This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Shenzhen and Guangzhou, two fairly large cities in the Guangdong province of Southern China.
The trip was very easy and painless, so if you’re ever in one of these areas, you might as well take a look around! After taking a direct train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen (which took maybe an hour), we looked around at a shopping district for a while, and then headed for Guangzhou on another train, which took another hour.
Both of these cities contained a lot of the hectic shopping we were used to from certain areas of Hong Kong; however, everything was noticeably cheaper, and luxurious brands were definitely not as common. The biggest thing we could rely on was that there would be street food, and we were not disappointed. Yams, fresh fruit, and baked chestnuts were a plain sight, as well as egg puffs, meat kebabs, and many varieties of tea. Of course, some of the best food we found was on the street of our hostel. A certain type of Chinese hotpot meal awaited us two nights in a row, as we loved it so much. The sauce used for the meal, made of soy sauce, peanuts, chives, sesames, and who knows what else, certainly made the experience.
Some people will tell you there aren’t many differences between Hong Kong and Southern China, both because of their proximity and common heritage. However, it was obvious to my friend and I that the whole place just feels different. The economy is obviously a good starting point of comparison, but on a deeper level, you’ll see an area that hasn’t yet merged its values with those of the West, and an area that already has.
That was quite the interesting quirk; almost everybody I passed stared at me unabashedly. Some would stop and turn to look as I walked by. It took some getting used to, but it surely shows how uncommon Westerners are in Guangdong.
All in all, it was a good trip. You can cry about the different toilets or the spitting in the streets all you want, but urban China has a homey, comfortable feel that you just can’t disagree with.