Final days in GZ

My Last Week in Guangzhou

Mausoleum of Nanyue King

Another great relic of history discovered accidentally by construction to build a mall, this tomb which dates back to it’s demise by the Han in 111 B.C.
I believe this is the first time that the area that is now Guangzhou today was established as a kingdom.


The museum has two main parts, the actual tombs where the relics and remains of the second king were found, and the display floors where most of the jade, jewelry and various artifacts which were found among the body are preserved and displayed. It is a massive museum which covers a large space so as to not damage any future unearthings.

Take Metro to Yuexiu Gongyuan / park and follow exit signs to Museum

Temple of Six Banyan Trees

17 story pagoda


A beautiful Pagoda and worshipping sight in the heart of the city not far from Ximen Kou Metro, this temple houses the 17 story pagoda and various worshipping sights with Indian and Thai Buddha’s as well as some Chinese.

Thai Buddha

Although all six Banyan trees do not exist today, it is still a beautiful place to see some exotic and unique Buddha’s on display and also a great place to catch your breath in the middle of the busy city.

The Guangdong Museum of Art

This modern building that lies on the southern side or Ersha island and faces the Pearl river, houses the largest display of contemporary art in China. Most of the contemporary pieces still carry a great sense of pride and dedication toward the cultural revolution and seems heavily influenced by propaganda art of the past.
Here are a few of my favorite pieces:

Canton Tower

Center axis facing north

Emphasizing the idea that China wants to have the biggest and tallest of everything, the Canton tower was for a short time considered the largest tower in the world only to be surpassed by Japan this year. Still a beautiful and unique piece of architecture it was designed by a dutchman and was primarily built for the Asian Games 2010. It contains multiple observation decks and a spider walk that covers 30 floors and circles the outside of the tower.
The APM now goes straight to the tower or it can also be reached by line 5. The price is a steep 150RMB and the spider walk is an additional 100RMB. When I visited the top outside deck with moving bubble cars was not yet open to the public, but as of August it should be open.

such an amazing city

I definitely recommend visiting this tower at least once and the best time to go is n the late afternoon and take the spider walk at sunset which gives you a variety of lighting and colors among the tower and beautiful views of the city.
The only downside to the spider walk is that no cameras are allowed, so you must pay if you wish to keep any images which are available through your tour guide who follows you around with a camera.

Anne’s Family Spoils us with a Good – Bye Dinner

Oh how I will miss my Chinese family. So much love and kindness was given to me. I was truly taken care of. To say good bye Anne’s family cooked a mighty feast. One which took hours and time in their tiny kitchen in Regal Court. Here’s a look at the magic and the dishes:

spicy fish

Battered Mussels

Bamboo and muchroom dish

The best: Marinated spicy cucumber with mushroom

Noodle with egg and hot dog, to be wrapped in lettuce

Anne's mom's famous chicken

Aunt and Father in the tiny kitchen

Anne's mom cutting up the game birds

Lianhuashan Resort

Also known as Lotus Hill, this wonderland resort, park temple, quarry lies jusr outside Panyu district of Guangzhou in Shiziyang.

Complete with lotus gardens, manmade stone quarry, a view of the industrious part of the Pearl river and a golden Buddha and temple, this amusement park like wonderland is a great day trip away from Guangzhou.

Summertime is the best time to view this garden because of the blooming of the Lotus.

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Guangzhou International Beer Festival

Although sometimes it feels like China is not a drinking culture, it is far from the truth. When people drink, they drink. To prove this, Guangzhou hosted an International Beer Festival at the Tianhe sports complex.

Food stands

One of the many beer tents

Entertainment

They did of course mimic everything from the traditional German Octoberfest, but hey, may as well copy the best. The resemblance was rather close, although smaller and not containing any amusement park rides like Munich. The festival contained about 8 tents and each tent hosted different beers and different forms of entertainment. The beers were mostly Chinese, American, German and Belgian. The entertainment ranged from decent to down right awful and the food assortment was awesome. Any chinese street food you could dream of and even an assortment of various German dishes, including the no fail giant pretzel.

Who says men can't be sexy!

Toward the end of the night we ended up in the Harbin tent where we met a group of gentlemen having the time of their lives. They bought us beers, invited us to their table and even cheered me on as I attempted to join a beer chugging contest against 5 chinese ladies, of course, those women can drink.
Add a downpour of serious tropical rain and a puddle of one feet in height, it was one hell of a wet and wonderful night.

Kyle playing with the band

My new beer drinking buddies

I think this is where Peter lost his mind

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Dinghu Shan

Dinghu Shan

Daren and I finally got a chance to make it back to Zhaoqing, although that wasn’t really the destination we wanted at all. We headed to the Dinghu Mountain which is one the four most important mountains in Guangdong province and also a UNESCO site for it’s biological diversity. It is a very small mountain but well preserved none the less.

