Hong Kong-Guangzhou (Canton)
The flight ticket from Hong Kong to Canton. Unbelievable? Believe it!
What luck! The travel agency had one ticket left for the charter trip to China.
All the papers and visas were ready within one and a half days. The 17th at seven
o’clock in the morning, I was at Hong Kong airport for checking in and weighing
(of my baggage!).
The flight to Canton took only 35 minutes. We were given fans, chocolate and paper
figures onboard the plane. So, one finally sets one’s size 43s on the red soil of China.
Our guide was already waiting for us on the landing strip and helped us with papers etc.
We didn’t have to struggle with the heavy cases either, they were taken directly
to the hotel and we were told that we were going to travel to Fosan, about 30km
outside Canton. Fosan is one of the four eldest towns in China.
The bus trip to Foshan. So many impressions that flickered past my window.
The town, the traffic, the houses, the people, clothes, cars and bicycles.
Yes, bicycles – you couldn’t miss seeing them! Masses of them! Everywhere!
Broad avenues, narrow alleys, worn-out streets and roads, modern tower blocks,
slum areas, stately palaces, Western clothing and standard dress with wide
trousers and over-shirts. Fertile landscape, very, very beautiful. Cheerful
people working in the rice fields. Water buffalos grazing. A bus driver who
hooted as soon as he saw a movement in the corner of his eye. It’s difficult
to put down all the impressions on paper.
Foshan is famous for its pottery, textile, medicine and iron casting.
It also known to be the home of several well known martial art masters,
including the late Bruce Lee's martial art master - Yip Man.
Well, at last we arrived to Foshan. (It took an hour to drive the 30 km).
We stepped out of the bus and were shown to a reception room in an old temple.
Short history lecture, tea served, lots of tea, good tea, tea for two. Tour of
the temple. Magnificient. Tour finished in the shop. "If anyone would like to
buy something - and don't worry, we have a money exchange here." said the guide.
Talk about sales tactics! When everyone had bought everything they wanted we went
on to a ceramics factory.
First the reception room, history and tea, even more tea. I sloshed when I walked.
Amazingly skillful artists at work in the factory. Beautiful figurines, landscapes
and animals were produced as a more or less continuous process. There was a shop here
also - with a money exchange. Then we were off again, this time to the reception room
of a silk mill. Tea AGAIN! One more cup and it would have started to run out of my ears.
Fantastic silk material with magnificent patterns. Cheap too, because there was a shop
here of course and - believe it or not - a money exchange.
So we set off again for Canton and the Pai Yun Hotel. A 32 storey modern hotel.
Reasonable standard. Pleasant rooms. Here we had a few hours rest before dinner.
The bus took us to one of Cantons best restaurants, Kwang-Chow on South Wen Chang
Road no 2. We were shown to a table on the third floor. On the lowest floor the
"ordinary" people sat. On the second floor those who have risen a little higher in
status and on the top floor sit tourists and the "upper classes".
What a meal! First a tasty soap with lots of goodies in, after that came one dish
after the other until we had, in the end, eaten 12 different dishes. Sweet and sour
park, Peking duck, prawns, vegetables, shredded beef, rice and so on and so on.
With it we drank Chinese beer, cool and refreshing and Chinese red and white wine.
An experience. Glasses like our schnapps glasses. Small ones. The white wine a bit
like schnapps and was at least as strong, greenish-yellow in color. The red wine a
bit like port wine. Unfortunately we also had to taste Chinese schnapps. We all
agreed that they must have poured out kerosene or petrol by mistake. Filled up -
absolutely - and content we set off for the hotel through the dark town. One or two
glimpses of light from windows or doors or from the parking light of cars. There were
no street lights, they cannot afford it and cars are not allowed to have more than
parking lights in the town.
The next day started with a misfortune. I managed to take two spoons of salt in my
tea and that is not nice - guaranteed! Now we took the bus to a people’s community.
Dali is the name and it is 10 km outside of Canton.
Guess what we had to start with? Yes, welcome room and tea. The community has
70,000 inhabitants and 3930 hectars. Rice is the most important product.
Forest products, animals, fish is also on the program. The community also has a
baby house, hospital, pre-school, school, market place and a number of villages.
In order to water the fields a three km long aqueduct has been built. We went to
have a look at the aqueduct and also saw it from a viewing point.
The red earth is very visible. After that we went to the hospital with dentist
and of course acupuncture department. When the guide asked if someone wanted to try,
I volunteered. Unfortunately there were no needles for a quick stop smoking. From
the hospital we went to a village and visited a family, where we got tea (!). Mao
and Hua on the wall. With help from the guide, the wife told us about the daily
life in the village and the community.
A common living hall setup for most of the older Chinese homes.
The market was the next stop. There everything was sold. Dried fish, smoking pins,
meat, bread, fruit, spare parts, mills, clothes, rugs, ice cream (very nice), fortune
card, bricks, bicycles, and a number of other more or less useful items.
The Market Place.
The lunch we had in the community hall. Even here we were served 12 dishes.
As fantastic as the dinner yesterday. Now we had learned to eat in a more planned way,
we were eating and drinking and enjoyed ourselves.
In order for us to have some exercise after that lunch, the guide took us to a big park
in Canton. There we had a nice two hour walk. We just walked around and looked at the people.
In China they have different rest days for different areas of the towns. Each area has its
day off. It is always full of life everywhere and business. After the visit to the park,
I took a time off the guided tour, with the permission of the guide. I just walked around
by myself. Just looked and was looked at! Bought some small things and had a few nice cool
bears in a cafe. Everyone looks happy. They are helpful, the biggest difficulty is the language.
There is a big shop in Canton, Friendship Store, with everything Chinese a tourist could wish.
Silk clothes, ivory, gold, jade, necklaces and so on. That shop also got a visit.
One of the receipt issued during the trip, can't recall what is it for though.
Renminbi - 10 cents note.
Last day. Visit to Canton Zoo to see the famous panda. It was in a dark little cage,
so we were all disappointed. Everywhere we went in the Zoo, we were a bigger attraction
then the animals. So we carried on to admire an old palace. It was being renovated both
in the house and garden. The garden (a park) was used by a platoon of soldiers as an
exercise ground. Here we saw why unemployment was low in China. People were employed
to go around and scrub the curbs of the streets with scrubbing brushes and water.
Scrubing the Curbs of the Streets.
The next stop was the railway station. We were going to travel by luxury train back to
Hong Kong. Passport control and customs were passed quickly. Those who wanted one got a
stamp in their passports.
A New Stamp for the Passport.
The carriages were equipped with TV, air conditioning and white curtains at the windows.
Jasmine tea was served. For those who wanted to eat there was a restaurant carriage with
good Chinese food. The journey took three hours at comfortable speed through a very
beautiful countryside. So the journey was made, through a lucky break, a very interesting
journey to a country which has not been open for tourists for a long time.
I hope one day to be able to make a longer trip to China and see Peking and Shanghai.
(Note: Between August 1994 and December 1999, I lived in Beijing and had the opportunity
to see Canton and Hong Kong again. I also visited Shanghai and other towns a total of 55
visits to China and Hong Kong)