This photo shows a local Cantonese fishing in the part of the Pearl River 珠江 that separates Guangzhou City广州 from Shamian Island 沙面岛。The back-drop is Shamian Island’s imposing colonial architecture. It could almost be Paris.
Guangzhou Youth Hostel, March 1991, Shamian Island
The rumor going round the hostel was about an American tourist who had fled China in tears after only 2 days into her 1 month trip.
The unfortunate young girl had passed through Guangzhou’s notorious Qingping Market (清平市场) and seen two kittens kept in a tiny cage. The kittens were destined for the tables of Guangzhou’s restaurants. Thinking she would do the kittens a good turn, she negotiated a price for them. Expecting to save the kittens, she hadn’t counted on what would happen next. The store holder took the kittens out of the cage snapped their necks and handed their lifeless bodies over to her. She freaked out and was on the next express train back to Hong Kong.
Whether this is just an urban legend or a true story any visitor to Qingping Market in 1991 could believe it. The variety of animals waiting to be butchered made it feel like a zoo rather than a normal meat market. I remember Monkeys, Pangolins, giant salamanders, snakes, deer, dogs and even owls. The orangey color of dog meat roasting on spits was a common sight as were the restaurants with cages outside full of exotic fauna that made eating out a bit like dinning in a slaughter house.
However, we could never be certain that the cat story was true. Maybe it was just an urban legend.
It could be Spain, France or Portugal, but it’s not. The houses are gorgeous colonial era buildings, lovingly and meticulously restored back to their original condition. The broad tree lined avenues are an oasis of luxuriant green. Locals play card games or badminton and newlyweds and models pose to have their photos taken against the spectacular backdrop of elegant buildings. Traffic is conspicuous by its absence.
Green and laidback Shamian Island
Welcome to Guangzhou! Or better said; welcome to Shamian Dao (Island), the haven of peace in one of China’s most frenetic cities.
We stayed on Shamian Island while we explored the rest of Guangzhou and parts of Guangdong. It provided a wonderful retreat after a day of sightseeing, market exploring or pigging out in one of Guangzhou’s famous Dim Sum restaurants.