The beginning of the path to the waterfall

Although there is still a great deal of vehicle access to the national park, the rivers streams and waterfalls can only be reached by foot.
We spent the day climbing the narrow paths and stairways and paths to the top most reachable area of the mountain which contains the largest Ding in the world. A vessel which was first made in the Shang dynasty and was used for many things including cooking. Its shape is round and it contains three legs, now today, the Ding is a symbol of gaining power.

Ding

Like most places in China which contain nature, there is not much solitude to be found. Surrounded by hundreds of people it was still a beautiful and fresh experience from the over polluted Guangzhou. There should be a direct bus to the park though we did not discover this until our return. Oh and remember, even though there are pictures of people swimming, it is really not allowed.

Daren braving the waters

One of my favorite parts of the day was watching Daren swim across only to be shouted out by a guard, haha. Stupid Americans!

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Guilin, Guangxi

Guilin

I arrived in Guilin by plane and immediately met some Germans and a solo traveler from Malaysia on the shuttle. The air was think with fog and there were continuous bouts of down pours which made my first view of the city almost impossible to see.
I decided to spend the day climbing peaks, where at least if the view was not available then I could spend the day in quiet jungle solitude. One thing I did learn about Guilin is that every place costs money. From the parks, to the peaks and viewing spots be prepared to pay some cash to explore this city.

Entrance gate to scenic beauty park

Fern Tree pathways

Reading Cave

First stop, Solitary Beauty Peak, which is surrounded by a Ming Prince’s mansion. Now home to a University, the peak lies in the center and gives some views to the city. Mostly  buildings that lead to the peak, in the past the peak was only attainable by prestigious members of society. This peak is probably most famous for it’s famous visitors, most important was Sun Yet San during the revolution.

View from Scenic Beauty Peak

Although the price has been raised from 15 quay to a large 70 quay, I think passing this peak up and heading to Folded Brocade Hill which gives more better views and a wider variety of sights, peaks and caves. Within this area one can climb three peaks, visit a cave, a lake and a bird sanctuary. Climbing one of the peaks I was completely alone with my thoughts as I descended the worn rock steps and pushed my way through overgrowth in this lesser traveled path, weak, sweaty and covered in mud.

Folded Brocade Hill / Diecai shan

Cave entrance

I headed back to central to recharge with some food. Always a sucker for street food, i couldn’t help but notice the cart that was surrounded by locals. The made a dough mixed with meat and green onions, flattened into a thick bread and then deep fried in oil.

Deep fried yummy street food

Afterward, I was given the option of brushing it down with hot chili oil. The locals all took an interest in me and were surprised that I would actually try this treat of theirs. Apparently the other foreigners didn’t come visit the cart. As I became the topic of conversation I practiced my bad mandarin and tried to make conversation, but that only lasted so long. I did however have four new prospective students.
A little less hungry, but still but still wanting to rest my feet, I ran into a local tea house owner who was planning to move to Santa Barbara in the fall to study. We chatted in the shop with his sister while sipping on Osmanthus tea, a tree only found in Guilin.

Elephant Hill

To the south of the city lies Elephant Trunk Hill, with a park built all around it. There are two hills within Guilin that both resemble the shape of elephant heads.
No night walk in Guilin is complete without a night walk around the lake and a visit to the pagodas. The sun and moon twin towers sit in Shan lake and are connected by an underwater tunnel. The sun tower is taller than the moon tower and is the largest copper pagoda in the world.
I slept at Backstreet youth hostel which was cheap and the staff very friendly. I took a dorm room, but soon realized that I enjoyed the privacy of a single room.
The next morning I had a good breakfast and headed out by 8am to the docks. I really wanted to take a boat tour down to Yangshuo to catchall the scenery on the Li river between the two cities. I didn’t really know what to expect from the tour except my prior knowledge of chinese tourism. I was surprised of the amount of boats on the water and the volume of the chinese loud speakers. The boat ride took three hours and included a typical chinese lunch with tea and beer. The top deck was open though supplied no seating. It was a beautiful ride even with the noise and boats.

It's always time for a photo shoot

The hill of nine horses, can you find all nine?

The interior of the boat

Riding as a solo traveler can be tricky sometimes especially when the group switches boats without informing you. Luckily, realizing I had missed the boat I was able to get the boat to slow and get me onto the opposite boat with my tour. Two Belgian ladies and a couple from Australia also noticed my desertion and once back on the other boat we chatted over lunch about travels throughout China.
Arriving in Yangshuo was not what I had expected, although my knowledge of the city was very little before I left. We exited off the boat to the main tourist shopping street, West street, which is large, plentiful, overwhelming and sells most things found in China. I ventured through the street for a bit but wasn’t feeling much in the mood for shopping so I popped into a local coffee joint. One thing I will say, is the coffee here is good and has quite a variety to offer.

