Returning to Guangzhou, only this time I’m going to take a better look around.
The only thing I’ve ever done in Guangzhou was grimace, say “illl, yauckkk,” get on a train, and leave. I’ve done this more times that I care to recall. Guangzhou, the ancient city formally known to the West as Canton, has never really appealed to me. It is a place that’s always felt better to leave than to arrive in. I’ve always viewed Guangzhou as the exit hatch of China, as a place where it all flows out: rivers, emigrants, exports. A real anus-y kind of place.
Though I have to admit that I never gave it a chance.
Though my take on Guangzhou is less than appealing, the city still has a certain hold on me: it was my first view of China. It was 2005, I remember looking down a street at a pedestrian overpass that ran to the entrance to the train station. I was looking at a landscape that was made up of tens of thousands of bobbing black heads, all packed in together, moving everywhere in a churning engine of entropy. It was the typical view of overcrowded China that I was expecting to see, but having it so succinctly manifested in reality made it seem oddly unreal. So this is China. I will never forget the feeling, that raw excitement of the foreign. I’d been traveling continuously for six years before that — I’d traveled from New York to the tip of Patagonia, I’d hitchhiked all over Europe — but I’d never had this feeling to the extent that I did then. At that moment I knew that it would take me a very, very long time to move through this country.
Nine years later I’m still working on it.
Though I never particularly had the urge to go back to Guangzhou until a couple of days ago. I recently opened up my kid’s passport and saw that it was set to expire this year, and I knew I’d have to go back. At first I groaned. Then the curiosity that comes from an impending journey to a place that you have no real conception of took over.
It is time to return.
I will blog this trip in the old school, full exposure, open narrative style.