TRAVEL : CULTURE
IMD's INSIDE CHINA:
The Middle Kingdom Blog
Tip #1: any place in China that offers hamburgers and is not high-end nor a McDonalds will probably wind up delivering you a strange ketchup-infused synthetic patty made of rump meat (or something else you don't want to think about) to your disappointment. Go ahead, try it! Find out the hard way like I did.
In general, even most chicken patty sandwiches are going to be dark meat instead of white to a large degree. Even more than the West, the Chinese have no problem making the most of every animal. That's good in many ways, of course, but buyer beware (or just get used to it). Face it, you were spoiled before in the west with all that ground angus and white meat only hand-breaded chicken strips mom prepared for you while you were down there gaming in the basement. I guess the lesson is: forget your old comfort food ways and try a bowl of Chinese noodles instead. They warm the cockles too. (Or just eat less beef alltogether-- it's good for the planet).
不要. The first words you can't do without in China? Bu (no) 不 Yao (want) 要. Why? because everywhere you go someone will be trying to sell you something. For example, outside the subway stations men running their erstwhile private motorbike taxi services wait smoking cigarettes and hoping that someone needs a short ride somewhere. Just tell them "bu yao" and continue walking on through the cloud of smoke. After all, if you had money to burn you wouldn't be taking the subway in the first place! Well, there is one reason why you might anyway even if you have the cash: the traffic is brutal. (See below).
One traveller's tip is to get used to using WeChat and DiDi all around town. Wechat is their ApplePay and their SMS and their Facebook all wrapped up into one. It takes some work, but once your phone is linked to your bank account you can just wave your phone all over the place and have your bank account debited automatically. It's the future here, by god! And not only because they are about 15 hours ahead of the USA in terms of the international date line. Soon you won't even need to flash a phone, it'll be face recognition!
Once you got your Wechat going you can use their UBER-like service called DiDi and travel through the city on four wheels at a cost cheaper than most taxis. Just be prepared for crazy traffic (or take the subway to avoid it) and even crazier drivers.
Daily Chingrish: I saw a guy wearing shoes branded "Camel" and they had the cigarette logo cartoon character stitched into each tongue. Well, if a prog rock band can appropriate it, why not a shoemaker?
I rode the subway into the center of Guangzhou city today to check out the sights. The train carriage was clean and new and empty to start, but by the time I got on Line 5 it was packed with what seemed like the entire mass of humanity (as you might expect). Since mass is simply a form of energy, it was a little hot and humid from all those bodies but the train had decent AC (which is a blessing in this humid city). No one spits on the floor anymore either, which is a bonus. Most people watch movies on their phones as they go, so it can get noisy. Just pop in your own headphones and enjoy the ride.
Anyway, so far as I can tell, most of my decisions about where and when to go somewhere will involve deciding how much AC is available on the way, lol.
The Pearl river cuts Guangzhou in two right through the heart of the new downtown development area, also known as the ZhuJiang New Town or the Tiyu XiLu area. On the south shore sits their new symbol of international recognition, the colorfully lit Canton Tower. On the north shore is the clean new tourist district which includes a lovely park and underground shopping mall called Mall of the World which has all of the international types of food foreign cats crave. There is also a wonderful library and the GuangZhou Museum (more on that later).
I was on my way to find Canton Place, a relatively new residential area that includes a Tesla store and a German brewpub called 1920. It made the news recently for the claim that the Cubans have been sound-waving its denizens, so I went to see if I couldn't get permanent brain damage on my second day in China. Just to start things off right. I also hoped to maybe run into some foreigners so that I could begin ingratiating myself into the expat community and perhaps ask some questions from the locals.
On the walk over along LinJiang DaDao (the road that goes along the north shore of the river and which has numerous western chain hotels along the way) I suddenly came across a bit of old China, the kind they say has often been scrubbed away in the rush of development: a park area with old pagoda style architechture and red lanterns lining a river channel. I believe it was called ZhuJiang Park.
For a moment I was surprised that I had forgotten how it had all once looked. This was something I'd seen everywhere in Beijing when I was there in 1994: little grey houses with tile roofs and inside a dusty floor with someone working on bicycle parts or firing a wok next to a table piled high with long leaf cabbage. Yet these days such a sight of the old style of architecture is a rare beast to come across, I guess. It made me a little nostalgic for the charm of those times, now gone forever perhaps.
Daily Chingrish: Most common t-shirt seen so far: that ubiquitous Lincoln Park number. (For some reason, their record label got them over very early in China --if I recall correctly from my visit to Beijing in 2003-- and they've never flagged in popularity since).
Note that most of the time, the letter Z in Chinese is pronounced like a J. Thus, Zhu will sound more like "jew" rather than Zoo. Thus, the district above we discussed is basically called "Jew Gee-ahng City". The good news is that on the subways they announce most things in both Chinese and English.
Note that every single time you come to China, no matter how worldly you might appear, the average Chinese person will still remark in wonder that you know how to use chopsticks (aka kwai- zi). It's inevitable!
Who would win: Zhujiang Park vs Linkin Park?
Kevin J Salveson is the founder of Ideas Million Dollar.