The best days are those in which the unexpected comes crashing in to bring you fun in a way that often does not happen when fun is held as an expectation. Today was one of those days. So, first of all, I am totally in love with Google Earth. I have been obsessively perusing the districts of Guangzhou via satellite imagery for the past week as rain has kept me indoors. So today, we headed out to a far out spot on one of the metro lines with the only intent being to be outside of the city and for me to judge photo opportunities for future shoots. However, as we left the metro station, what did we see? A big sign saying Guangzhou Crocodile Park with a big arrow pointing to our right. Well, I had read about this park and but there seemed no easy way to get there so was planning on letting it pass. However, upon the seeing the sign, it was instant excitement!!! I love reptiles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amphibians are excellent as well. So off we trudged down a very, very, very long road until we reached the park. I personally had a blast though it was pretty cold and the rain did start up again.
So the pictures below are from a very un-China-like place that I went to last week called Redtory. This area used to be a canning factory but it has been renovated into a complex full of art galleries, design studios, little cafés, and other arts related businesses. It is very quiet and feels like a haven from the busy sounds of the city, I felt a peace I had not felt in a while walking around for the hour that I was there. Other than that life has been pretty quiet here, the weather has been mostly rainy for the past week. Christoph and I have a park we have been trying to get to for days now. Everytime the sky lightens, we bundle up and head on out but inevitably before we hit the bridge we need to cross to enter the park, the sky opens up and we resignedly do a 180. However, we tend to stop at the 7-eleven and pick up Kinder Buenos (yummy German chocolate bar with hazelnut in the center) so I cannot really complain. The town is pretty quiet this week as it was Chinese New Year on the 23rd and many Chinese return home to their families for the week.
So let me tell you about the experience of driving/riding in a car in China. For those who know the scene from Finding Nemo where all the seagulls dive for the fish screaming "Mine" repeatedly....well, actually it is rather akin to that. Its like everyone screaming me first and driving their cars into the melee, cars just converge on eachother into within a distance of maybe an inch or less....lanes are just created or you just go in the lane of the opposite direction if you are in a hurry. The horn is ever present, it even kind of sounds like Me! Me! Me! Me! Me! Me! To make it even more interesting, if you look in the photos below, you will see lots of small, decrepit looking bits of scrap metal posing as transportation vehicles....and yes, these are on the road too and there is no concept of the slow lane so there is a constant interweaving, sessions of honking, and sometimes even going over to the median to go around. Whats even more fun is they often like to turn left when cars are coming at them straight on, traffic lights are more suggestions to stop rather than indicating a rule to stop it would seem. Then throw all the mopeds, wandering dogs and disobeying pedestrians into the mix and oh man, we are talking some fun here! The horn is also used incessantly because they are not big fans of driving between the lines so the horn has the added meaning of "I am here don't squish me!" so pretty much there honking when passing most cars as well. The interesting thing, and the rather nice thing is that it is not taken personally. No one flips the finger or screams or rages; nobody takes offense at it, which is rather nice. It is not meant to insult the other persons driving it is just each person is trying to get what they want and the horn is the form of communication they use. I kind of appreciate that because I get rather tired of using the horn in appropriate situations, like hey the light turned green please stop texting (and getting flipped off and then them staying there even longer) or hey please don't come in my lane because I am here, and again getting this reaction like I am jerk for using my horn. Here there is no power struggle acted out in the context of driving. It is crazy, nobody follows the rules, it is intense yet there are not the accidents we have in the sSates where everything has been made so easy that no one thinks about what they are doing or appreciates the damage they could do with their inattention.
So Christoph had a business trip this past week up further north outside of the Chinese city of Hangzhou. Now, most of you have probably not heard of Hangzhou; however it has a population equal that of New York so it is no provincial backwater. We decided to go a day early and could have gone to Shanghai but upon some research, I decided upon visiting the West Lake area in Hangzhou instead. Apparently there are around 36 West Lakes in China but the one in Hangzhou is considered the most beautiful. So we hopped on a plane in the beautifully modern airport in Guangzhou and without much fuss but a lot of stares, we made our way to the Orange Hotel on the western side of the lake. In Guangzhou the weather is very mild, most days since I have been here, the temperature has been somewhere in the 70F range; however Hangzhou was definitely in the throes of winter. We arrived, made acquaintance with Alice (see photo),bundled up and headed out to walk the lake. I actually enjoyed having a wintery gray day, the wind was blowing across the lake and it was dark and gloomy. It is apparently a popular destination because Chinese tourists were out in hordes as well. It was nice to be out of the city and just walk among tree-lined paths and over small stone arch bridges. We ended up at the oldest restaurant in Hangzhou on the east side of the lake and had a decent dinner where once again I showed my highly developed choptstick wielding powers(not!!!!). So that was just Tuesday and there is so much to say about the rest of the week but that will be in some forthcoming posts.
As I stuck my finger into a small bowl full of water wondering if the plants were real, it was to my great surprise that there was an actual occupant somewhat disgruntled by my casual finger dip. I apologized and Alice (yes there was a name and even a note welcoming us) seemed to accept our appearance with rather apathetic resignation.