5. Guangzhou (广州)
19.01.2011 - 21.01.2011
After Chaozhou, I rejoined the others in Guangzhou which was a 5 hour bus away. Since they had been in Guangzhou for a few days already, Elinor and Natasha went to Foshan (a previously independent town consumed by the ravenous Guangzhou whose metro now links to it) whilst I had the day to explore on my own. I had heard mainly bad things about this southern industrial conurbation but in actual fact, it was a lot prettier and smog-free (at least when I was there!) that I had expected. We stayed on lovely Shamian Island in a hostel which was very clean but devoid of 'hostel-liness'. Felt more like an old person's home but oh well.
January the 20th
The main attraction that I had wanted to see was the impressively titled "Mausoleum of the Nanyue King" (南越王墓) which had been accidentally discovered in 1983 by workers excavating for a shopping plaza. It turned out to be the final resting place for Zhao Mo, the 2nd king of the short-lived Nanyue Kingdom which was finally overthrown by the Han in 111 BC.
The actual presentation of the archeological site was, for me, one of the best that I've seen relative to other tourist sites in China. You could actual walk down into the stone burial chamber and see close up the structure of the resting site. I couldn't help but wish that this closeness could have been achieved somehow in Xi'an. After this section, the museum continued on in a more normal fashion and showcased hundreds of intricate artifacts including Zhao Mo's burial suit made of thousands of tiny jade tiles. It was really amazing to see and learn about the symbolic importance of jade; a stone which was believed to preserve the body and make one immortal. Indeed it is no wonder that jade is still a symbolic stone for the Chinese today.
I also tried to visit the Whampoa Military Academy (黄埔军校), a place which had trained many of the military elites of both the KMT and the CCP and continues to function as a training base to this day. Alas, I got lost on the enormously extensive tube and ended up getting there at closing time after several tube journeys, a bus and then a boat to this most elusive of islands. DOH. Oh well, I consoled myself with a delicious dinner. Guangzhou may have a (unjustifiably) bad reputation in terms of the built environment but it definitely has a (justifiably) good reputation for food. If you are ever in the area, order yourself a bowl of double steamed milk (双皮奶） - you won't regret it!
January the 21st
After a day and a half in Guangzhou, Natasha and I were showing our passports to board a short 2 hour train...not to another country but to Hong Kong ("one country, two systems" and all that)!! Whoop whoop!!