Final Thoughts: Guangzhou
Guangzhou, in all its rapid expansion and traditional ties, often feels like a city being pulled in opposite directions. It grasps old customs with one hand, while pulling in new, modern frivolities and expectations with the other.
This dichotomy electrifies the city, buzzing on the ends of fingertips counting and re-counting money behind the scenes, below the shuffling feet of locals.
Still, there are reprieves throughout the city, well-maintained spaces where tradition reigns (from the styles of dance and exercise to the tangible statues) and tranquility trumps the need for more.
– M. Ray Hall
Do or Don’t: Guangzhou
DO begin taking acidophilus before you go to China. Due to food practices and preparation, some of what you eat might affect your body differently from food in your home country. The acidophilus will decrease the likelihood of you experiencing serious bouts of food poisoning.
DON’T drink the tap water. The water in Guangzhou is contaminated due to not-so-great pollution prevention and much of it contains parasites. Drink only purified or (as a last resort) bottled water.
DON’T overpay. It is customary for merchants to tell foreigners a higher price than locals when it comes to street food or street markets. Bargaining is important, but do remember that this is their livelihood so don’t expect whatever you’re getting to be dirt-cheap either. Be aware and reasonable, not insulting.
DO research gemstones and be able to spot the differences between real and fake stones if you plan to purchase any while in Guangzhou. It’s true that you can find jade, amber, and pearls for much less than you can in Europe and the US because they’re more commonly found in Asia. However, beware of scams such as changing out your money for a different bill or switching the jade you looked at with a fake one when they put it in the box.
DO expect to see both very wealthy and very poor people within the same area. There are those driving the newest Mercedes while there are others walking barefoot to work in rags who frequent the same establishments and belong to the same small community.
DO wander the underground markets as well as those above ground to get a real sense of the city. It has such an electric vibe in those markets that just somehow dissipates when they’re closed. It’s an amazing thing to experience in a city of fourteen million.
DO be prepared to be elbowed, jostled, and interrupted without an “excuse me” or an acknowledgement of your presence. There are so many people out and about at a given time that running into one another is a given, it’d be a cultural waste of time to apologize every second. Don’t take it personally.
DON’T be afraid to push your way to the front (when necessary). If you rely on traditional Westernized manners and queues, you may never get your food or be able to get off/on the public transportation.
DO wear appropriate attire for your activities as well as for the weather. Summers in Guangzhou are scorching, but you still need to cover your arms and knees when entering temples. Close-toed shoes are also best as the streets, especially in the markets, can be filthy.
DON’T be afraid of the language barrier. It can be challenging as many locals speak either Mandarin or Cantonese (typically not both) and some to little English, but you’ll find that many people will do the best they can with signing and pointing if you ask for help. Many areas also have second signs in English.
DO research fairs that occur while you’re in the city. There are many celebrations throughout the year, including Chinese New Year (when the city will empty as its migrant workers head home to their families) and the Canton Fair (where there will be an influx of foreigners for the international trade fair). Due to its proximity to Hong Kong the city’s often large celebrations draw in even larger crowds.
– M. Ray Hall
Travel Tips: What To Eat In Guangzhou
Herbal Tea: Pile into teahouses before 11AM for a morning cup of fresh tea. The Wang Laoji Herbal Tea is the most popular, while the Gongfu Tea is perfect for a leisurely afternoon cup. Like most teas, the Gongfu Tea has specific instructions only this one is even stricter, from the water quality to the manner in which it is poured (using a traditional tea set with the small teapot and the smaller-than-a-shot-glass cups).
Tangshui: This fruit- or vegetable-based soft drink can be served hot (boiled) or cold (frozen), and is best consumed with one of many street foods.
Snails: Served in a dozen different sauces, the slippery meat always comes in the shells. Oh, and forget the fancy forks, you get to pick it out with a toothpick. It’s delicious.
Shuang Pi Nai: Egg white, sugar, and full-fat water buffalo milk are mixed together and frozen on top of simmered milk. It’s semisolid and white when ready to eat and tastes sweet (as long as the milk is fresh). (more…)