View from Dragon Bridge, also a picture used for screen saver

Yulong River

I met up with the group once more and we headed about 10km upstream along the Yulong river to dragon bridge, which is about 600 years old and is connected to an old village. Here we walked through the village, visited the bridge and took a bamboo raft complete with chairs and umbrella that sat two, out to visit the farmers and their water buffalos.
I paired up with another solo traveler from Sweden and we became partners for the rest of the day. He, like me was also living and working in China, but he worked in the hotel business in Xian. We discussed our towns, our experiences and our thoughts and conclusions on chinese culture. We seemed to share many of the same ideas and both equally enjoyed living in China.

Yes, I was really here!

Bamboo raft chaos

600 year old Dragon Bridge

Farm Machinery

One thing I will say about China is, they love to make tourist spots. We stopped just past the bridge to the edge of the rice fields where farmers brought out their water buffalos to be fed and to provide opportune photo shoots. After seeing the quality of the Li river due to gas boats and piles of tourist trash, it was refreshing to see that only human powered machines were allowed along the Yulong river. Able to see the bottom of the river, the village relies completely on bamboo boats for transportation and fishing, as well as water buffalo for all their farming tool needs.
After descending back into the river, we were given a tutorial on fishing with birds. Cormorants have been used for centuries to fish. STanding atop a bamboo raft with three birds, the fisherman grabs the bird and throws it into the river. Using certain sounds and gestures he communicates with the birds telling them to dive under, reappear to the surface and bring the fish back. By jumping up and down on the raft he can communicate with the birds using the movement of the water. The birds are quick and resourceful and upon retrieving a bird they quickly return it to their owner on the raft. The fisherman then forces the fish from the birds mouth where it lands safely in a basket. I think my father would love it! The end of the ride is where some cheesy tourism comes in. We are sent over a one foot waterfall on our raft with our feet in the air while someone across the way on another raft takes our photo. Also on this raft is a computer and printer set up where you can buy your photo of the great river adventure.

Giggling Tree Hostel Courtyard

View from the front courtyard of Giggling Tree

Back to the town I grabbed my luggage, sunburned and sweaty and caught a cab to my converted farmhouse hostel, the giggling tree, about 5km out of town. With a beautiful courtyard an over friendly staff, a beautiful view of the farm and mountains and delicious food this was a relaxing home away from home.
I woke early, excited for a bike ride. The hostel provides a variety of bicycles for 20 quay a day. I had been dying for some time on a non-stationary bike and also some time away from the cities.

One of my Rockin' Grill Breakfasts

First stop was Rockin Grill, a pleasant hostel and restaurant located downtown Yangshuo right across the street from the government building. Nathan and Angie had recommended tis great breakfast spot and it gave me an excuse to take an extra bike ride into town before starting my day. The rain was hard, the hostel empty and the restaurant was surrounded by a thick greenery that hid the city from view. Along with only one other guest I slowly enjoyed my salmon benedict while delving into Oracle Bones and the refreshing breeze wafted through the large open windows.

Butterfly Cave

Scenery from my ride to Moon Hill

So many caves......

Moon Hill

After breakfast I headed to Moon Hill. It was another quiet and long bike ride down a new road. On a major road of many Yangshuo attractions I was passed by endless speeding tour buses and many fellow cyclists. The scenery was spectacular as I flipped my umbrella up and down from various spurts of rain.
Upon reaching Moon Hill I was greeted by a tiny older woman from the local village who insisted on escorting me to the top of the mountain. While changing my Holga film before hitting the top, I was surrounded by 15 curious chinese teenagers who were curious and interested in my camera. Up the mountain I went, friend in tow. It was a nice climb, 800 steps, wet and humid but beautiful greenery. Of course I was wearing hiking boots which ended up being the worst match for the slick wet rock steps.

View from Moon Hill

My Escort

Providing beautiful scenery of surrounding areas and countryside, the beautiful limestone mountain shaped like a full moon is a must see.

Fixing my flat

After the trip down the hill I headed to the 1500 year old Big Banyan Tree, which again my friend insisted on taking me to. Upon leaving the moon hill though, I realized that I had a flat tire and conveniently there was a bike repair man on the side of the road. (Later I found out that most people leaving Moon Hill receive flat tires, but I got off with a 10 quay bill, where others receive a 100 quay bill.)

Old Banyan Tree Park

Honey Museum

Bee's

The beautiful tree, and yes those are all tree parts

The tree was another tourist trap, but luckily the tree itself was protected from outsiders.  The park itself included everything from costumed monkeys and horses, bamboo boats that could be driven by visitors, a bee farm that provided honey, pollen and other herbs and large surrounding park area.

Just me and my bike!

A fellow rider

I decided to take the remote ride back through the mountains. Although marked off as a bike path, I was ran off the road by many oversized vehicles from time to time, but I was still given plenty of peace throughout my country ride. The ride is spectacular and can not be shown all its glory through my camera lens. Along the ride I ran into a solo rider who was also on tour, alone and came from Nanjing. He shared his Yangmei with me, which was a berry I had been dying to try and I showed him the road back to Yangshuo.

