City of Sales
Guangzhou appears to be the Known World's Source For Everything. You can buy anything here. I imagine there are various sites all over the huge city, but the bit we've seen most of is about a block from, and running parallel to, the Pearl River in the old city of Panyu (the city was called Panyu during the Han; now that section is all concession-era buildings). This area is now riddled with markets and shops, most notably a dry goods market. The market's set up along a rambling collection of streets and alleys and footpaths, and encompasses an utterly stupendous amount of stuff. Some of the specific things I've noted here:
This doesn't really begin to capture the extent of this one relatively small market; and doesn't even touch on the various manufactured goods on sale here; watches and clothing and bags and shoes and jewelry and cigarettes and electronics and decorations and toys. It's just too much.
Canton's food is similarly diverse. Last night we ate what is arguably Canton's most famous dish - whole roast suckling pig. It took some doing; the first place we went to said they had it, then after we'd ordered drinks, decided they didn't, then argued about it when we got up to leave after our drinks. The place we ended up at is a huge multi-level restaurant, and the lobby is full of tanks and cages filled with swimming and slithering creatures. Fish of every size from tadpoles to two-metre sturgeon from the Yangtze river - the kind which are supposed to become extinct when the Three Gorges Dam is completed and destroys the habitat they've inhabited since the pleistocene era. Live snakes separated according to species, presumably so they don't kill each other; big and small crabs and monster crayfish, water bugs, sea snakes and moray eels, sharks and shrimp, clams with eighteen-inch cock-like feet; think of a slimy yellowish elephant trunk and you'll get the idea; even a hacked up alligator (or crocodile, I'm never sure), teeth and all.
So the whole roasted pig was about the tamest and blandest thing we could order, but order it we did. I suppose it must be a subtlety thing; it comes out cold (barely warmed) with hoisin dipping sauce and a dish of sugar. Very strange, and for those of you who were wondering - yes, a baby pig is basically all fat and no meat, and it left us feeling vaguely ill.
There were (predictably) no train tickets to Nanning today, so we're heading off tomorrow and arriving at 0430; then on to Pingxiang at 0758, hopefully in time to cross the border into Vietnam after lunch.