一路平安: Off to Taiwan!

I woke up this morning to a WeChat message from my mom: 听说台南地震。(Heard there was an earthquake in Tainan.)

Later, more friends and family message me, essentially declaring: Every time you go somewhere, something major happens.

It’s true. To date, I’ve been at or near the following disasters/incidents: Boston bombings, Bangkok blasts, Paris bombings, HK bookseller kidnapping, and now Taiwan earthquake.

It’s scary to think about, and friends and coworkers already see me as a disaster warning but also terribly lucky for such close calls. Obviously, I’d rather not keep a count like this.

Baiyun International Airport

Baiyun International Airport

About 12 hours later, I find myself comfortably nested in my double room at Meander Hostel in Taipei, which—as I conveniently found out after booking—ranks second best in the world. Wooo.

I feel like I’ve been encountering one lucky situation after another. Although I very well may be jinxing myself, I need to record how well I think things have been going so far—and it’s only been a couple hours.

For one, I’m forever grateful to have such supportive relatives in Guangzhou. For the many times I’ve traveled since moving to Guangzhou, they would always take me to and from the airport, making sure I’m happy and safe. Today, my cousin picked me up from my apartment, right at the moment I was tuning in to the first airing of the my first GDTV World “Face Time” episode that I fully edited. We watched in utter amusement and happiness, not only seeing myself on TV but also the result of all those hours I put into putting it all together. Then, we prepared ourselves for the heavy Spring Festival traffic and long lines at the airport.

The thing is—there were none. Like, no traffic. No lines. Within an hour from my apartment, I was walking toward my gate, when we expected to be still on the congested highways.

“We really in the spring festival travel?” he messaged me, as I told him I had already gone through security and customs.

Even on the airplane, I ended up having the row to myself, happily enjoying the space and being able to put my suitcase directly above my seat. I made some more progress on my third book of the year and enjoyed the short flight. (Review for the second book To Live will be combined with the third, since To Live is a lovable classic, with my only critique being some translations).

Since I chose my seat to be near the front, I made it out quickly and walked briskly toward immigration, breezing past the slow walkers and even having time to exchange money before the rest of the passengers caught up.

At immigration, the officer spoke to me in English, seeing my American passport, which I thought was…a good thing. Considerate. Soon enough, I walked out and into the waiting area, and my eyes landed on a service center for the local transportation card, or Easy Card.

Despite a few Mainlanders asking a million questions about the card (how much, which one, how to use it, blahblah), I managed to get the card to use for the bus from the airport to the city center. It can be used for a lot of other things apparently, but as long as it covers the metro and the bus, that’s all I need to know. There were two employees, and both treated everyone so nicely—even as Mainlanders fulfilled their rudeness stereotype by cutting in line and crowding instead of lining up, the employees respectfully told them to line up on my left. Immediately, I thought of what my cousin told me on the ride to the airport—that both men and women are incredibly soft-spoken and kind.

What he also mentioned: Get an unlimited 4G card to use. Thank God for the convenience of Taoyuan airport, because as soon as I got my Easy Card, I saw the booth for the data cards. You purchase by the number of days and can choose whether you want 3G or 4G, but honestly with the difference of just 50 TWD (literally $1.50), might as well go for 4G. So for eight days, I get unlimited, VPN-less 4G access for $16.50. I don’t think I’m ever leaving.

Then I started having a few hiccups not worth mentioning, but an hour after deboarding the plane, I was on the bus to the city center, happily WeChatting my friends and family and enjoying the wonders of fast Internet connection without the shitty firewall!

So I’ll write another #GZBuzz post to highlight some random observations here and there, but for now, I’ll continue with my journey so far.

As soon as the bus started entering the city, I saw street food, shops, and people everywhere. By 10 p.m., I walked out of the metro station and into the still-bustling streets of Taipei, staring in awe of the lights, the people, the energy.

I couldn’t wait to check in and then get back out on the streets to explore.

And explore I did. The streets of Ximending are never-ending! I’ll wait until I edit the photos I took from today, but man, I’ve fallen in love already.

Much more to say, much more to explore.

At 12:34 a.m., I think it’s time to call it a day and see what tomorrow brings :)

Social Life [#GZBuzz, Ed. 13]

What I love about living in cities? The opportunities to attend a variety of events and meet new people, no matter how useless they end up being (to clarify: events and people LOL).