Still early in the day I decided to take in some hostel scenery and have some beers with a really nice australian couple i had met who were living life to the fullest. Along with one of the workers on break we shared stories and laughs while taking in farm views and greeting travelers who came and went along the front road.

Guilin Mifen

As the sky began to darken i decided to head to town one last time and get some local Guilin rice noodles. 5 quay for a hearty bowl of goodness. Of course on the way back I had to supply myself with a head lamp as there were no street lights and the roads were dark. Perhaps a bit adventurous I was wanting to try out my navigational skills in rural China by night. Though a bit hard on the rocky dirt paths, I made it back and fell asleep immediately.

More Lotus Blooming

I had originally decided to spend three nights in Yangshuo but I made a last minute decision to visit the rice terraces which was more easily accessible through Guilin. I set out for one last ride before I left and first I had to go back for seconds at Rockin Grill for breakfast and then take a quick walking tour of the central city. Yangshuo was definitely a place I could see myself spending a great deal of time. The city is quite touristy but beautiful. The other joy is that everything is reasonably priced, meaning food and necessities.

Don't fear, McDonalds and KFC found prime real estate

I grabbed a quick local bus back to Guilin for 12 quay that took 1 1/2 hours. On the way back I used my time to search out and contact new hostels. I chose Xiaoyanglou International Youth Hostel which was triple the price but well worth the price. A private room and bath, cozy common room with  plenty of necessities (food, beer, wii, dvd player, games, pool, etc.) It was a nice place to settle down and they helped me book my tour to the rice terraces. For my free night I took advantage of the low priced and experienced massage parlors and cuppings. I had a really sweet masseuse who spoke no english but we carried out some basic conversation while he gave me a great foot massage. For the full massage and the cupping the total came to 50 quay.
I arranged the Dragons Backbone Rice Terraces for early the next morning and headed out on the 2 hour drive to the scenic area. Starting in a Yao village we were given a performance by the long haired women of Yao.

Yao Village, Longsheng

Never cutting their hair but once, the hair represents their long life. They cut their hair once and only once and keep the hair with them at all times. There is 3 parts to their hair: the hair on their head, their first hair cut and any hair that has fallen from the head along the way. All of this hair remains with them at all times wrapped within each other. The hair is only to be washed with the rice water and no other materials or substance can be used. There are also 3 distinct hairstyles among the women. The young and unmarried wear a hat that covers their hair and the first person allowed to see the hair is the husband. The second, where the hair is wrapped in a snail like twist represents women who are married with no children. The third, women married with children, tie their hair in a point at the front of their head before wrapping the rest in a twist upon their head.

Yao Long Haired Women

Toasted Rice Soup

Faux Wedding Ceremony

Also at the village we were given a display of a traditional wedding ceremony that takes place in the village. When a man finds a women attractive, he steps on her foot.When a women finds a man attractive she pinches his butt. The ceremony begins and ends with fermented sweet rice wine.
After the show and a short lunch we headed to the terraces of the Dazhai Yao village where ancient minority villages are built up 1000 metre cliffs along with beautifully crafted rice terraces. In the high rain season of summer, when the suns breaks through it can create a mirror to the sky.

A steep climb along small stone walkways passing beautiful crafted wooden houses, the village is bustling with work and peaceful with long hard patient work. Animals, mostly puppies and chickens, occupy the bottom floor of the houses, while the second floor contains the common space and kitchen and the top floor is where the children and women sleep. We were given two hours to explore which was barely enough time to reach the top and return to the bottom.
Long bus ride home I arrived back to Guilin around 630 p.m. and the sun was shining for the first time since I had arrived. To take advantage of the sun and the last few hours of daylight I rushed back to Elephant hill to take some photos of the city in the sun at sunset.

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Las Vegas of the East

Macao

Macao is a Special Administrative Region, that was returned to China in 1999. Before this time, Macao was a Portuguese region, granted a sect in 1557. Macao was a major trading port before the existence of Hong Kong, but once the establishment was made, Macao did not have much of a name for itself. During the cultural revolution in the 60’s, there was discussion of removing Portugal from the region, but worry of losing trade money squashed this idea.
Gambling has been legal in Macao since the 1850’s, but the first major casino, the Casino Lisboa, was built in the 1970’s. It wasn’t until 2006 that most major foreign casinos were built in Macao. Macao now has greatly surpassed the revenue of Las Vegas, but still does not have the flair or entertainment that Vegas does. One major difference I noticed was the drinking rate. Where Vegas remains a large drinking and partying culture, alcohol consumption in Macao Casinos remains virtually non existent.

My trip to Macao was the first time I ever slept late for a trip and woke up when the bus was leaving. Of course Liz and Kendra had made it just fine and were anxiously awaiting my arrival to the bus station. Luckily, the tickets were 65RMB, the buses left every 20 minutes  and for a holiday, there were almost no crowds. Next challenge, the border. I had heard that the border crossing can take up to 4 hours during holidays, so I was hoping my hour behind wouldn’t leave me to far from my friends.

