Although we set an alarm for 09:00 it was still after 10:30 by the time we got out of the hotel, after a breakfast of coconut tarts that tasted unpleasantly of coconut oil rather than coconut. A few stops along metro Line 1 took us to Huangsha where we found an overpass over to the island of Shamian, Guangzhou’s historical foreign concession.
Walking down the central tree-lined avenue that bisects the island we could almost have been in Paris, and it was so peaceful that we could actually hear the birds. Whimsical bronze sculptures punctuated the flower beds. Several brides and grooms were having their photos taken, even though it was cold and drizzly – I felt rather sorry for them although it was obviously not their wedding day, just a staged photo shoot.
In a park by the wide grey river were groups of people playing jianzi, a game where you pass a shuttlecock around using only your feet, trying to avoid it hitting the ground. Old women sat around playing cards. Further along the riverbank a guy was fishing in the murky water with a net on a long pole – I was a bit surprised to see several fish in his bucket, some quite large, along with 3 terrapins.
At the eastern end of the island we turned and walked back to the metro along the northern shore to the metro station. There were several restaurants in the adjacent mall but none appealed to Mr V, who was feeling queasy and had a headache, so we took the metro back to Ximenkou.
The little shop in the metro station had out of sandwiches so we headed for Pizza Hut. We must have walked past Pizza Hut several times on the opposite side of the road, but it was only now that we realised that there was a Tesco right next door to it – it just wasn’t obvious that it was Tesco. So Google was almost right after all.
We bought some custard tarts and savoury pastries, then found a counter selling spring onion pancakes so bought some of those too. The pancakes and custard tarts were good but the pastries were unpleasant – sweet but salty at the same time, and I think they contained meat floss.
After a snooze we took the metro to Tonghe to meet a friend. The journey only took 40 mins so we had time to have a look around the mall before meeting Dave. There was an amazing supermarket in the basement which had open bins of all sorts of grains, pulses and dried things – it was clearly aimed at an exclusively Chinese clientèle with only those western goods that the Chinese seem to eat now, such as yoghurt, coffee, cereals and biscuits.
There were several restaurants in the mall and we picked one more or less at random – there was no menu in English, so we ordered dishes based on pictures and prices. Mr V chose prawns, and Dave ordered a beef dish which turned out to be very bony. My fish dish turned out to be an iron pot over a flame containing small catfish – fiddly but nice. Luckily Dave knew the Chinese for beer, which wasn’t pictured on the menu.
Meal over, we took a bus back to Dave’s apartment for another beer. We set off for home at 21:45 but by the time we changed lines at West Tiyu Road the metro was beginning to run down, and some lines had stopped. Gunangzhou residents are obviously expected to be in bed early!