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Transformation Continues On All Levels 1


Guangzhou used to be my favourite city with its leafy streets, car-less alleys and languidly flowing river whose name, Pearl, also gave itself to an excellent beer, 珠江啤酒 (jyu gong beh jau – Pearl River Beer-alcohol, in Cantonese normally known as 珠啤,(jyu beh).

I especially loved the narrow little lanes with their beautiful white-washed one- or two storey houses with particularly spectacular doors:


This weekend I did a lot of walking around these back streets just north of 沙面島(Sa Min Dou – Sand Face Island, which was the only place foreigners were allowed to live in the late 1800s) and although the houses haven’t yet been razed to the ground and turned into a six-lane highway, almost all the wooden doors are gone, replaced by the kind of metal doors that a high security prison in North Korea would drool with envy to even look at.


And most of the walls, with their distinctive white contrasting the brown wooden door-and window frames, have been tiled with crap brown and orange tiles. It hurts me in my eyes and heart!

Meanwhile high-rises and highways are eating their way into the beautiful centre of Guangzhou. What a metaphor for what they are doing to Cantonese, right here in the very cradle of the Cantonese language. But more about that tomorrow.

騎樓 (keh lou – riding houses, traditional small Guangzhou buildings.)

By the way, talk about metaphor: This time the real Pearl River Beer was nowhere to be found; only its weaker, less tasty ‘lite’ cousin with a boring label and boring taste. There was no real 青島(cheng dou – green island “Tsingtao”) either. Just the ‘lite’ stuff. I hate the ‘lite’ stuff! Metaphorically and physically!

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