Our first day mostly included rest from the long week and the last Panda Band show the previous night. Luckily, our hotel had a pool so we could rest and refresh while getting our bearings. The bloody Mary didn’t hurt either, but we were deceived by the bar leading to the pool considering the pool didn’t allow beverages. So after watching the bar tender count out grains of salt, we were forced to drink our beverages in the hallway leading to the pool.

Blooming Lotus

The Venetian

After our short rest we decided to head out toward the center of Taipa. Taipa lies to the South of the main Macao island, and north of Coloane. There is an old town in Taipa, many historical sights and also now hosts some of the major casino’s like the Venetian and Hard Rock. We began our search for a mexican joint that Liz had previously frequented. With only her lousy sense of direction and some chinese characters, we ended up circling the island and wandering the streets of old Portuguese street and buildings. We soon came to the lotus bridge and artificial wetlands, where the growth of Lotus’ was taking place in preparation for the Lotus festival in the next week.

Taipa Village

Almost giving up and deciding to retrace our steps through the village we found the restaurant along a street we had already passed. I had to say I was impressed with the food. We went big, pitchers of Margarita’s and I ate a large chimichanga smothered in enchilada sauce.

City of Dreams

The Venetian

The rest of the night was spent walking through old town, viewing shops, waiting in line for famous cookies, tasting various street snacks and having drinks in taverns. The end of the night landed us at the Venetian where we took Kendra for her first attempt at gambling. This lasted about 5 minutes and we decided to cross the casino by foot and just get a view of the area.

Main road to Coloane

Early to rise the next morning, after some delicious coffee from McDonalds, we headed to old town to rent some bikes for the day. Greeted by a very tiny older women, we got bikes for 20 quay an hour. We headed south along the main road toward Coloane island, the most farthest south area o Macao. A beautiful ride and a beautiful island, this is a dramatic difference from the main island of Macao, we were surrounded by greenery and tropics.

Ride to the Beach

Cheoc Van Beach

After arriving into the main part of the village, we decided to hit up the southern beaches.
The first beach, Cheoc Van Beach, contains a swimming pool on the beach which is used more than the ocean. The pool is barren of any trees, wrapped in a high fence and costs some money to get in. The beach itself was empty, a bit rough with large stones for a beach and protected by a life guard. The water on the other hand was very dirty and trash hit the rocks when the tide came in. We decided against the swim and settled for a short rest before heading to the northern beach, the home of the Westin resort, and hoping for cleaner waters.

Hac Sa campground

Hac Sa Beach

My bike with the Westin in the background

The Northern beach, Hac Sa Beach, was cleaner, larger and more populated with joyous BBQer’s and playful children. Pulling into the beach was a bit more like pulling into a campground. Tents lined the foot path and at the far end the smells wafted from the grills that were filled to the gills with people and food.
This is also the home of the famous Fernando’s restaurant, portuguese food that has made a name for itself. Te line was wrapped around the block awaiting the lunch opening. While all the crowds sat in the shade and ate meat, we took advantage of the empty beach and waters to take a dip in the ocean.

Coloane Village

Fishing village, dried fish

A friend of mine had told me about another quaint portuguese restaurant that he believed was better than Fernando’s, called Cafe Lisboa, which was located back the main village next to Lord Stowe’s bakery. A perfect place for lunch, we took the hot ride back up the hill and put in our names for lunch. Due to the hour wait, I get the feeling this place is also catching on in popularity. We had a sausage plate, green salad, creamed salmon, African chicken cooked with coconut milk and two pitchers of sangria.

Meat Plate

Lord Stowe's Bakery

Of course, rigorous exercise after two pitchers of sangria probably isn’t the best idea, Liz and I were determined to ride to the top of the highest point in Macao which is located on Coloane Island, Alto de Coloane. Atop this peak lies a large white statue made of white jade, the goddess A-Ma who gave Macao its name and is protector of the fishermen.

The steep ride

A-Ma Temple

A-Ma

So we rode, straight up in the heat. A steep ride and very difficult to grasp the sweaty handles of the bicycle. Straight up, the road was probably only 1 – 2 miles and many cars passed us the opposite direction cheering us on. The best part of reaching the top was seeing the clear blue sky in contrast to the white statue, I don’t remember the last time i saw such a deep blue sky. The descent down the hill lasted seconds and we were eager to find Kendra who we had lost along the way.

Grand Lisboa

Casino Lisboa

The night brought us to the main strip where we tried out some casino sights. Mostly out to have some drinks rather than gamble, we were disappointed when we realized no one drinks in the casino’s and the only thing offered for free is water. Of course there is one bar located in every casino which is where the entertainment is located. Mostly dancing and some singing. Hitting up the Sands,  Casino Lisboa and Grand Lisboa, the latter was the best entertainment. Tall russian beauties dancing the pole half dressed.