As I’m sure you’re all dying to know, how’s my social life here? Let’s review with some recent events.

1 — Fireside Chat with Xiaomi Co-Founder
For the Asia-uninitiated, Xiaomi is the Apple of China. When I found out its co-founder KK Wong would be speaking in Guangzhou, it was as if Tim Cook were coming. Naturally, I had to go. INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, this was the same night I backward planked on a slippery slope, narrowly managing to avoid cracking my head open. With my head still in tact, I shared a Didi with a stranger through the despicably slow traffic to this event in a classy café in Tianhe. Despite the pouring rain, the room was packed—stereotypically with mostly Chinese men with glasses, sprinkled with a few women and foreigners. I managed to find a seat near the front, and just my luck, in front of a Chinese man who creeped me out. Within minutes, as the event organizer kicked off the introductions, he tapped my shoulder and asked me something I didn’t understand. And then for my WeChat. I realized that I can’t bring myself to say “no” to people who ask for my WeChat. Note: Next time play the American card and claim you don’t have one.

Startup Grind fireside chat with Xiaomi co-founder KK WongAnyway, this event was entirely in Chinese, with a WeChat group for attendees to help live translate the most important points—a group I didn’t find out about until after the talk. While I failed to understand most of the talk, I made notes of what I found interesting from a foreigner’s perspective.

Having recently graduated from Boston University (wait, there’s no way it’s almost been a year #TIMEFLIES), where I attended my fair share of “fireside chats,” especially hosted by the School of Management (or Questrom, whatever), I found this chat to be, well, less of a chat than it was a monologue with some meager-looking Chinese dude seated also on stage, looking anywhere but the actual guest and every once in a while reminding audiences of his role of asking questions listed on his phone. This was certainly no chat, I thought, as I sat listening to KK Wong speak facing the audience with almost no back and forth with the organizer on stage and occasionally slip in an English word here and there: 我就是一个typical nerd, or geek, 因为我很喜欢看书。Unfortunately, everything else just went in one ear and out the other, as I realized I still can only understand the “proper” Beijing Mandarin, spoken slowly, nonetheless. This fast-paced southern Mandarin had me straining to understand.

What made me smile was the fact that attendees were given these gigantic name tags to stick not on your chest or even the back of your hand but on the side of your upper arm, not unlike Red Guard armbands, except that these were white and that’s the only comparison I could think of.

Startup Grind fireside chat with Xiaomi co-founder KK WongWhen KK finished his monologue, he answered a few audience questions, which reminded me of every other event where someone would inevitably start with, “I have two questions…” and prompts everyone to roll their eyes, as they ask long-winded questions that they end up having to repeat and clarify.

After the two on stage both stood up from their seats and signaled the conclusion of the event and after the audience clapped, some dude insisted on asking his question, raising his voice above the clapping, which effectively made us all stop clapping and turn around to see who this persistent man was. Since my Mandarin comprehension was particularly poor that night (can I blame it on nearly sustaining head trauma just hours earlier—no, I know), I don’t know if the question he asked was even a good one, but let’s just say it wasn’t.

Immediately afterward, the man sitting next to me turns to say hello, and although the first few lines we exchange in Mandarin were perfect (as in he seemed surprised to learn otherwise), I inevitably ask if we can speak English, after learning he’s spent many years teaching in Australia and is now working on his startup that essentially adds voice recordings to presentations, eliminating the need to have someone make presentations in person. #startups

After making some small talk with a few others that night, by nearly 11 p.m., it was time to go home. As I walked to the bus station, my body ached. Rain poured. I couldn’t wait for that massage the next day.

Startup Grind fireside chat with Xiaomi co-founder KK Wong

Audience questions

2 — “Magic”
I’ve always been interested in magic. I remember on one of my first trips to Vegas, back when my parents would go often and take us underage kids, I bought a deck of cards that “magically” levitated one card from its box. I never did figure out how to perform it well and figured I shouldn’t bother trying, instead just resorting to watching David Blaine videos on YouTube and silently rooting for all the magicians on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

Magic trick at Bondi on Xingsheng Lu in GuangzhouThis week, I discovered that a Chinese magician would be showing off some tricks at a weekly networking event on Guangzhou’s famous bar street. Woo! Too bad this magician (“president of his magic club in college!” LOL) should’ve done what I did and stuck to admiring magician idols from afar. Because his performances were fucking pitiful.

