Photo Tour: Glimpses of Guangzhou

My around-the-world ticket couldn't include Vietnam, but it could get me to Hong Kong. A creative travel agent in Hong Kong said that the cheapest way to get to Hanoi was to take a train to Guangzhou first. I could have gone just before my flight, but I decided to spend a night and day there as a sort of mini-introduction to mainland China.

I might not have chosen Guangzhou as the most, er, esthetic introduction to China. Esthetic, no... authentic, probably. I remembered my flight from Johannesburg to Hong Kong. The woman sitting next to me lived in South Africa but was from Guangzhou. When I asked her to tell me how life in China had changed, she said "so fast!" I don't know what it was like before (I'd only ever been to Hong Kong), but I felt big changes happening.

My hotel, the Bai Yun, was surrounded by high-rise buildings, shops selling designer fashions and other expensive stuff. On the street, as I took pictures, several desperate-looking people begged me for money. Opportunists in an area full of rich foreigners? I don't know. But the contrast -- there, and in my two taxi rides -- was striking. Maybe you'll see some of that in these photos.

To get a larger version of any picture, click on it; a new window should open. When you close that window, this window should still be here.

Have you been to a modern art museum and seen those paintings with a white design on a white canvas (or a black design on a black canvas)? That's what I thought of when I saw the view from my 12th-floor window at the Bai Yun Hotel. Like most of the homes and factories along the tracks on my train trip from Hong Kong, the buildings in Guangzhou were fairly dark -- by Western standards, at least. You might have to turn up the "brightness" knob on your system to see the buildings here... but the view is worth it: a great contrast, a wild jumble of businesses and high-rise housing... of concrete, plants, curtains, and people inside:
Nighttime view from Bai Yun Hotel, 12th floor
Nighttime view from Bai Yun Hotel, 12th floor

My view (above) was from the back side of the hotel (I had the standard-class room...). A walk out front, though, gave a different picture. This is one of the main streets of Guangzhou, with big-city traffic, tall buildings, and -- here, at least -- glitzy stores aimed, I'll bet, at the rich foreigners staying in the area:
Next to Bai Yun Hotel
Across from Bai Yun Hotel
Looking into mall at Guangzhou World Trade Center
Guangzhou World Trade Center towers (and moon)

The next morning, the view out my 12th-floor window isn't quite as glitzy as the almost-black nighttime view. Maybe "gray" is a better description -- though there was some color too:
Daytime view from Bai Yun Hotel, 12th floor
Daytime view from Bai Yun Hotel, 12th floor

Out front of the hotel and around it, though, it was business as usual...
From front of the Bai Yun Hotel, morning
Wealth Management Center, on street not far from Bai Yun

...with some color and fun down here, as well:
Store display
On a wall

On my taxi ride to the airport (thanks to this sign from my travel agent!), and inside the terminal, I saw some of the mundane parts of life in modern China: people riding bicycles past skyscrapers, a car repair place, and a banner for an exhibition of sanitary ware. This is a huge country, though, and I knew that my 24 hours gave me no more than a glimpse.
Get me to the plane@
On the way to the airport
Car repair, I think
Banner at the airport for sanitary ware exposition

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(These photographs are Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)

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