Guangzhou Return Leg of Carter's China Trip

 

We get one full day in Guangzhou on this leg of our tour, for tomorrow we move out after breakfast.  This hotel is in a different part of the city from the BaiYun, where I started my tour more than two weeks earlier.  From my room I could see the Pearl River.  The breakfast buffet included some Dim Sum and it was good.  Fran had a bad cold so Alan stayed with her.

Today we started with a visit to the Guangdong Land and Resources Department, their provincial surveying and mapping agency.  We had the usual welcoming speeches.  Because Alan was absent I was selected to deliver a response on behalf of our group.  Today we had only the Germans and the Americans.  On the fly I sketched out my response and deliver my little speech.  I must have done quite well for a number of colleagues thanked me for what I said.

We tour the cartographic and photogrammetric facilities.  It was quite similar to what we saw in Wuhan and Xi'an.  There were many rooms with glass walls.  Most of the workers were wearing white jackets.  The computers were brand names that we know.  The equipment was very good and they were doing quality work.  It was impressive.

They have a map sales office out on the street.  We had to visit this, large through the insistence of Will.  He works for a map supplier and through this visit found a new source for his firm.  I bought a tourist map of Washington, DC, in Chinese with some English.  Why not?  If I can buy a maps of Chinese cities in the U.S., why shouldn't they have maps of U.S. cities in China?

I also bought a small plastic relief map of China and three copies of a children's map of the world.  Of course this map is in Chinese and is centered on the Pacific Ocean.  It is interesting what they show on this map and where they put items.  They show corn growing in the northern part of British Columbia.  This shows that they are as ignorant about us as we are about them.  The price was most reasonable for all of the maps.

Then we go to a restaurant for lunch.  Our Mexican and Ukrainian colleagues show up late and the Canadians never make it.  Reportedly, they are biking around Guangzhou.  My Mexican colleagues give me some CD's they have produced.  I am to review these and see how their work compares with what I am doing.  Throughout this tour we have had many professional discussions mixed in with the tourism.  It has proven to be a great way to get to know professional colleagues.

There was a Friendship Store next to the restaurant and we were expected to show there.  Here I found bottles of snake wine, complete with whole snakes.  I chatted with a young lady clerk who had great command of English.  Her name is Sudan--the same as the country.  She was a good salesperson and soon I was buying those four glass spheres for my grandkids.

I had to recall when the four grandkids were born because I had to pick out designs for the year of their birth.  I ended up with a goat, tiger, horse and a pig.  By golly, I have since verified I got it right.  I had their names written inside the spheres by the young artist while I waited.  And, he spelled the names correctly.

We had to visit the statue of the five Goats--required site for visitors to Guangzhou.  Having already enjoyed this experience I walked off in the other direction and found the Zhenehai Tower.  I did not understand what I was seeing.  Along this walk I saw two older women practicing their ballroom dancing, alone and with each other.  There were some big Banyan trees with large buttress roots hanging down over the walls.  

 
  There was a stone wall separating the park from a nearby apartment building.  To discourage people climbing the wall pieces of glass were embedded along the top of the wall.   The large leaf in the foreground is indicative of the vegetation in this tropical environment.   
 

We had to visit the statue of the five Goats--required site for visitors to Guangzhou.  Having already enjoyed this experience I walked off in the other direction and found the Zhenehai Tower.  I did not understand what I was seeing.  Along this walk I saw two older women practicing their ballroom dancing, alone and with each other.  There were some big Banyan trees with large buttress roots hanging down over the walls.  

Maintenance crews were cleaning up trash.  One crew wore bright blue uniforms with a red slash across the chest.  The women sweeping up the lot was dressed in dark red with beige trim on the uniform.  I was impressed with the trim appearance of the workers.

Our visit to the 1,600 year old Six Banyan Temple was a new experience.  This Buddhist Temple is undergoing renovation and it was hidden behind scaffolding.  However, the entire complex was interesting.  As we had seen before there worshippers, young and old, lighting sticks of incense and bowing to their higher authorities.  Our guide Lena was able to provide good answers to some of my questions but had little to contribute to other questions.

We returned in mid-afternoon to the hotel.  We bought bus tickets to Hong Kong the next morning.  Five of us decided to go on the same bus.  Then Michael, Theo and I went out to explore the area around the hotel.  A couple of small cumulus clouds hinted that we might get a shower.  We walked up to the bridge across the Pearl and started across.  About half way across the first drops fell but we continued on.  It started raining harder so on the other side we sought cover.

We stood under some awnings then moved under the bridge.  Here we found that others had made permanent camp.  There were walls of construction plastic where the homeless had created their abodes.  We were seeing another part of Chinese cities.  We continued to wander.  Finally, I paid 8 for an umbrella.  With that protection I walked back to the hotel.  My new umbrella did not shed water but rather broke the big drops into fine droplets.  But, what can one expect for a dollar?

We met our bus at 5:00PM.  On the way to the restaurant we chose visit Shamie Island to take a walking tour.  This was the part of old Canton where the Europeans lived and the architecture represents that influence.  

