Day 12 – 10/26/2011

Guangzhou – Zhaoqing

China is changing at a rapid rate. Where yesterday there was an off-road track, construction machinery is now hard at work. And yet there are plenty of places where time appears to stand still. Like at the weekly market in the countryside. Or a hotel that, although new, still breathes the spirit of an age gone by – at least for us Westerners. The tenth stage of the Audi Q3 Trans China Tour once again shows a few new facets of this enormous country.

Pictures day 12

On the advance tour, during which the driving routes were found, this was still a long dust track winding through a picturesque landscape of rolling hills. That was a couple of weeks ago. Today, it is a concrete road, with parts completely drivable and parts still under construction. Driving through here demands the utmost attentiveness, because the steel reinforcing rods sticking out of the ground threaten the tires of the Audi Q3 like the sword of a Shaolin Warrior. Continuous development of the infrastructure in China means not only the construction of highways and massive bridges, but also improved access to the villages between the rice paddies.

Here in the rural areas outside the major city of Foshan in southern China is where we find the traditional side of this land – with a concentrated dose administered with every visit to a market. Partially in the open and partially under cover, you can find all the ingredients of a Chinese meal here. It starts harmlessly enough with rice and spices, runs through a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables (enormous, very good mandarins grow here) to all kinds of fish and seafood, and ends will every sort of meat imaginable from poultry to frogs. A lot of it is very fresh, still moving in fact; some could possibly be kind of fresh and some is most definitely not. The closed cool chain or hygiene regulations of the EU are as far removed from this market as e-mail is from the stone tablet. Even if we Westerners shudder to see this – we don’t have to look that far back to find these images in our own history.

Video day 12

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In any event, the Audi Q3 is able once again to demonstrate its versatility on the very manageable 224 kilometers of today’s stage. Robustness for rough terrain complete with river fording, comfort for the already disintegrating concrete and asphalt roads, agility for the tight roads through villages and, finally, dynamics for the stretches of top-quality concrete through the hilly landscape.

When it comes to dynamics, however, Audi’s compact SUV is topped by another of today’s highlights – the display delivered by a Kung Fu troop is impressive in its precision and absolute control of movement, and all the way through a loud and colorful spectacle. The glittering lion figures occupied by two people are a feature of every Chinese New Year parade, but are moved here with a great deal of artistic skill.

This afternoon, the participants in the Audi Q3 Trans China Tour 2011 reach the destination for today’s stage on the West River (Xi Jiang). The luxurious OYC Hotel stands on the bank of the Xiannu Lake, part of a picturesque lake landscape. An ensemble of graceful limestone hills opposite the hotel are known as the “Seven Star Crags” (Qixing Yan). This and the nature conservation area of Dinghu Shan around 20 kilometers farther north are popular vacation destinations for Chinese families.

The real show, however, is the hotel itself. An impressive building that seems to date from the height of communist architectural opulence - with a lobby the size of a concert hall, a jungle garden restaurant and a huge aquarium in the restrooms. Although it is just a few years old, this hotel seems to be from another era. The German guests in particular have something of a problem with this architecture. The local guests, on the other hand, find it wonderful – it, too, represents China’s might.

Day 12

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