Located on the Pearl River, Guangzhou boasts one of the world’s busiest ports. It is also one of the most polluted cites with air that one should not breathe. Activity (and noise) on the river is extremely interesting, but it’s best to watch it with the windows closed. Because of its proximity to Hong Kong, this city was quite “free” compared to the rest of China.
SHA MIAN ISLAND: Most visitors stay on this island. To the Chinese, the island recalls periods of foreign interference and exploitation, in particular, the forced introduction of opium into the country. In the 1850’s after the Second Opium War, the Chinese burned the warehouses. The Europeans decided not to build them again at the original locations…but instead to establish an enclave on the island of Sha Mian. The British had the concession for the western area, and the French had the eastern area. They erected magnificent mansions along the water. Today, these grand old buildings have a worn and weathered look. Chinese were not allowed on the island without permission, and all bridges were closed at night by iron gates. It remained this way until the attack on Pearl Harbor when all foreign residents were interned by the Japanese at Shanghai. On the island, is the famous WHITE SWAN HOTEL. Most visitors return home talking about how great and beautiful this hotel is. They have very little to say about Guangzhou itself.
CHEN FAMILY TEMPLE/MUSEUM: Originally this was a temple of Confucius, and then it became the PEASANT MOVEMENT INSTITUTE during the “Cultural Revolution”. It’s possible to see Mao’s office, bedroom, and student dormitories…but they will not be pointed out to you. Instead, it is now an excellent museum housing Chinese Art. The exterior of the temple is in excellent condition. Take special note of the beautiful roof and the outstanding examples of glazed ceramic animals and figures on the rooflines.
YUE XIU PARK…FIVE STORY TOWER: This is Guangzhou’s best-known park. Tourists visit the park, primarily for the Five Story Tower, which is on a hilltop in the park and is the oldest building in Guangzhou, dating from the 14th century. Today, it is a history of the Chinese People Museum. Nearby, is the famous GOAT STATUE, on another hill. This statue is now the symbol of Guangzhou.
ORCHID GARDEN: This is a pleasant, small garden, which is especially quiet even though it’s located in a noisy area. The thick bamboo, rare trees, and tropical foliage seem to filter out the hum of traffic.
SUN YAT SIN MEMORIAL HALL: The Chinese are particularly proud of this structure…supposedly because it’s dome is built without the usual type of support. It’s Guangzhou’s major concert hall…but this writer can tell you that the smell of urine was so strong during our brief visit that attending a concert would be unbearable.
PARK WHERE THE MEN BRING THEIR BIRDS EARLY IN THE MORNING: This writer stumbled on this park by accident and does not know the name of the park. It’s beside the White Swan Hotel. Each day the Chinese men bring their birds (in cages) to this park, to show them off. Birds are very important to the Chinese.