Another Week, Another World-Famous City

I’m currently writing to you from the comfort of a sleeper bus. I’ve once again violated one of my “rules,” this time in the interest of covering the next 2500 kilometers in under two weeks so that I can meet one of my dearest friends in Saigon.

The luggage ladies wanted to charge me about $20 (on top of a $40 ticket) to stow my bike underneath the bus for the twelve-hour, seven hundred kilometer ride from Zhuhai to Nanning. My friend and I begged and pleaded in numerous different ways – the “your policy doens’t make sense” angle, the “I’m a poor traveler” angle, the “I’m a good guy, an environmentalist, here, look at my website” angle, the “it’s free in Korea (true), Taiwan (true, with qualifications), and other places in China (true)” angle, all to no avail. After thirty minutes of begging, I gave up and said I’d but the luggage ticket. They printed it out, stamped it, handed it to me, and then, one (the bad cop) engrossed in her dinner and another (the moderately good cop) in some computer game, neglected to take my money. I actually had it out and in my hands, definitely in their sight, but they never asked me to fork it over. Silly mistake? Intentional oversight? I don’t know, but I’m already on the bus and out of town. Maybe I’ll be able to make it out of China without another trip to the ATM…

So, I’ve been a bit busy over the last week. Here’s three days’ worth of happenings.

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After four or five days hanging around with my little group of hippie hitchhiker hosts in Shenzhen, I was ready to hti the road again and enjoy some peace and quiet. Me, some scenery, some podcasts, with stops only to sleep in random places and eat whatever new veggies I could spot. Alas, it was not to be so. Within about three hours of having set out, I met

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Achan (left) and Dongbuo (maybe that was his name), two 24 year old biker studs who were not only planning to head to Guangzhou and spend a day sightseeing, but who were also heading down to Zhuhai (my subsequent destination) the day after. Score! I kissed goodbye all my worries about navigation, housing, eating, and snacks.

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We took the free ferry together across the Pearl River, saving us from having to ride a good 50km through the infamous Dongguan factory district, where many an iPhone assembler has attempted to jump to his death.

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These guys practice the “constant snacking” method of riding. We met just after lunch and stopped at made at least 4 stops before dinner: sugar cane, powerade, red bull, and ice cream. I don’t count it as breaking my “no trash” rule if other people buy before giving me a chance to at least throw in my two cents. These guys pretty quickly caught on to my distaste for plastic. I don’t think it made them rethink any of their purchases, but at the very least I played my part.

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If you guessed that the tollgate says “Welcome to Guangzhou,” you’d be wrong. It says “Eat in Guangzhou!”

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A little night sightseeing: Canton Tower.

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The next morning, we met up with Janvi. I had actually originally arranged to surf his couch, but I wound up mooching off Achan and Dongbuo the night before (in the nicest hotel I’ve been in in China, at about $40 a night). Luckily Janvi’s feeling weren’t hurt when I suggested we just meet up the follownig day to wander the city together. He turned out to be an awesome tour guide.

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He took us to the old quarter, where all the houses were triple-doored. The middle door with all the rods served to let the breeze in while keeping the robbers out.

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And to the old market, with its assortment of oddities – “frogs” (I’m pretty sure they’re squirrles) on sticks, bronze shops, and “giant salamanders.”

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The Lunar New Year throngs are still out and about.

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Why I can never get garbage out of my mind.

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A bus ride out to the countryside…

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I had been bracing myself for a pretty crap time in the big city. Crowded subways, noisy vendors, pushy persons, smoggy skies. Instead, Janvi led us on a pleasant little meander around this forgotten part of the city. Janvi’s working on a project – he made me promise I wouldn’t say what it is, but I think I’d be allowed to say that the preparation for it requirse him to spend a lot of time exploring the city, finding all of these wonderful little crannies.


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Sitting around drinking soy milk and chatting. This is shortly before Janvi learned that I’ve lived in India, so he asked me the inevitable: do they really wipe with their hands there? My answer: they do indeed. So did I. Actually…I still do. I bet that was a fact that about me that you all would be happy not to have to know. Let me say in my own defense: I wash thoroughly afterwards. After you’ve done it three or four times, it stops being gross. I mean, mommies and daddies get used to getting up close and personal with their children’s faeces, right? Really, give it a shot. I’ll bet you ten RMB that before long you’ll prefer it.

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To the abandoned railroad tracks, over a hundred years old.

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Don’t ask.

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Then for a night hike.

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Lights on a Banyan Tree

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Coincidentally, this is also about what it looks like when I take off my glasses.
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I was planning to keep writing, but composing on the bus is making me a bit nauseus, so I think I’ll call it a night. One more giant THANK YOU to Janvi, Achan, and Dongbuo – for buying me snacks, meals, drinks, and hotels, of course, but also for the hanging out, the guided tour, the wandering around, and, not least of all, for not running away after hearing my dirty little secret.

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2 Responses to Another Week, Another World-Famous City

  1. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!