80% of magic is about the performance, 20% the actual trick. So when your performance sucks, the entire act sucks. Allow me to elaborate: The alleged magician was using a lighter to make some pen marks on a piece of paper disappear, so he took his darling time to make his exact marks on the paper, without saying a word as the audience just sat there watching in total unimpressed boredom. Sure, the best magic tricks don’t require any talking, but sitting in silence watching this one was just pitifully painful. The following tricks he did after his basic PPT presentation in broken English of why he loves magic (lol) aren’t even worth mentioning. (Ironically, one of his slides even highlighted the importance of performance).

Magic trick at Bondi on Xingsheng Lu in Guangzhou

Huge-ass QR code on the table is more interesting.

Meanwhile, a drunk Chinese woman stumbles into this bar, being supported by a man who reeked of a “too cool for school” attitude, with his sweatpants and hipster glasses, even walking by and apologizing for his unfortunate companion. Throughout the rest of the night, we hear the woman shrieking with drunken fervor.

My favorite part of the night was a video of a magic trick from his favorite magician, Liu Chen, performing for the 2013 CCTV Spring Festival show. (Side note: Because I’ll be in Taiwan, I sadly will be missing it this year!!) We watched in fascination, which was easy to do considering what we just witnessed.

Of course, the audience asked questions afterward, and I’m sorry—I have to point out a particularly stupid question. A young woman asks in broken English essentially if magic is dangerous. As the magician answers with “depends,” the woman interrupts to give examples of dangerous magic acts, such as sword swallowing and head cutting. OK, lady. If you’re going to ask and answer your own stupid question, don’t ask at all. *end rant*

***

So I’m happy to report that I have had plenty of more positive social experiences since moving to Guangzhou. But it’s these less stellar ones that I believe are worthy of writing about. Over the months, I’ve certainly met many interesting people and subsequently have had enjoyable experiences. Maybe in another edition, I’ll indulge you in some ;)

In the meantime, please share with me any magic videos you like! I miss AGT.

***

CATCH UP WITH #GZBUZZ
⇒ Wet Markets & Phone Shops
Renter, Love & Care
Camera, Coffee, Clarity
The Catch-Up
Encounters
⇒ Holidaze
⇒ Passing By
(In)conveniences
Realizations
⇒ The Familiar
⇒ Misfortune, Pt. 1
⇒ Misfortune, Pt. 2

Misfortune, Pt. 2 [#GZBuzz, Ed. 12]

Part two of my unfortunate stories is all about being 骗’d, i.e., pian‘d, cheated, swindled, scammed! Yippeeeeee.

Check out part one if you haven’t already.

Anyone who isn’t a local is entirely too susceptible to being scammed, and if you’re one who hasn’t been scammed yet, you either already unwittingly have been (just think about it) or you’ve been hiding under a rock—a rock that probably cost you 10x its actual value. I’m 100% sure. Even with a Chinese face like mine.

2 — The Gym
You know, I went into this thinking I was doing it right. Back in September, the first month I officially started settling down, I asked a fellow TV presenter, who, despite being on the chubby side (red flag No. 1), happened to have just signed up for a new gym membership. He offered to accompany me to this place and help me sign up.

So I met him one sweltering afternoon at said gym. Having walked the 30 minutes needed to get there from my former apartment, I was covered in sweat by the time I arrived. Hey, I was signing up for a gym membership. Why take the bus?

At the entrance, one of high school boys, who stand outside for all hours of the day handing out fliers advertising this gym, appeared and directed us to the basement level of this shopping center. Red flag No. 2: Gym in basement; no windows.

We were led to a dark, messy room full of tables for making these membership deals and a treadmill and elliptical for show on the side. Where’s the gym?

At this point, I can’t recall if we were led into this room first or down one more floor to the actual gym, but case in point (red flag No. 3): The entire gym was still under construction, meaning construction workers were literally seen and heard still laying down floors, breaking down walls, whatever they had to do to open this gym…within a week—no joke, it looked like they had just started. And in all likelihood, that was probably true.

