Day 18 – 11/01/2011

Zhaoqing – Guangzhou

A first very slight feeling of melancholy is starting to set in – today is the last “real” stage of the Trans China Tour. Tomorrow, the 20 Audi Q3s head for their final destination in Shenzhen, then it is time to say goodbye to this land, this culture and these people. But not quite yet – first comes today with another mixed portion of China in all its many facets.

Pictures day 18

The morning starts with an off-road tour. That means delving into the rural world, along the rice paddies and through the little villages, the banana groves, the whole sub-tropical vegetation. That also means dusty roads and construction zones. Where a couple of weeks ago there were still gravel tracks, is now rapidly being covered in concrete – many sections of the new road are already finished.

For now, rural development in China means the constant building of infrastructure and transportation routes. But this morning shows once again that it will take a lot of hard work for rural development to even begin to keep up with the dynamism of the cities. What is there to keep young people here in the country? For most, fleeing to the cities is their one hope of a personal future. China and its high-speed leap into the future is, in an unbelievable number of ways, an experiment. We can only hope that the end result is a good one…

But the second side of China draws closer with every kilometer. The route takes us past Foshan, a prefecture that is already home to eight million people. The increasing number of factories along the way makes it very clear that we are approaching one of the country’s industrial heartlands. The expansive settlements along the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang) have grown ever closer together in recent years to create one giant metropolis. The booming special economic zones of Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) and Zhuhai (near Macao), as well as the multi-million cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan and Foshan make Guangdong Province one of the most important economic areas in China – and therefore the world.

Video day 18

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Guangzhou, which is still known as Canton in Europe, is the endpoint of today’s stage. The population in 2010 was well over ten million, making Guangzhou China’s third-largest city. High-rise tower blocks, multi-storey roads, multi-lane intersections, advertising for luxury brands – here they all are again.

One omni-present issue in China is the food. Cantonese cuisine is the most well-known type of Chinese cooking in the western world, and here at home is considered the most sophisticated domestic cuisine. Alongside chicken, pork, beef, goose, fish and seafood, standard fare also includes a wide range of exotic ingredients, including some that might take a little getting used to for western palettes, like insects, snakes, frogs and turtles. In contrast to the dishes from other provinces, Cantonese cuisine uses little in the way of spices to allow the natural flavor of the meat and vegetables to come to the fore.

One special feature of southern cuisine is the little appetizers known as dim sum, which are served until late afternoon in little bamboo baskets with classic Chinese tea. They are often small pockets of dough filled with all kinds of ingredients ranging from meat, to seafood, to egg, to all manner of sweet fillings. All these tasty treats offer the perfect way to help deal with the looming pain of saying farewell…

Day 18

Day 1