Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Day in Zhuhai

Blogger seems to have fixed the photo-uploading problems, so I can finally post about my day in Zhuhai on Monday.

The bus ride from campus took about an hour. About the first two-thirds was mostly through countryside consisting of vast stretches of farmland, although the only crop I could identify was banana trees. The fields were interspersed with ponds,many set off by a single shack with the same dark wood and thatched roof as the ones by the sea that had caught my eye on Saturday.

The outskirts of Zhuhai were one big construction zone, indicating that the already-sizeable city is expanding rapidly. I had been told that the bus went to Gongbei, the city's main shopping and tourist district, known for its markets and street food; but even with the limited knowledge I had of the city, I knew it was going in the opposite direction (I was also misinformed as to where to catch it, but some helpful students set me straight). I was going to just ride to the end of the line to see as much of the city as the route would allow; but when all the passengers other than me had departed I figured there wasn't much more to see further down the line, so I hopped off in what turned out to be a bustling section of town called Jida.

Zhuhai is so modern (20 years ago it was a small agriculturally based town, but once it was designated a Special Economic Zone it took off) that it seems much bigger than it actually is; my research tells me the population is 460,000, but it feels a lot more like Beijing or Shanghai than, say, Ling's home town of Changchun, which has a population of 7 million.

Parallel to the large street that the bus took, there were attractive smaller shopping streets like this one, with clothing shops, food stores, and other smaller merchants (as well as farmers who just plopped their wares down on the sidewalk).

Above the shops there was a second-floor fish market that took up the entire block. It reminded me just a bit of Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, only much smaller and with a far smaller variety of fish available. Still, it beats any seafood selection you'll find in the States.

The main street was taken up more with department stores like this one, which has a supermarket on the second floor (where I verified, to my relief, that they do sell ground coffee in Zhuhai) and clothing and household goods on 2 and 3 (plus a McDonald's, thankfully obscured by the palm trees on the left).

I walked along the street for about a mile, when it gained some elevation and led to a park overlooking the South China Sea. The road below, which you can barely make out through the trees, hugs the shore for a good stretch; it's Zhuhai's version of Lake Shore Drive.

The park, Haibin Park, had ponds, palms, and playgrounds, although it seemed somewhat underpopulated. On the other hand, it was a Monday afternoon; a day earlier, it was likely packed.

Thankfully, though, there were no bustups (see rule #6).

This isn't part of Haibin Park, but is some sort of private park behind a closed gate, back on the commercial part of the same street. Pretty, though.

Zhuhai has fallen victim to American fast food restaurants, although they're not nearly as pervasive as in Beijing or Shanghai. (I don't have any fear of being tempted by KFC, but I'm afraid can see myself succumbing to Pizza Hut after two months without American food, fast or otherwise.)

China also has home-grown fast-food chains. This one, which sells dishes like steamed rice with mushrooms, noodles, and soup, is called J-Kung Fu. I wouldn't mind seeing them open franchises in the States; it looked a lot tastier than Panda Express.

I'm not accustomed to acting as a tourist in a strange town without the help of a map or guidebook (Zhuhi is considered of such limited interest to Western tourists that Frommer's, Fodor's, and the like either devote just a cursory page to it, of little help, or ignore it completely). Although I sorta enjoyed wandering about aimlessly and blindly, the experience of having no idea where I was going or what I was seeing was ultimately frustrating and unsatisfactory. However, I expect that the next time I go to Zhuhai it wll be with C***o and R****i, and I figure I'll be able to lean on them for guidance—or at least to find Gongbei.


J said...

I'm surprised you found out as much about where you were/what you were seeing as you did! How in fact did you find out about the areas "Gongbei" and "Jida", and the fish market too!
The private park you saw might be a "pay to enter" public park. I know some of these exist. I was told in Shenyang that the main reason for charging is less revenue generation (although it pays for upkeep) than simply to keep it quiet/less crowded (?).
Hey, remember, Pizza Hut is a FANCY (and expensive!) kind of place in China. I ate there once in Shenyang with government officials. The pizza there was WIERD -- not really pizza. Who knows though down south.
Do you have any map(s)? Ask a student to help you find one. (They exist, but they tend to be very sketchy in terms of accuracy and information -- still, better than nothing.)

Sjaak said...

Hey Gordon;

Did some research on that restaurant. It's Bustabutt Fast Food! Love your blog