Shitty gym in Guangzhou

What is this shit.

The thing is, I couldn’t have escaped from being pian‘d in this situation. Every single person with this gym membership is pian‘d due to how terrible this “gym” is. Even my Chinese coworker—who, for the record, has not been since he signed up—let more than 3,000 yuan flow out of his pocket and into the hands of this gym that was unfinished at the time. It wasn’t until after he helped paid for my one-year membership (my American cards didn’t work) that he told me red flag No. 4: He used to buy gym memberships and never go.

Despite offering to go with him many times, I ended up going alone those first few months. I went often, specifically to take those spin classes, but I didn’t go for all of January and don’t see myself going anymore. Why? Those damn high school boys. In fact, the entire staff is annoying as hell. Even back when I forced myself to ignore them every time I went, I’ve always felt so uncomfortable going, even to go to the Starbucks next door is a hot mission to dodge those boys in neon green shirts. They can have my money. I’m waiting until the weather gets warmer and then running outdoors (in my mask, if necessary). Man, I fucking miss running outdoors, especially around the Charles River.

OH! Mini scam within a scam: While I was running on a treadmill one night, the high school boy who knows I speak English came up to me. Apparently, an old Russian man who knew no Chinese was pulled into the spell of the salesmen and needed to ask some key questions, including whether towels were included (slight sarcasm). I then somehow became his unofficial translator and essentially helped the salesmen convince him into buying a membership. I hate myself for it. What did I get in return, by the way? A bottle of water. LOL I’M SO PATHETIC. I could’ve gotten an extra few months of membership or even a year if I bothered pushing—not that it matters now.

Taikoo Hui architecture

Taikoo Hui <3

3 — Failed Facial Fuckover, Pt. 1
It always starts off innocently enough. Taikoo Hui is a beautiful high-end shopping mall in Guangzhou’s Tianhe District. It’s also home to Ingrid Millet, a Parisienne beauty brand not unlike Trésor Rare, in that it’s essentially a total scam.

After scrolling through my WeChat history to recall some details and although unfortunately looks like I deleted some of the incriminating evidence of my retelling to my mom, I do remember that I felt like I desperately needed a facial after all the sun exposure from my Southeast Asia trip. So I figured if I were to get a facial, might as well try this one.

As for the actual facial, for only a couple hundred yuan, I absolutely loved it. I bragged to my mom that I had a great conversation in Mandarin to the masseuse about my trip, my boyfriend, and myself. It wasn’t until after the facial that I was THISCLOSE to throwing away tens of thousands of yuan (damn not being able to remember exactly how much, but it was at least a month’s worth of pay), for up to 50 facials. What idiot would buy such a package? THIS IDIOT.

Don’t worry, I titled this FAILED for a reason, because thank God for my American cards not going through. They literally kept swiping nonstop, which made them seem entirely too pathetic and desperate—although I can definitely say the same about myself. Who the fuck needs 50 facials in their lifetime, let alone the year or two I stay here?

The funny thing is, this experience didn’t stop me from having…

4 — Failed Facial Fuckover, Pt. 2
About a month later (why so many damn facials, Sonia), I decided to find another place to get a facial. On a side note, I believe that anyone who finds themselves out of their comfort zone—e.g., foreigners in China—tends to seek something that makes up for that discomfort, whether it’s going to spin classes almost daily just to not feel alone at night, or getting monthly facials.

This time, I was mentally slightly more prepared but still came across as a nervous wreck. I couldn’t stop nervously giggling—a bad habit of mine—and even the staff could tell I was getting fidgety and was entirely too cautious over being pian‘d, as I sat in their office after the facial being told to relax. Relax? I only stayed to not immediately bounce and make them lose face or whatever. But I did need to relax. Those memories from merely a month ago resurfaced, and I knew I couldn’t do this again. Soon, I was off.

This facial wasn’t nearly as nice for a couple reasons. First, whom I assumed was the manager kept walking in and out to check on the masseuse who used weird tools and ointments on my face. They kept asking if the creams burned to prevent allergic reactions. Uh, were they that strong? Their efforts to make it seem like they were careful and to make me feel more at ease did the opposite. Second, I didn’t show off my elementary Mandarin skills nearly as well. Third, the months that followed my skin got worse, i.e., broke out like never before. Not sure if it was because of the new skincare routine I had started on, the weather/pollution, diet—or because of this facial. Could’ve been all those reasons.

