a multi-cultural society, there are quite a number of mixed-race people too (Chinese-Africans, African-Middle Eastern etc.). While it may sound derogatory to those in countries outside of China, the local Cantonese people call this area 'Chocolate City'.
Sanyuanli is also an area known as trade city. Most of the trade is with countries on the African Continent and the Middle East. Numerous shops sell various products, including garments, non-branded/ designer fake shoes and other bric-a-brac.
In late June, I was interviewed by the well-known Chinese TV presenter, Cecilia Li for Face Time, a prime time show on China' GDTV channel. A recorded segment of the interview is shown below.
When I first arrived in China in 2003, Guangzhou's Garden Hotel was one of the very few 5-star hotels in the city (the others being the White Swan Hotel and the China Hotel by Marriott). It still projects an air of nostalgia and has become a choice for hosting airline crews from Emirates, Qatar Airways, Saudia - Saudi Arabian Airlines, DHL, FedEx among others. The nearby areas of Xiaobei Lu (also known as Little Middle-East because of the large number of Arabs living there), and Sanyuanli (known as "Chocolate City" by the locals because of the large African community that lives there) have turned Guangzhou into a thriving international city in recent years.
Located south of Guangzhou's Liwan district, Shamian Island is a gazetted historical area that serves as a tranquil reminder of the colonial European period, with quiet pedestrian avenues flanked by trees and lined by historical buildings in various states of upkeep.
Located on the banks of the Zhujiang River Estuary, close to the Humen Pearl River Bridge, the Humen Naval Battle Museum is a memorial complex exhibiting the naval battles that happened during the Opium Wars. The museum acts as an information centre (actually is one of China's top three such centres) to educate people on the dangers of drug usage.
Looking across the Bocca Tigris at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province while going from Guangzhou to Shenzhen.
The thought of seeing a hand cream made from Snake Oil may not be everyone's cup of tea...but here in Guangzhou the stuff sells like hot cakes!...local women love it...(but to shake hands with someone whose hands are smeared in Snake oil?!...)
12 YEARS ago when I first arrived in Guangzhou, the CITIZ Plaza captivated the skyline of Tian He as the tallest building in the whole city. Today, the tower still dominates the skyline in Tian He...and only in Tian He...because Zhujiang New Town (which was nothing but open farm land back in 2000!!) has plenty of high rise gems that have made it into the city's concrete jungle.
A week's press trip took me to the southern Chinese city of Jiangmen (in Guangdong Province). Jiangmen is the ancestral hometown of many Cantonese expats who live in Western countries. In fact, Jiangmen people are proud to claim that the first Chinese migrants to Western countries (esp. Canada, U.S.A, and Malaysia) came from their hometown. These Chinese migrants set up the first Chinatowns in the Philippines, US, and Canada, and later set a trend for Chinatowns around the world.
I also managed to explore the nearby areas of Kaiping, Guifeng Shan, Gudou Hot Spring, Xiachuan Island, and Taishan (photos to follow soon).
Article on Jiangmen in Nihao - in-flight magazine of China Southern Airlines
Breakfast in Guangzhou (Shiqiao)
No tea or coffee today...sometimes I can be VERY Chinese in my approach to lifestyle. A glassfull of fresh cold milk (taken from well fed local Chinese cows in Guangzhou!), and a couple of delicious Cantonese Egg Tarts did the trick.
Lunch in the air (somewhere over Shaoguan, Guangdong)
Afternoon Tea at the Shangri-La, Pudong (Shanghai)
Shanghai is romantic, hectic, elegant, and nothing short of standing by it motto of being 'The Paris of the East'. From the Jade 36 bar atop the Shangri-La Pudong hotel, under July’s leaden skies; the futuristic skyline of Pudong contrasts with the elegant old-world style of The Bund on the Shanghai side. Go and see it as soon as you can...and enjoy the Afternoon-Tea at the Shangri-La, Pudong.
Always on time, air-conditioned, safe, inexpensive, and very efficient, the Airport Express coaches operate throughout Guangzhou to take passengers to/from the city's main airport. In fact, provided you know your way around the city (and can speak Mandarin Chinese like I do), then the coach is probably a better way to get to/from your destination than the Guangzhou taxi (which is equally good too). Just like Italy and Switzerland, China has buses, metro lines, and trains that run on time (but not their planes), and are air-conditioned, and I'll bet, near 100% ticket compliance. London: take note.
