Thursday, October 7, 2010

In defence of Guangzhou

It’s been a year or so since I last visited the noisy metropolis of Guangzhou and so, when earlier this week faced with a deadline to create a snappy city guide to the place formerly known as Canton, I thought I’d see if anyone had any useful nuggets of info on Facebook. I asked my 193 friends on the social networking site what are the five best things about Guangzhou. The responses were predictably dire from those who have lived in Hong Kong. Below a sample from one wit:
1. The train to Hong Kong.
2. A flight to Hong Kong
3. Barge down the river to Hong Kong.
4. They sell beer.
5. Seeing your pet cat about to be disemboweled and fried.
Poor old Guangzhou, host of this November’s Asian Games, has never ranked high on people’s travel lists. And yet, I really like it. I prefer it over Shanghai, for instance. Its huge sprawl can make it appear tough, grimy and confusing for first time visitors (often referred disparagingly as China’s Los Angeles) but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll see wonderful ancient culture coupled with soaring modernity and the best cuisine in the People’s Republic. After much thought here then are my five favourite things about this 2,500-year-old city.
1. Shamian Island – This tiny spit of land was the only place that Europeans could establish settlements. Beats the Bund hands down for outstanding 19th century European architecture.
2. The food – Undeniably the best in China.
3. The annex of the Victory Hotel – One of the best bargains accommodation-wise across the whole of the nation.
4. The markets – Alright, post-SARS the full on gore of many of the wet markets has been toned down, but the city’s assorted stalls are still pretty unique in their offerings.
5. Karaoke – For some reason I always seem to have a crazy singing session when in GZ – cantar in Canton.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

La vie en jaune

Part of the reason why I have been so reticent on this here blog has been an amorous affair. Well, more like the spark of an old flame.
I really have fallen back in love with Europe and can see myself living there soon. Pictured is my house in the Pyrenees; the sunflowers came out strong this year.
A recent EU-wide poll put France top in terms of quality of life (and the UK bottom) and it is once one is nestled in la Hexagone for a while that you start to appreciate what is important in life. The constant running around in Asia, the never ending schedule of appointments, flights and deadlines suddenly pale away once ensconced in my basic mountain shack.
I am now formulating a way in which AsiaScribbler Co could continue to work as a going concern with yours truly living in la belle France … and I think I might have worked it out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scrumptious pickings

The verb to scrump is a wonderful word that conjures up, for me at least, images of Kentish autumns. To scrump is to take the fallen fruit, normally apples, from an orchard. This is one of my favourite times of year in the UK from where I have recently returned and a suitably non-controversial topic in which to venture/tip toe/sneak back into the world of the AsiaScribbler blog.
Kent, where I was born and brought up, is the Garden of England. This time of year the county’s trees are weighed down with fruit, like old men carrying home the shopping, the mornings are crisp, the ground is green, the leaves are turning and the air is fresh.
What’s more, this year’s harvest is one of the best ever. A report in the Independent wrote about “the exceptional sweetness of the fruit” this year. “Oddly enough,” the report continued, “this was prompted by the overcast, chilly weather in May. The light level at that time influences the eventual size of an apple. In effect, the tree decides how big its fruit is going to be. Grim weather meant smaller fruit, but fine, sunny days in June and July converted the starch in apples to sugar. Since the fruit had a smaller number of cells than normal, the sugar was concentrated. The delectable displays look even more tempting than normal due to cool nights in August intensifying their rosy blush.”
This year’s scrumping options are truly scrumptious.