The one good thing I remember was that immediately after, I went to dinner and someone remarked that my skin looked particularly radiant. LOL.

Since then, I haven’t gotten another facial. Instead, I got a pleasantly authentic Thai massage recently…maybe that will become my new routine. Heh.

***

GDTV World "Face Time" filming

Thoughtful.

So what have we learned?

That I’m a fucking idiot? Well, I like to believe that these experiences were inevitable. If I didn’t buy that gym membership then, I would’ve blown double that money on another gym, which although would have been better, likely would’ve had its fair share of scam-like qualities. A lot about China feels like a scam, really. Besides, I can now say I’ve made my mistakes and have gained valuable learning experiences—even material for my blog and maybe a book in the future.

It’s true I could do without those not infrequent thoughts of how I’ve indirectly paid for those annoying high schoolers to continue harassing innocent passersby to join a shitty underground gym, how I can’t believe I paid to go to a gym that wasn’t even open or finished construction, how I nearly paid thousands of dollars for 50 useless facials that no one could use in a lifetime…

But it feels both necessary and relieving to finally let this off my chest and out into the blogosphere for readers to judge me on.

***

CATCH UP WITH #GZBUZZ
⇒ Wet Markets & Phone Shops
Renter, Love & Care
Camera, Coffee, Clarity
The Catch-Up
Encounters
⇒ Holidaze
⇒ Passing By
(In)conveniences
Realizations
⇒ The Familiar
⇒ Misfortune, Pt. 1

Misfortune, Pt. 1 [#GZBuzz, Ed. 11]

It’s about time I reveal some misfortunes I’ve had in China. No, it’s not all rainbows and sparkles here in Guangzhou! S-H-O-C-K-E-R.

As we all know, life is a fucking rollercoaster. But being a foreigner in China, life suddenly turns into a rollercoaster full of 90-degree falls—HAH, literally, too, suddenly thrusting one into unimaginable depths.

Even more unfortunately, I realized I can’t fit all of them into one post, so here, you’ll get one long one. More to come.

IMG_4076

Post-fall.

1 — Backward Plank
This happened just last night. It rained nonstop yesterday, and for some reason (i.e., cheap #CHINA problems), it was freezing cold in the studio where I had to record another episode of China Sports Weekly (yeah, WTF am I doing reporting on sports, let alone in China). Literally, I couldn’t stop shivering, and as a result, my performance was entirely too pitiful. I kept messing up my lines, despite reading from the teleprompter. The only redeeming part of this week’s filming was that my hair and makeup looked the best, with my hair styled into a nice bun to match the qipao I wore (qipao on a sports show? Yeah, Chinese New Year is, as you can imagine, quite huge here).

Anyway, that’s not even the misfortune. It was after I left and started heading home that I had to pull out my umbrella to shield myself as I walked literally less than 10 meters to my apartment building from the shopping center next door. In hindsight, I should have just let myself get soaked. But carrying so much shit, I had to go back inside the building to put down my stuff and open my umbrella. The thing is, I always bring an extra pair of shoes to change into after filming, but the ONE time I decided to be lazy was when it’s pouring rain outside. So still in my heels, I rush back inside the building down the slippery slope, solely focused on the table next the shop inside to put down my things. You can imagine what happened next.

Within seconds: I lose my footing, slip, and land FLAT on my back; the green tea latte I had in my hand goes soaring; my left shoe flies off my foot; I hear myself howl in pain, as I lie on the on ground, moaning. Still on my back, I let out several more groans. I see a puddle of green splashed on the ground and on my new red coat (sorry, Mom). The man who had just walked in after me turns around, but noticeably doesn’t start walking toward me until the female shopkeeper—whose products my drink just managed to miss—rushes over. Both ask me if I’m okay, but at this point I’m still in shock over what the fuck just happened, so it was all I could do to not burst out crying or laughing maniacally. Honestly I didn’t know which was more likely, so I remained silent. My body hurts, but I realize my head was miraculously saved from, well, cracking open. I was saved by the bun.

With my silence, the man switches to English, trying again, “Are you OK?”