Zhujiang New Town Automated People Mover System (or APM system for short), runs for 3.49 km between Linhexi and Chigang Pagoda (where the Canton Tower is) with 9 stations in between. The APM system started operating on the 8th of November 2010, and was designed to make it easier for residents who live on Ersha Island near the Zhujiang New Town. The driverless train is clean, air-conditioned, modern, and fast. It really does make the London Underground look and feel like an ancient form of transportation.
The Canton Tower, also known as the Guangzhou TV Astronomical and Sightseeing Tower, is a 600 meter tall multi-purpose observation tower located on the banks of the Pearl River in the ultra-modern Zhujiang New Town (in Haizhu District). The tower houses a observation deck at the top, posh French and Chinese restaurants, and a scary drop down freefall experience ride (it's safe but no cameras are allowed on the ride). Provided the visibility is good, the views are priceless, and worth the RMB150 ticket to go up (not including food).
The tower briefly held the title of tallest tower in the world, replacing the CN Tower in Toronto, before being surpassed by the Tokyo Skytree in 2011.
At night the tower glows and emits light rather than being lit up. The Canton Tower has an architectural lighting that was designed by Rogier van der Heide. Around 7,000 LED light fixtures light the rings of the tower's structure each from underneath, to form a continuous glow in various colours. Below are some photos depicting the various colours that the tower emits. It really is a mesmerizing piece of architecture, technology and cultural symbol all blended in one. Life is so pleasant and peaceful here in this part of Guangzhou, and indeed it is away from all the hustle and bustle, and all the troubles that the rest of the world is experiencing that you wish you stayed in China forever. I spent the whole evening just relaxing on a bench opposite the tower and watching the world go by.
9am - 10pm daily
50 RMB - lower levels up to floor 32
100 RMB - medium levels up to floor 67
150 RMB - upper levels up to floor 84
Tickets for sale on location. The quickest way to get to the Canton Tower is to take line 3 Metro or the APM line to Chigang Pagoda, and then take Exit A which is right below the tower itself (Chigang Pagoda is one stop away from Zhujiang New Town on the other side of the river- from where I took the photos below).
Guangzhou's new library has just moved to a new building in Zhujiang New Town, which opened on 23 June 2013. The old building at 4 Zhongshan Road closed down on the 1 April 2013 (no April Fool joke).
Located on the beautiful banks of the Pearl River and next to the ultra modern Guangdong Museum, Guangzhou's new library is bigger (3.82 million volumes with total GZ Library collection: 5.62 million items with 500 public use computers, and 4,000 internet connections), more spacious (covers over 100,000 square meters), modern (clean, neat, air conditioned and automated with book loans system), and has wireless ability throughout.
The new library is characterized by its distinct combination of contemporary and traditional Lingnan design. It's worth a visit even if you want to come and admire at what the Guangzhou government has achieved. It's even more so beautiful at night because you can take a lovely walk next to the Pearl River.
Poundland is a popular chain store in the U.K. which sells everything for under £1 Sterling. I came across this shop in Guangzhou that operates on a similar philosophy, but is not part of the UK company and has no connection with the UK brand. But the interesting thing about the Chinese version is that 10 Yuan is actually just over £1.07p because the Chinese Yuan is valued higher. Another reason to accept that China is economically better than the U.K. (Western Europe's cleanest 3rd world country).
Panyu attracts a lot of 'Fortune Tellers' (you may read this). It remarkably seems to be a very competitive business for them. It's not uncommon to come across around 10 guys sitting next to each other waiting to tell stories! In my opinion, horoscopes are great when they say nice things about you:
"Leixinge (my Chinese name), you are caring and kind. Highly intelligent. Likes to be the center of attention. Very organized. High appeal to opposite sex. Likes to have the last word. Good to find, but hard to keep. Passionate, wonderful lover. Fun to be around. Thoughtful. Loves to joke, but lets some people down due to misunderstandings. Too trusting at times and gets hurt easily. You always try to do the right thing and sometimes get the short end of the stick. You sometimes get used by others and get hurt because of their trusting. Extremely weird but in a good way- sometimes talks too much. Good sense of humor!! Very popular. Silly, fun, and cute. Good friend to others but needs to be choosy on who they allow their friends to be."
But, not to worry...they never mention any bad news or bad stuff...it's always good news.
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