Shiny!

Grand Lisboa

Our last day, before arriving at the border was spent visiting sights on the main island and catching some dragon boat races on Lago Sai Van. The main square made of black and white striped tile is lined with traditional portuguese architecture and filled with many modern day shops and american chain stores. The streets were packed and most people line up for the amazing street food before heading to the ruins of the church of St. Paul, which now is only a staircase and front wall. This remains a relic of christianity in Asia and was destroyed in the 1830’s.

Dragon Boat Races

Main Square

St. Paul Ruins

Right next to the church also lies the Monte fort which was built during the 1600’s and still remains intact today, cannons and all.
Unless you are  gambler I recommend getting a room on Taipa or Coloane island to get a well rounded experience in Macao. Hotels can be pricey, but at least one trip to this peaceful laid back region is definitely worth the time and money.

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Summertime

Summer Time

1920 German Restaurant, best food and champagne

In every lifetime or every year for that matter, there is one period of time which destroys you and makes you realize how old you really are. For me? That time happens more times than not and it especially this last month. Summer has come to Guangzhou.

Getting ready for a night out

My goofy partner's in crime

Do they have these in America?

Birthdays, people moving to other cities or countries, art shows, the list goes on, I had one hell of a month in Guangzhou.

small Guangzhou

After a long day adventure to the South China mall along with a taxi ride which took me over most of Guandong province we headed back to GZ and went straight to Panyu to catch a photography / fashion show.

Lisa and her new book

4 artists in total; 3 of which were fashion designers and the lovely Lisa May Loveless’ photo show at the MOCA. It was an amazing show with amazing talent. Lisa’s work encompasses her past years in China in a very personal and intimate perspective. I was completely impressed with her shots.

The designers included the wonderful Patrick Dabra and two other famous designers from Southern China who I did not have the pleasure of meeting.

Patrick and Angie

Lum Lum impersonator

Of course, like any good art show the food and booze is free and in plenty. By the end of the night we had taken all the bottles of vodka and sparkling wine and created a fashion shoot of our own within the dressing rooms. A photo show is always the best inspiration for taking photo’s. Although I did miss out on the skinny dipping pool party I did have an overall great night and was ready for a full week of work and craziness.

Nathan turned the big 27, and the evening before was spent drinking oversized German beers at Wunderbar at the corner of Tiyu Xilu and Tianhe Bei.

3 students pass interview Dinner

The following night we headed to WIlbur’s which is a more western bar/restaurant of sorts. This neighborhood along with this restaurant is mostly built up from returning Chinese who spent a good deal of time in America. There is  western restaurant and food influence as well as a gay flare that brings up the liveliness of the joint in comparison to most chinese bars.

Late Night Street Food

Duanwu Festival

Also known as Dragon Boat festival, is sort of a coming of summer festival but is also centered around the first known poet of China, Qu Yuan. This holiday is celebrated throughout many parts of Asia as well as China, and was just recently reintroduced into mainland China in 2008 after many years of not celebrating, although Macau and Hong Kong have been big celebrators. This holiday falls on the fifth day of the fifth month on the chinese calendar.

The typical celebration consists of eating Zongzi, drinking wine and watching dragon boat racing. Dragon boat racing is a human powered wooden boat in the shape of a dragon that has a drummer in the front of the boat to keep the pace, and steerer in the rear and many paddlers in between. This sport dates back 2000 years and can be seen practiced throughout Asia and the Pacific.

Zongzi is a rice dumpling made of glutinous rice, filled with a variety of fillings and then wrapped in bamboo, lotus, banana or other various sources and then tied in string and steamed. I have been calling these delicacies “chinese tamales” and have eaten them with Kenneth on the streets of Manhattan. There are many different shapes that the Zongzi can take and the shape usually is passed down through generations. Most typical is a 2 dimensional triangle, or a 3 dimensional pyramid shape.

Bamboo Leaves

Preserved Egg and Pork

Green Beans

Anne’s Aunt and mother invited us over for a Zongzi making party. The fillings which her family usually use are green beans, sweet pork sausage, pork belly, mushroom and of course glutinous rice mixed with 5 spice.

Starting with a long bamboo leaf folded into a cone, start with rice as a base and fill away. Once filled, top with rice, fold remaining leaves, add another leaf, and tie with a thin piece of bamboo string, all while trying to keep a beautiful triangular shape.
The shape is the most difficult part, and a friendly neighbor came by to show us his technique of wrapping.

Mike is the best chicken cutter

Afterward,  Anne’s mom spoiled us with her famous Cantonese steamed chicken. The best chicken I have ever eaten.

