Have Love, Will Travel 2.0

An Apology to the Reader
Against all odds--namely a string of technical difficulties and a bout of sloth-- I've returned to bring you the choice tidbits of China thus far. Hopefully this blog will now read more like what it was intended to read like; the random musings of a traveler.The next few blogs will be aimed at getting you up to speed on the last three week's travels, and I'll ideally be current with my posts by midweek.

Culture Shock, Again
If there is an ideal route through which one can ease into travel in China it is through Hong Kong and Macau. We had already passed through countless checkpoints during our time in these two quasi-sovereign provinces. So it came as no surprise that we would have to pass through one final checkpoint to cross the border into Guandong Province, a.k.a the real China. When people tell you that Hong Kong is not really China, they are not making things up. From the time we were treated to an immigration video starring Jackie Chan, up until this very moment, our perceptions of and patience with this country have been in constant flux.

Around Southern & Central China in 20 Days: Guandong
We didn't spend much time in our first province in Mainland China. The bus we boarded in Macau unloaded us in perhaps the seediest part of Guangzhou, the capital of Guandong (commonly referred to as Canton). The high hopes we had built up for the Cantonese capital as we drove along the beautiful Pearl River delta during our bus journey were quickly dashed away when we disembarked at the bus station in Guangzhou. Perhaps it was culture shock, or perhaps it was the unusually sinister looking Chinese man who chose to stand directly behind us and sneer as we negotiated with taxi drivers, but we knew that our stay in Guangzhou would be brief.

A Small Town Boy With Mega City Dreams
In all honesty, culture shock is probably the most apt description of what we experienced during our two-day stay in Guangzhou. With a combined suburban and metropolitan population of about 25 million, Guangzhou is mainland China's third largest city and could certainly use a couple of civil engineers and city planners. When Bob Marley wrote the song "Concrete Jungle" I suspect he had Guangzhou in mind. Everywhere you look randomly situated high rises and tenements hover just below the dense smog layer and growth in this Chinese "mega city" does not look to be slowing; a city that 30 years ago was at best a bustling town is now bigger than any city in the U.S.

I've Got a Metro Fetish
According to the trusty Lonely Planet guide, Guangzhou supposedly has "more restaurants per capital" than anywhere else in China and Dim Sum is the quintessential dining experience in Canton. Alone and lost in a city we didn't very much like or care to explore, we didn't really get a chance to test Lonely Planet's accuracy in this regard. I did however have enough time to appreciate the amazingly clean and efficient metro system, which has become my litmus test for a city's "coolness" across the globe. Guangzhou proved to be a bit of an anomaly though as its sleek metro belied the actual character of the city.

A Sign of Things That Are & of Things That Are to Come
Mao and his communist cohorts staged their resistance to the Japanese invasion in Guangzhou and there are a plethora of monuments to the communist movement there. Ironically enough however, there are also a plethora of shopping malls and McDonald's in Guangzhou; Mao I'm quite sure, is rolling in his grave. We have quickly learned though that Guangzhou is quite emblematic of what the rest of China is like; that is a country filled with beautiful people who are bound by communist dogma and a government that is willing to go to any length to achieve the economic prosperity that it so craves.

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