Day Fifteen – Friday, July 7
Guangzhou lets go!! Today we are headed off early to Guangzhou, a major city near Zhuhai. Guangzhou is one of China’s largest cities and has lots of international trade and connections with the West. I am excited for our action packed 36 hours there!
After a long and sleepy bus ride (ok, it was only 2 hours), we arrived at the United States Consulate in Guangzhou. A consulate is a branch of the United States Embassy that presides over the neighboring provinces. At the consulate, we met with William Couch, a public affairs officer, who welcomed us to China. He gave us a brief run down of his job at the consulate (he mainly works with exchanges between the United States and China in the area) and then opened up the floor to questions. I remember asking what the difference between the consulates and embassy were – the embassy deals with DC more and the consulates deal directly with the people. Other questions were how has the job changed since the new administration (only the visa section has experienced immediate consequences) and why did you want this job. His answer to the latter was very interesting – Mr. Couch began his career as a high school history teacher and looked into the state department because of a question one of his students asked. From there, he decided he wanted to learn Chinese! This was a really cool visit, as it was exclusive to government run exchanges (most people will never get to go and talk to someone high up in the ranks at a foreign consulate!)
From here, we were on to a beautiful dim sum lunch at PanXi restaurant. The atmosphere of the restaurant was incredible – there were numerous courtyards and koi ponds and the tables were all spread out. This was definitely not your typical restaurant. The food we got was very good, however, it was all kind of bland because our coordinators who preordered for us had to take into consideration what everyone on the trip would eat (I am definitely one of the most adventurous eaters). But the incredible views from our seats more than made up for the not incredibly exciting food!
Next up were two museums – the 13 Hongs museum and an old preserved house. The 13 Hongs were the 13 major trading groups during early Chinese history – all of them operated through Guangzhou. Many of the goods recovered from their trading endeavors were beautifully preserved in the museum… I couldn’t get over how meticulously crafted most of the goods were. Personally, I believe the ivory fans (I know ivory is bad but it is so beautiful!) were the most interesting and intricate pieces.
After this museum, we bussed over a couple blocks to an old preserved house. I didn’t find this as interesting – the architecture of ancient China is impressive but nothing really touched me here. However, after walking through the house on a guided tour (we had two amazing guides for all of our Guangzhou trip, Mr. Li and Susie) we were able to explore the cool streets around the area. I got some incredible fried xiao long bao (soup dumplings) from a street vendor! I also enjoyed viewing the many knick-knacks street stores had.
Last up for the day, we all took a beautiful cruise along the Pearl River at night. While the water is very gross and polluted, the sights of the city were impeccable. The skyline was completely lit up, and we had a clear view of the famous Guangzhou tower. This tower lights up in different colors and changes often – much like big buildings in Times Square. Viewing this skyline, I honestly felt like I was back in a huge American metropolis… this was probably my favorite single event we’ve done here so far!