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South China Mall

New South China Mall

Mall Entrance


Since the economy in China is growing so quickly and vastly a new attitude has been introduced to the Chinese culture, “The Bigger the Better”, which kind of resembles another countries ideals a while back. Just behind Dubai it has the tallest building in the world, Shanghai boasts the worlds largest skate park and Hong Kong the largest Buddha, you get the picture.
And what do Chinese people like to do more than anything? Go shopping! So, why not build the worlds largest mall in the world. Although technically not the largest by size (that is in Dubai), Dongguan has the largest mall in the world by available lease space available.
Dongguan is a major factory city located in Guangdong province in Southern China and lies in between Guangzhou and Shenzhen on the train line. In 2005 a very rich noodle owning business man decided to build the worlds largest mall even though there was actually no demand for it. It was kind of one of those “If you build it, they will come” scenarios.
So the mall was built, 650,000m squared floor area with a total of 2350 unoccupied spaces. To this day, over 90% of the stores have yet to be leased leaving the mall a gigantic, empty, decrepit area which can only make one think of Zombie’s.

When one enters the mall it seems to be a lively place, although that is just a facade from the large crowds that seem to hover within all MacDonald’s and KFC restaurants. In the center of the plaza also lies an amusemnet park. The amusement park contains a roller coaster which sweeps within the mall, bumper cars, drop zone and various other rides which surround a body of water containing a pirate ship.

Roller Coaster


But just beyond this mirage of crowds lies an empty deserted rotting mall with floors and floors of dust and mystery. Escalators have come undone at the seams, inches of dust cover old decorations, plants have taken the place of civilization and commercialism and the drop of a pin can be heard for miles within the recreation of the canals of Venice and Egypt.

Throughout the day I definitely felt a chill at the back of my neck from watching too many zombie movies. The pure silence alone in China is enough to make anyone get the creeps just because of the pure rarity of it. The whole day I couldn’t help but imagine   the patrons of the mall turning to brain eaters and storming the stairs after me at mass speed.

Squatters

In the back part of the mall lies recreations of various parts of the world. One can float down the canals of Venice, storm the streets of Paris and walk through the Arc de Triomphe, visit Egypt, Amsterdam and even California. The best part? You can visit these parts of the world completely aloe and free from other tourists.

Gondola's

Venice Canals


Just make sure if you would like to visit this deserted ghosts town perfect for the set of a zombie movie you take the train to Shilang and not Dongguan or you will end up like us with a 300RMB taxi ride tab. OOOpppsss. I said I was never going to tell anyone about that.

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Asian X – Games in Shanghai

Labor day weekend in China fell in the last week of April and into the first week of May. I took a long weekend and headed up to Shanghai where Emile would be for a week working for the Asian X games. I was definitely excited to get back to Shanghai for a new perspective and also see an old friend on the other side of the world.

The Boys

I showed up mid day and almost immediately met up with Emile and some of his friends. We caught up over beers and then headed downtown to an art party. Free beer and skate art, I could have been on lower Haight and would not have even noticed the difference. I met a lot of great people from different parts of the world as we mingled and drank beer until the kegs ran dry.

Beer

I took the photo for the jacket

The rest of the night ran rather mellow and smooth minus the free shots that kept being pushed in our hands as we played dice for 1 quay RMB and ate various western finger foods at a bar called windows.

Camera's out, Louis Vuitton

Largest LV luggage in the world

Take a shot of Jaegermeister and then get ice cream?

The next day as Emile went off to work I headed out to old town. I had missed so much last time around because of my decision to attend the world expo so I decided to at least knock a few sights off my list.

Old Town

Yuyuan Gardens

A garden of the Ming style design this garden is a beautiful oasis in the heart of china’s second largest city. Filled with pavilions and delicate walkways I spent my time looking for a quiet place to pass the time in the cool shade.

Opera Stage under renovation

One can also rent traditional Ming style dress and have their picture taken within the garden walls. There is a collection of exotic trees and flowers which fill the garden and fill the air with a constant perfumed aroma.
Just outside the garden lies Old Town which is built of traditional chinese architecture filled with an array of Bazaar’s filled with souvenirs and nic-nac’s.

Famous dumplings

Zig Zag walk way

Although the shops are not filled with treasure by nay means the buildings themselves are worth the sight and time. Within this maze of buildings there is also a plethora of tea houses and the very famous dumpling house where the line wraps around the block for some street dumplings.

Street Course

On my way back north I decided to catch the tail end of the vert ramp at the games. Definitely a smaller event than in the states, but there was still a decent amount of people in the crowd.

Our second evening brought us to the Muslim noodle restaurant where the staff was delighted that this crew came every year to feast upon their dishes. I got to meet more of the staff and co-workers of Emile’s and some of the competitors. It’s always such a pleasure to meet such pleasant people from around the world. Sometimes it makes me wonder why Americans are such assholes. The event brought people from as far as South America and there was a variety of visitors from all over Asia.

Converse Warehouse

Little strawberry Johnny Ramone

BBQ

Still a little slow from the previous night we slowly headed out to begin our night on the town. First stop was the converse warehouse where a ramp and BBQ and free beer awaited us. We drank from small sippy cups that dentists serve fluoride in in the states and watched the young and old politely take turns on the ramp.

