Cantonese (Guangzhou) China
Day 147: Country #15.2
There are ten’s of millions of Cantonese (a Chinese dialect) speakers in the world across numerous Chinatowns, Guangzhou and Guangdong Province, but from conversations with hostel staff, I sensed it becoming a dying language. I had taken a few months of Mandarin classes at a past company which I worked for, so I could somewhat distinguish the two languages.
I wanted to see more of Cantonese culture before it integrated into modern China, so I went back on the subway to visit the Cantonese Opera Art Museum to ask about tickets and also see the older neighborhoods during the day. It was closed again. I took different streets than before and discovered much more vibrant color and aesthetics.
There were also a handful of smaller traditional houses that were preserved and converted into museums such as the Liang Family Academy and Liwan Museum.
Even basic streets lacking much significant markings on my maps were quite beautiful and well maintained, reflecting an era when Guangzhou orientated more toward western markets.
Having seen this older center of the city and it’s Cantonese past, I returned to the subway and crossed the city to Tianhenan on the east side of Guangzhou where I found a meticulously modern and perfectly master planned new city center.
Despite its apparent symmetry on the maps, the sheer scale of large city blocks dedicated to commerce, from malls to sports stadiums and parks, relative to the size of a person turned the complexes into an endless maze.
After seeing Tinhoo Sports Stadium, I resolved to follow the compass south until I reached Canton Tower, a monolith of the Guangzhou skyline. It reminded me of movies where the hero journeys endlessly to reach some mystic tower in the distant horizon.
The hero even counters giants and other obstacles along the way…
Finally, I reached the Pearl River then realized I needed to pay a separate subway fare to crossover to the Canton Tower side. In the end, I was underwhelmed by prospect of riding up yet another sky tower, so instead I hopped on a much cheaper commuter tram, which slowly went further east through Pa Zhou Ta Gong Yuan park, and ended at a subway station on what felt like the outskirts of the city.
I found some interesting snacks, then caught the subway to Sun Yet-Sen University’s main campus. Despite the security, similar to what I saw when visiting Tingshua University in Beijing, I was able to walk in. I noticed someone wearing Thailand style elephant pattern pants and asked for information; learning that it was graduation day of some sort, hence the relaxed security.
I tried to catch the ferry on the north end of campus, but it was closed. Luckily, I found an intentionally unlocked and partially broken bikeshare thrown in a bush. I decided to save it then return it back to the ecosystem. I rode it along the Pearl River for miles as the sun set around me, until I reached the tourist center.
An essential travel item is a bike cable or lock for securing your bag(s) against furniture such as bed posts. It can also be used to lock other things like bikes or motorbikes if you end up renting them to get around.
Guangzhou is such a beautiful and multifaceted city.
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Yes, it feels a lot more diverse than the other Chinese cities. I’ve gotten the hang of the subway system so I’m able to adventure out further.
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