Thursday, February 4, 2010

To Canton (Guangzhou) - 1/21/10

It is interesting how other countries adopt the "green rules" before America does. For instance Hong Kong and Ireland are already charging for plastic bags in grocery stores.

Today, we were headed to Guangzhou, also known as Canton, where my parents were born and raised. Interestingly, Baltimore's Canton was named after this city. See here under "History" for more details.

The way there was nuts. There were tons of people everywhere. We took the bus to the metro and rode one stop to the HK customs border stop (lo wu). From there, we kept walking and walking from the Hong Kong exit to the China entrance. My passport pic looked so different from now that the China border lady had to get a second opinion from someone else.

Once we entered the mainland in Shenzen, we hopped on the train to Guangzhou. To my surprise, many of the fields were gone and replaced by factories. It is hard to believe that what I was seeing out there was once the path my parents used to escape the Cultural Revolution in China to freedom in Hong Kong. We passed through fields filled with banana trees where my aunt worked at the government's will.

When we arrived my mother got frustrated trying to find the area my cousin wanted to pick us up. As we exited the metro station stop, my cousin pulled up and helped us in the car. He looked the same except a tinge older.

He dropped us off at the hotel and we hung out after getting things settled with our keys. There was much catching up to do after 20 years. Shortly, his wife and daughter came and so did Uncle 3. At 78, he looked a lot older than I remember, but his mind was still sharp.

They rented a room for us at the restaurant downstairs. To get better service, they told the staff that it was the party with the foreigner. It is a shame it had to be that way. What a wonderful dinner. Keith ate a fish eye. Their kid was wild and silly. It was such a warm, wonderful welcome from all!

Afterwards, we walked around a pedestrian avenue of shops just outside the hotel. Red lanterns surrounded the area. We ended up at a shop selling Chinese clothing. It was quite crowded as the locals were getting ready for the new year. It was truly nice being here, though, this was not what I remembered at 10 years old. This city has changed quite a lot.

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