Next stop i-bar, or as it had been better named by Matt, “Hot Tub Time Machine” bar. The three boys and I headed in totally under dressed and way too early for any sort of party to have started. The drinks were pricey the crowd was grumpy but I enjoyed staring down the adorable bar tender who was probably 17.

revisiting old bathroom shots

My last day I spent at the games for the finals of the mini-mega ramp competition. This was all new to me, I am not really in the loop of extreme sports but it may have been one of the most exciting events I had ever seen.

gap of Mega Mini

Quarter pipe of Mega Mini

Roll in to Mega Mini

Although much smaller than the ramp in the US, it definitely was no less easier to accomplish. Consisting of three parts, the ramp begins with a 25 ft. roll in which is used to give speed for the rest of the obstacles. Next comes the gap jump where the athletes attempt a trick over the gap and hope to land on the landing section which then leads into a quarter pipe.

And the Winners are!

After the event and another fill up of noodles we headed out shopping to the very large market of shit. Anything from knock offs of clothing, shoes, software and other devices it was not my ideal shopping palace but it was still fun to wander around watch the magic of bargaining. We all stocked up on goodies of sorts from knock off wallets to computer software to other random items.

Sasha, Emile and Stinky

The summary of the weekend was catching up with old friends, meeting new friends, drinking unknown amounts of beer and Muslim noodles, sport spectating and planning my new business “Stinky’s”. (I would go into but I don’t want you to steal my brilliant ideas)

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Spring in Guangzhou

Spring in Guangzhou

ESL 300

Anne and Kobe

Daren always working so hard

My teaching experience in China has been pretty great. I’m afforded my own creativity lesson planning which really makes the experience more rewarding as well as more of a journey. As of now I have had nine of my students move to America to start their journey  in the American college system. Last week I had two more students pass their visa and they will heading to San Francisco at the end of the month. I’m so excited for them.

I’m currently teaching ESL 300 which is just one level lower than my last University Readiness Program. 3 teenage girls and one boy, class can be a little on the rowdy side, but so much fun all the same. I think that teaching teenagers may be my favorite age, why? not sure, I think I find the challenge addicting, and it reminds me of how important and dramatic everything was at that age.

Justin Bieber's number one fan!

I was even awarded the opportunity to read the Justin Bieber biography with one of my students when we had a couple of one on one classes. So quiz me! (Although I still have no idea what his music sounds like.)

Saying good – bye to students is always hard, especially Roy since he has been here at AAE since before I arrived. Of course I love seeing them go, to take their next journey of life in America. Like every good goodbye in China it involves a great dinner. The dinner we had fro Roy was small and his last night and Nathan picked very traditional place in Dongshankou.

Spring

Easter and New Babies

The most beautiful time for me in Guangzhou so far is the rainy spring. The humidity has hit full blown and sweat has become a part of my daily life. I like to imagine that I am sweating out the last couple years of my life. The rain is hard, the sky dark and blue and purple and the lightning storms are what dreams are made of. The temperature is so high that getting wet is not bothersome and almost allows a cool release from the heat.  An umbrella is necessary at all times, but walking through the city this time of year   is dreamy. The air is clean, the tree’s and flowers are in bloom and the streets are filled with new fresh fruits.

Tomato Carts

Pineapple Sticks

Dragon fruits, dragon eyes, Mangosteens, papaya’s, mango’s and tomatoes so sweet it’s better than candy.

Egg Crate Waffle Iron


Now that the Asian games is over the street food has come back out in full force as well.   Thin wraps stuffed with hot dogs and eggs, Muslim BBQ, various dumplings and dim sum, congee and breads, steamed buns and pickled everything. Life is good in Guangzhou.
I have to say though, if one does not want to partake in Chinese food, there is a great German restaurant called 1920 right on the river just  short walk down from Haizhu square. Really good traditional food with the portions to match, great imports of beer and a beautiful patio garden for dining.

1920's Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin

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Sculpture Park

SCULPTURE PARK

I had been hearing about this statue of Michael Jackson in a sculpture park, so of course I had to check it out. Just North East of Yiexiu park in the Baiyun Mountain scenic area lies Sculpture Park. A large park filled with many sculptures and broken into four sections: History of Guangzhou, History of China, Forest and a grand section of Various sculptures.

I love this, it reminds me of the old Disney cartoon where everyone looks like their dog


I was limited on time so I didn’t get the full spectrum and experience of the park but definitely think it’s deserving of a trip back and some more exploration. In fact most of the parks would be quite nice for a day of lounging and writing and reading.

Definitely not sure what's happenin here

Me and my Chinese parents

We were having a difficult time locating Michael until we crossed paths with two girls wearing MJ shirts. They were so excited that we talked to them that they personally escorted us to the statue.

The whole world worships MJ

Never wear flip flops hiking

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