Small reflections on a HUGE city

Posted on March 10, 2012


Fifteen days. Two weeks exactly since touchdown. This time last week I was desperately trying to recall why on earth I had decided to pack my life into an oversized suitcase and lug it halfway across the world for the second time in two years. It was cold, the deluxe private in the “Charming Old Canton Youth Hostel”  turned out to be a mattress on the floor in a shoebox of a room, and I was exhausted from a three week whirlwind of good times, good friends, family, fresh air and western food. Suddenly I was all alone, cold, eating a bowl of rice noodles and miserable.

Things look very different now (thank christ!). I am now quite settled in an apartment with two Chinese girls, getting into the flow at work, meeting new people and surprisingly, coming round to Cantonese food.

Here are my initial impressions of Guangzhou. Small musings on an enormous city.

The third largest city in China, a most recent figure puts the population at around 13 million, but that doesn’t include the estimated 4-6 million illegal rural migrants who’ve come to have a make a quick buck in the big city. There are plans underway to merge Guangzhou with nearby Foshan (about 20kms away), which will add another 8-10 million to the population. So it’s big.

It’s also very modern. The vast majority of the buildings have gone up in the past ten years; none are more than 20 years old. I found this delightfully geeky website which is a database of skyscrapers.  Of Guangzhou’s 396 skyscrapers, I couldn’t find any built before 1991. Compare this with Sydney’s 484, several of which were built in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Here are some pictures I took walking through a very new part of the very new CBD, where my office is.

yes, the building is gold

Huge parts of this area of town don’t feel like China at all. Instead it feels like you’re walking around an avant-garde architect’s dream world or a life-size model of a diorama of the future.

But it’s not all like that, which is good. More to come.

accidental chinese culture jammers

Of course this is also the home of yum cha! Here was my Saturday morning meal.

it was hard to capture the vastness, but i reckon there were more than 500 people in this room

they don't call it YUM cha for nothing

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