The Red Lanterns of Guangzhou

The capital of Guangdong province, Guangzhou, is located on the Pearl River and is a significant transportation hub in China. We decided to stop by Guangzhou, after spending a few hours in Zhuhai one day. Given the proximity of the two cities, we caught a train in Zhuhai and reached Guangzhou in an hour or so.

child ticket elevation.png
Angie just missed the “child ticket elevation”… Buying train tickets to Guangzhou. Photo: Tang Choy.

Once we arrived in Guangzhou, my sisters and I diligently followed our relative, Kim, as she swiftly navigated the crowds and ushered us onto the subway. The train swelled with more and more people, as we travelled closer to the heart of Guangzhou. When we stepped out of the subway station, we were pleasantly greeted by a street dotted with red lanterns.

IMG_5223
Beautiful red lanterns adorning a street in Guangzhou. Photo: Tang Choy.

Before exploring any further, we tracked down a place to eat. Kim said she had always wanted to try Tiger Prawn Vietnamese Restaurant, but there was always a long lineup. We approached the restaurant and to our luck, we were seated quickly. After eating Chinese food for over a week, I was eager to try the restaurant’s pho. The ingredients were fresh, and we left Tiger Prawn feeling full.

IMG_5274
Mmm… A warm bowl of pho at Tiger Prawn Vietnamese Restaurant in Guangzhou. Photo: Tang Choy.

We passed interesting eateries and retail buildings, as Kim led us to Beijing Lu – a popular pedestrian street in Guangzhou. More red lanterns hung gracefully from the trees along Beijing road, and we spent a good 10-15 minutes trying to capture the magic on our camera phones.

IMG_5345
My sister, Angie, and I in front of a retail building in Guangzhou – loved the lights! Photo: Tang Choy.
IMG_5364
The famous red lanterns lining Beijing Lu in Guangzhou. Photo: Tang Choy.

Kim wanted us to try one last “speciality” along Beijing Lu, and we found ourselves in front of a mango drink stall. Both Kim and my sister, Angie, put in an order and I looked in wonder as they turned around with mango drinks that were larger than their faces. The smoothie-like concoction was topped with cream and generous chunks of fresh mango.

Mango drinks
Mango mania in Guangzhou. Kim and Angie with their massive mango drinks! Photo: Tang Choy.

After a packed day of travel, we were ready to retire for the day. We found our way back to the train station, and headed back to our hotel to rest.

What’s your most memorable sightseeing location? Why would you go back for a visit?

Read more about the Choy family’s travel adventures: Adventure Awaits in Southern Guangdong Province.

There’s No Place Like Home: Touring Taishan

Although my parents grew up in small villages on the outskirts of Taishan, they were very familiar with the city. When they were kids, it was a “pretty big deal” if you made a trip to Taishan.

Source: tumblr.

As our family friend from Zhuhai drove us into Taishan, my mom pointed out the hospital that I was born in. From an early age, I was told stories about how I was born in China before immigrating to Manitoba, Canada with my mom, when I was nearly one years old. The hospital seemed calm and quiet, as we rumbled by in our van.

Our hotel was close to the river and after we settled in, we began exploring our surroundings. I was surprised by the number of palm trees that lined some of the streets to create a lush, green walkway. However, despite the awning effect created by the palm leaves, there was little reprieve from the heat as the temperature continued to hover around 29-31°C with relative humidity levels of 80%+.

taishan palm trees.png
Palm trees lining a street in Taishan. Photo: Tang Choy.

Taishan would be our “home-base” for the remainder of the trip (i.e. after embarking on day-trips, we would be coming back to the city in the evenings). My sisters and I got to know one of the main shopping areas – a vehicle-free street filled with small shops and boutiques.

taishan shopping.png
Major vehicle-free shopping street in Taishan. Photo: Tang Choy.

With a conversion rate of approximately 1:5 for the Canadian Dollar to Chinese Yuan (abbreviated as CNY, RMB or by the sign ¥), we quickly got used to “mental math and shopping.” We picked up clothing and tech items at great prices.

Source: narvii.com.

Whenever I visit another country, I make a point to check out grocery and convenience stores to get a better sense of food items that locals might purchase. Our visit to Vanguard’s and Hui Jia did not disappoint. From cucumber flavoured chips, to purple sweet potato oatmeal, and dried chicken feet, it was neat seeing the different foods beckoning local taste buds. It was also interesting to observe brands, like Quaker Oats, tailoring their flavours to a specific market.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In addition, you could buy beer at Vanguard’s for the equivalent of $0.50 CDN.

beer
Tsingtao Beer in a Chinese grocery store for 2.50 RMB – the equivalent of $0.50 CDN. Photo: Tang Choy.
Source: reactiongifs.com.

Though the window shopping alone could keep us busy for a week, a trip back to Taishan wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the villages. My last Taishan village visit was during the summer of 1995. I was young, curious, and fearless. I stayed with my uncle and his family, played with other kids in the village, and caught frogs for fun. In present day, it was bittersweet seeing many of the homes empty. Most of the former residents had abandoned the village to live in larger cities, and improve their lifestyles.

village
A village in the Taishan region. Photo: Tang Choy.

As we walked around the village, we spotted an older, shirtless man at least 100 feet away (because of the heat and humidity, it’s not uncommon to see a man with his belly exposed or without a shirt – especially in the more rural areas of China). Before we uttered a word, the man shouted, “Is that Terry?!” My dad often bragged about being known by everyone “back at home” – he was right.

village 3
My dad, Terry (far right), and his friends from a village in Taishan. Photo: Tang Choy.

My parents still refer to a partially abandoned village in China as being “back at home.” What does “home” feel like for you? How would you define it?

Read more about the Choy family’s travel adventures: The Red Lanterns of Guangzhou.

Returning to the Motherland Through Zhuhai

Bordering Macau is the Gongbei Port of Entry. After a brief taxi ride, we reached the port in Macau to go through immigration and customs. With our Canadian passports and Chinese Visas in hand, the paperwork was relatively painless and we were processed quickly.

IMG_4446
The Gongbei Port of Entry. Photo taken from Zhuhai. Photo: Tang Choy.

Once we exited the Gongbei Port, we were officially in Zhuhai in Guangdong province. Police officers kept a close watch on the sea of people entering and leaving the port, and used segways to weave their way in between the crowd.

Police on segways
Police officers monitoring the Gongbei Port with segways. Photo: Tang Choy.

It was late morning, and my parents told us that a family friend would meet us across the street from the port to take us for lunch. I soon found myself in a restaurant with plastic wrapped plates and cups.

IMG_4447
Wrapped and individualized dinnerware at restaurant in Zhuhai. Photo: Tang Choy.

To promote hygiene and sanitation, cups and plates are often rinsed with hot water or tea, before use. Although our dinnerware was wrapped, our relative, Kim, still rinsed off our plates and bowls with hot tea. As we waited for our meal to arrive, I tried to tap into the restaurant’s wifi and immediately encountered the “Great Firewall of China.” In Hong Kong and Macau, I had no trouble accessing my social media platforms and websites I commonly used in Canada (e.g. Google). Friends in Canada had forewarned me that I would lose access to popular North American apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, once I was in mainland China – and they were right.

Source: Citytv.

I watched as plates of chicken, fish, razor clam, and leafy vegetables started to land on our table. My mom commented on the tasty flavour of the chicken, and a sense of familiarity washed over me. We were back in the motherland.

IMG_4454
Lunch in Zhuhai. Photo: Tang Choy.

Read more about the Choy family’s travel adventures: There’s No Place Like Home: Touring Taishan.