Sunday, 29 April 2012

Guangzhou – Too little time

There is really not too much I can write about Guangzhou, as we were there for only 2 nights, and only spent one full day wandering the streets of this Megacity.
It would be a disservice to say that Guangzhou was just another Hong Kong. It isn’t. They really are totally different in many ways, but being so close to each other as cross border neighbours they do have many similarities.

Yes the inhabitants do speak the same language, though the accents I am told are a little different, plus they both have different terminology and slang. Their obvious passion and obsession for food is very much alike, the cuisine is similar although Hong Kong has some strange bits of fusion going on there. The climate is the same, so the lifestyle is very similar as well.

But where as Hong Kong is tightly compacted city, Guangzhou has so much more space and you feel less claustrophobic here. It’s really what Hong Kong lacks to make it so much better, but the crowded streets do make Hong Kong what it is.

The original time we were going to spend in Guangzhou got whittled down as we were planning this trip, that by the end it merely ended being a stopover before our flight home.
We would have preferred to have stayed somewhere more central, but when someone offers you a 5 star hotel for free, no matter where it is you do not say no.
My China ground handler at the time got us into the Shangri La, which is located out by the convention and exhibition centers in the Hai Zhu District.
The hotel itself I cannot fault, I’ve stayed in many Shangri La’s and considering this is a business orientated hotel, it ranks up there with the best of them.
As we had breakfast included we stocked up for the day. The Shangri La and their buffet breakfast. They really are the best in the world.
You can have anything from a Western to general Asian to Japanese and some good Chinese delicacies. Needless to say we gorged ourselves and were in no mood to eat for the rest of the day whilst we were out. Which was a shame, as Gungzhou has some fine fine eateries to indulge in. But alas we were not to try any. Shame.

I know this is quite sad, but whenever we stay in a good hotel, and I’m talking 4 or 5 star we always seem to order the hotel hamburger, fries and some beers to eat in our room.
Yes it’s pretty sad, but we’ve been doing it for years now and well it’s a kind of a tradition so we cannot stop.
The Shangri La Guangzhou burger was one of the finest we’ve had so far. The fries were nice and crispy and the cheeseburger was very well cooked, still juicy and well seasoned.
It wasn’t the best, that still belongs to the burger we had at the Excelsior in Hong Kong, mainly because the management also sent up a complimentary bottle of wine, plus we got a room upgrade as well, so sipping wine, eating a fine burger and looking over at Victoria Harbour is hard to beat.
The worst by far, was a sad piece of meat and bread I had at the Sheraton Hotel in Cairo. I’m sure the whole thing was a microwave job. It was so bad I had one or two bites and left the rest outside on the tray for room service to take away. Sad.
We also ate in the Summer Palace, the group’s signature Chinese restaurant. To be honest this was back in early October and I really cannot remember what we ate. But what I do remember that it was the best food I have ever eaten either in China or in a Chinese restaurant anywhere in the world.

Through recommendations from our waitress we nourished our souls on some fine Cantonese dishes.
With every bite we were in awe at the sheer quality of the cooking and the taste of the food we were eating. It was truly a great meal. If this restaurant were in Europe it would easily be deserving of a Michelin star. I’m still kicking myself for not having my camera with me at the time or making any notes on what we ate, but sometimes it’s best just to enjoy the meal for what it is and we did.

For what we saw of Guangzhou we liked. It is not what we were expecting. On the one hand it is a fast modern Megacity, and on the other there are parts that are probably how they were many years ago.

The local Government has done a good job I feel in keeping the old and the new in harmony, although I am sure there are plenty of people who do not feel the same way. But as I said I only saw a few places for a couple of days, so my eyes are glossed over shall we say.

There are still covered walkways in front of shops, which you can find in Hong Kong, but not too much. It reminded me a little of wandering around in Georgetown in Penang. 

Those old Chinese shop fronts really do make that city. It’s a shame that as cities progress these old historic buildings are laid to waste in favour of modern malls.
We did pop into a mall or two just to see if we might pick up a few things, but to be honest the shopping is not that good, it’s much better in Hong Kong. But the world is so close these days that a lot of the brands are available everywhere.

This was a really great trip and one that had been put off for far too long. I mean 7 years is a long time not to return to a great country that we love so much. I’m hoping the next trip to China will be a in a year or two. I’m already eyeing a return visit to Yunnan and/or Sichuan provinces and most certainly Guangzhou. 


Mr Noodles said...

Guangzhou - the city of my forefathers! The food scene is brilliant in Guangzhou, and it's a shame you didn't check out more of its many delights. You can easily lose an afternoon strolling down a street on a food crawl!

On your comments on the 'shophouse' covered walkways, these were first introduced in southern China before spreading out with Chinese settlers to the then British colonies in what is now Malaysia. Although some shophouses remain in Guangzhou, many were sadly destroyed in the name of development.

Mzungu said...

Mr N - I know I wish we had more time, but next time, as from what we saw we liked a lot.
I never knew the covered walkways came from Southern China. It is a shame there are s few left, but hopefully the local Government will keep what's left as a monument to a glorious past.