 
  By now that little cumulus cloud had turned into a tropical disturbance and the walks were supplanted by hiding under awnings.  I stuck my nose in the White Swan Hotel on the Island and saw what opulence looks like.  I also was able to get a photo of the very graphic 'no horns' sign.  
 

Then we went to the Pan Xi Restaurant.  This is a very expansive place built around a lake.  On the way to our part of the restaurant we passed cages of chickens and snakes, as well as tanks for fish and lobsters.  At least you know you are getting fresh food.  There were far fewer chickens and snakes when we left than when we came in.  Michael observed that we had been in this same restaurant when we were here two weeks before.  He was right.  I was starting to recognize landmarks.  For dinner our group was down to the core--the Germans, the Mexicans and the Americans, plus Chen, our Chinese coordinator.  

Fran on the left had a cold and was only partially with us.  The more visible include Alan, me, Martina, Holger, Joanne, Will, Marcia, Chen, Theo, Martha Lucia, Patrick, Ron, Carmen and Michael.  Thanks to Martina for this photo.  My copy excluded Michael.  I don't remember who took these photos for us.  Whoever it was cut Fran out in my photo and Martina's photo.  

It was still raining when we got back to the hotel.  I was learning something about thunderstorms and weather in this city along the Tropic of Cancer.  In summer this area is under the influence of the ITCZ-- the Intertropical Convergence Zone.  This storm was part of the large system.

Dr. Yan Li who did a great job organizing and coordinating our Workshop on Internet Maps met Michael and me at the hotel.  She brought him extra copies of the Proceedings of our Workshop.  We sat in a nice lounge drinking juice and eating desert.  She gave us a photo of the attendees of the Workshop.  I had forgotten that we posed for this group photo.  I have been able to identify many of the people in the photo.

At breakfast Friday morning we say our goodbyes.  Folks will be dispersing quickly.  I go out to shot the last few shots of film on my last roll.  In the park across from the hotel a great number of people are doing their morning exercise.  Many people are working in groups but there are those occasional persons who are off to the side doing their own thing.  One group is working with large red fans.  In unison they snap the fans open as they bow and swing.  Then they snap the fans shut and slowly move another way.  This is some combination of dancing and yoga.  It is attractive and probably quite healthy. 

I have a few Yuan to spend because they will have little value in Hong Kong.  I buy a roll of Fuji film and a couple of post cards.  I have no Chinese money left.

We gave Chen a nice tip for all he did keeping us out of trouble and interpreting China for us.  He is a good ambassador for his country.  He is a cartographer and must have learned a lot about this profession as he spent days with an eclectic bunch of cartographers.  He also got to see some places in China that he had not seen before.  I suspect he will do well in the profession.

 
  Five of us boarded the purple bus for Hong Kong.  It stopped in front of our hotel.  Certainly, it was convenient.  For the next hour we drove around the city picking up people at two other hotels.  It was not going to be a quick trip. 

Here are Theo, Martina and Holger from Germany, fellow travelers to H.K.  Will from the U.S. and Chen from China when their separate ways.

 
 

The bus was comfortable with green leatherette seats and a toilet.  I sat in the back which was elevated slightly and from there I could see out front and both sides of the bus.  The bus was not full and I had the seat to myself.  In Shenzhen we stopped at a Shell Station and got a partial bus wash, although I don't know why.  Gas prices seem to be quite comparable to those in the U.S.

I didn't know much about this area when I started this trip.  I got to study some maps and atlases of the Shenzhen area while in China.  I also was given a woman's scarf showing maps of Shenzhen.  Since I have been home I found a nice article with maps in the March 1997 National Geographic on this area.  It is entitled "Boom Times on the Gold Coast of China."  This article helped explain the great number of new buildings we saw as we zipped through this area just north of Hong Kong.

Soon we hit the Chinese border.  Sad to say everyone else hit the border at the same time.  We had to grab our luggage and go through customs.  The lines were long and slow.  There seem to be more people wanting to leave China than coming in so the process is more lengthy.  Some people had troubles and after 10 minutes with a custom officer they were handed over to a higher authority.  I felt sorry for the woman with the baby in her arms, as she was led off for further investigation.

The trip that takes about two hours by train, took three hours, twenty minutes going, and took a full five hours in reverse.  Do not take the bus from Guangzhou to Hong Kong!

 
  As we approached the metropolitan area of Hong Kong we saw great clusters of apartments.  There are not many single family homes in this area of 6 million persons.   
 

Michael and I returned to the New Kings Hotel.  The manager had to help us get the air conditioner working--thankfully, he was successful.  We were worried for a little while.  We talked to him about taking the metro to the airport.  He suggested we walk across the street and take the bus.  It was cheaper, required no transfers and was closer to us.  We did and that was a good decision.

 
 

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Dr. James R. Carter, Geography-Geology Department,  Illinois State University,  jrcarter@ilstu.edu