October 1st, China’s national day and the 22nd anniversary of my arrival in that fair country; or should I say formerly fair but rapidly becoming less so. I was just reflecting on this over beer and excellent Sichuan food with my travel companion ah-La last night: In my opinion and although I haven’t seen every country in the world nor do I speak for every single Chinese nook and cranny on the planet (phew, that was the politically correct conditions done with; ) – China has gone from being the most beautiful country on earth to (one of?) the ugliest. In an incredibly short time.
Above is a photo of people happily celebrating National Day. Right? Wrong. It’s a photo of people grimly fighting their way into Guangzhou Liu Hua bus station to get a ticket away from National Day. At least National Day in Guangzhou.
Yes, in the same way as I still carry in my mind the picture of China of the 80′s: No cars, beautiful architecture, harmonious greys and blues interspersed with the odd red flag, no billboards, no neon, no advertising, I have this naive idea about China somehow not being packed with people, every time I go there.
My friend Ah-La and I thought we could rock up at the bus station and a few minutes later be sitting on a fragrant bus, zooming into the Guangdong countryside, (currently under deconstruction) taking our pick at to which interesting little town to go. I even got up at 5 yesterday morning to make sure I wouldn’t miss the 09:23 direct train from Hung Hom.
It’s hard to think how anyone can be so dribblingly, teeth out-fallingly naive. National Day in China heralds the start of a week-long holiday, not just the one day we get in Hong Kong. And seeing about half the population of Guangzhou isn’t actually from there, of course they will want to go away. Go home, rather.
We got to the bus station at 12, and to the one destination we asked about, I think it was å»£å¯§ ï¼ˆGuangning) about 3 hours away, there were plenty of tickets – for the next morning. Fighting through the throngs to another bus station revealed the scene above, so yes, we gave up on the bus idea.
Now we’re in éŸ¶é—œ (Shaoguan) far north in the province; the only place we could get to by train. It’s a big city situated on a beautiful river and among rolling hills, but of course it has been totally modernised so the screaming, shiny, garish ugliness is breathtaking. Every house is tiled on the outside and covered in metal bars and railings, along the river runs an eight lane road, and every empty or perceived to be empty space has been decorated with plastic flowers, wrought iron in the shape of cartoons or flowers, metal statues, plastic balloons holding banners aloft … The works. The whole, sorry works.
In addition to it being National Day, the whole city was hard at work celebrating the Asian Games (Thrilling Games. Harmonious Asia. being the snappy slogan) and we ended up at a rock concert at a … car dealership.
Well, that was our first hour or so in Shaoguan. There will be more. It’s 6:18 AM and I think it’s just started to rain! Happy Thrilling and Harmonious Annual Celebration Time, everybody! Be harmonious now, you hear?