Thursday, November 15, 2007

From Mountain to Sea

It was another gorgeous day Wednesday — every day since we returned from Hong Kong last Friday has been sunny and in the 70s — so I decided to make that return visit to Jin Shan Park in Zhuhai that I've been promising myself. This time, instead of riding to the top, I walked up a long, steep series of stone steps . . .

. . . under the cable cars . . .

. . . and past the toboggan that I'd taken down the mountainside a few weeks ago.

The view from the top looking to the north was just as impressive as it had been the first time (although perhaps it paled a bit after viewing Hong Kong from Victoria Peak last weekend).

Since I was by myself this time I had a bit more time to explore the summit, and I noticed another route down, this one on the southern side of the peak, which I decided to take for variety's sake. The view wasn't quite as interesting as the one to the north, if only because the buildings were further away.

The southern descent was much longer but more gentle, althoough the unevenly spaced steps made it a bit tricky to navigate at points. A spot about halfway down afforded a good view of the summit and the toboggan tracks. As I descended I noticed several smaller paths off to the side, all paved and most with steps. It's not exactly Runyon Canyon, but for an urban climb it's not too shabby.

The trail came out on the other side of that pond with the child-devouring plastic bubbles. I crossed the street and reached Haibin Park, a pleasant but nondescript park I'd visited on my first solo trip to Zhuhai.

I cut through the park and crossed a four-lane highway to reach the South China Sea.

Nearby was the Fisher Girl statue, one of Zhuhai's most popular attractions. The pearl she's holding over her head is the symbol of the city: Zhuhai means "Pearl City," and pearls are still farmed to the north of here.

If this highway is Zhuhai's Lake Shore Drive, this must be Oak Street Beach.

It's so popular to take wedding pictures — with the bride and groom in full western garb — by the ocean that a whole section of the beach is devoted to the activity.

Just like on Lake Shore Drive, exclusive-looking high-rise apartment buildings line the road overlooking the water.

Sometimes it's hard to make sence of what I see here.

I had planned to just walk along the sea until I started to tire, then take a cab to Gongbei to catch the bus back to campus. But the stroll was so pleasant (despite the cars whizzing by) and the day so nice that I just kept going.

After a couple of kilometers I reached the Lovers Road, where the seaside path widened and a narrow parkway separated it from the busy street. (As I mentioned last month, the name was suggested by premier Li Peng after he observed the many amorous couples strolling there.)

I timed my walk well: The sun was setting just as I approached Gongbei. (The buildings to the left on the horizon are Macau; Gongbei is to the right.) I figure I must have walked 8 or 10 km, not even counting my trek up and down Jin Shan Mountain.

As I discovered last week, Gongbei is even more lively after dark (although my photographic ability is unfortunately diminished; but click on the pictures to enlarge them for more detail). I walked to the bus stop through a section I hadn't explored before — a wide back alley between two larger streets — and discovered a vast dining district with rows of restaurants, all with tables outdoors.

A bit further on, the alley opened up into a sort of plaza with dozens of tables, all served by restaurants off to the sides. The diners were eating some fantastic-looking dishes — one group was enjoying a huge fish covered with a thick, rich sauce that was served right in the wok — but even I didn't have the chutzpah to walk up to the table and take a photo.

All of the amazing and varied food came out of a series of small, sparsely appointed kitchens like this one. I continued on to the bus stop, pleased with the discovery that even after all my weeks here, I could still stumble upon a scene exotic enough to stop me in my tracks.

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