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Erica and I had few days in Guangzhou last year. Coincidentally, our stay covered most of the Chinese new year holiday when we had a chance to have a brief taste of that event
The Chinese Spring Festival, also knows as the Lunar New Year, is the most important traditional festival in china, which takes place in late January or early February. There goes a very interesting legend for having that event: a demon called Nian would plague people once a year during the winter. Could no more bear his disturbance; people gathered and discussed how to deal with Nian. Some body came out that Nian was afraid of the red color, flames and loud noise. So people put red couplets on their gates, set off firecrackers and beat gongs and drums to drive Nian away. The idea worked and Nian fled. The custom of celebrating the Spring Festival passed down since ever.
We were still at Yangshuo, wandering the tiny West Street, drinking beers, making friends.
But the weather became unbearable, so cold. So we decided to go to the Canton (Guangzhou in Chinese).Located at the ultimate southern point of the country, Canton is supposed to have a favorable weather in winter time. We went to the CITS office and booked a hotel in Guangzhou and two long distance bus tickets.
Our bus looked pretty cool. It was clean and well maintained. Everyone had their little bed and in the front there was a TV set playing movies much of the journey. Our company was happy and quite. We had a brief stop at a little town for lunch (can not remember the name). But in fact this proved to be quite troublesome for we had no where to store our bags. The bus dropped us off in Guangzhou at 8 pm. The station was in chaos partly due to approach of the Chinese New Year. Large migrant workers were waiting and pushing for a drive back to their homes.
Canton is a big city, the richest in china after Hongkong and Shanghai. It's modern with loads of elevated flyovers and all.
We spent the first day doing nothing but just wondering around the city and ended up at a small internet cafe. It looked much nicer than the one we visited at Yangshuo, no dirt in the keyboard, no smoke ash in the desk. We both finished our business in less than 20 minutes. Paid the price and then we went into a small restaurant for our lunch. Canton is famous for its cuisine. Cantonese food enjoys great popularity even in US. But there was no table available. Went on for another one, still be told no vacancy. We missed the famous Cantonese cuisine and had to go into a MacDonald's.
At this time of the year, not many foreigners were in the main parts of the city. You can go for hours without seeing another white face. We eventually find the Metro station and get ourselves to Shamian Island which is on the Pearl River. Shamian Island was an old British and French enclave from the Opium War period. Many of the westerns came to the island to adopt kids.
Then came the next day-the New Year in Chinese lunar calendar. Setting firecracker is said to be a popular practice to celebrate that day but we heard none. This traditional practice was probably prohibited considering safety..
Got up early the next day and hanged out to find what's new. And yes, we found something of novelty here. We found a wide variety of flowers displayed on the streets and be told a Flower Fair being held here. Seemed quite interesting, we went for more. Streets were bustle with flower stalls and shopping people. And flowers were arranged into a variety of pictures and figures. If you connected the flower stalls, there would be a flower street stretching for miles. We found many locals were wandering around and vendors were busy with their business. We were attracted by a potted lily. The owner asked for 100 rmb( the Chinese currency. 1 usd equals about 8 rmb). Too expensive. We went on and found another one. This time it was much cheaper only 80 rmb. We haggled the price down to 50 rmb. . Strangely, almost all the locals were bought themselves potted tangerine trees. I had no idea why. I intended to ask someone for this peculiar practice but no one could understand me there. Finding nothing more to do, we took a taxi to an airline office and booked two tickets for Hongkong.
One thing should mention here that the weather there was really good, no snow and no severe cold.