GDTV World's China Sports Weekly 2016 New Year promo

THOSE DEADLY HEELS.

Finally, I respond. “Yes, yes. Oh, my God. I-I didn’t think it was so slippery, hah, oh, my God, I-I’m so sorry…” I sputter, looking at the mess on the floor. At this point, the idea of speaking Chinese doesn’t even cross my mind. So other than xie xie, I just keep switching back and forth between, “I’m so sorry” and “Oh, my God.” I put my shoe back on, hesitating slightly considering it was my demise but didn’t want to get even more wet from the floor. I really shouldn’t be so scared of getting wet.

The shopkeeper directs me to the table to sit, but I’m still covered in green tea, so I wait as she rushes to get some tissues for me to clean up.

Minutes later, a security guard appears, and understanding what had just happened, he calls someone on his walkie talkie to come and clean up the wet floor, saying it’s very dangerous. Fuck yeah, it was dangerous! But before I could think more about how this could be a lawsuit waiting to happen, I focus on cleaning myself up and getting the fuck out of there.

Back in my apartment, still in shock and eyes wide in hysteria, I voice message my family on WeChat, updating them on how both unlucky and lucky I had been in that terrifying situation.

My shoulder was starting to hurt, and later that night, I could tell the next morning my body would be sore. And waking up this morning, I was right.

Refusing to rub that smelly Chinese oil over me that my parents insist I do, I asked my cousin for advice on where to get a massage #desperate

Tomorrow at 5 p.m., I’m enjoying a two-hour Thai massage for about $50 USD.

I need it.

#CHINA

Stay tuned for more misfortunes from yours truly.

***

CATCH UP WITH #GZBUZZ
⇒ Wet Markets & Phone Shops
Renter, Love & Care
Camera, Coffee, Clarity
The Catch-Up
Encounters
⇒ Holidaze
⇒ Passing By
(In)conveniences
Realizations
⇒ The Familiar

The Familiar [#GZBuzz, Ed. 10]

It’s amazing what you can accomplish once you set your mind to it. Even though it’s too early to say that I’ll stick to my 2016 resolutions, with a few more days of January left, I am on track to finish reading my second book and have brought my Canon DSLR along with me to the office and stupidly even in the rain. Disregarding that last bit, here’s hoping this inspires you to aim higher :)

This edition of #GZBuzz is all about exploring “the beaten path,” or rather discovering the newness in the familiar. Enjoy!

Guangzhou supermarket

Baijiu forever.

1 — A Surprising Face
One night despite the light rain, I decide to walk the long way home, change up the scenery a bit. I approach a wet market I walked past many times before, but with the wet market closing for the day and lights illuminating the supermarket below it, I realize I have not been inside yet. Not sure if cold weather encourages an appetite for chocolate, but part of my decision to go inside is fueled by my desire to find some chocolate-covered almonds (yummiest snack ever). Immediately, I grasp this supermarket is not like AEON, the one I frequent almost daily and one which sells many imported goods. In fact, this market seems eerily similar to the Chinese markets back in Maryland, with no “foreign” brands to be seen, except for the Chinese versions of Red Bull, Oreos, etc.

Guangzhou supermarket

Also unlike AEON, there is almost no one in sight shopping here, adding to the eery feeling. Within minutes, no lie, a brawl breaks out from the back aisles. A chubby man suddenly appears walking backwards, yelling at someone still hidden behind the aisle, being held back by another man attempting to break the fight. The already-quiet market somehow seems even quieter now, as a woman appears and scurries toward the exit, likely out of fear. For a second out of instinct, I follow, until I imagine I probably will be safe if I just stay and covertly witness the scene. So I stay.

I make my way through the adjacent aisles toward the back, hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s happening. The remaining shoppers, I note, are mostly men.

Suddenly, a Caucasian face catches my eye. He’s young and doesn’t look half bad, I think. What could this foreigner possibly be doing in a deserted Chinese supermarket on this rainy night? Well, I’m here, so maybe it isn’t that out of the ordinary.

I see he’s only holding a pack of tissues, and I start walking slower, wondering if he might think I’m not actually a local. It’s a thought that crosses my mind every time I see foreigners here. With a Chinese face, it’s easy to blend in, but I often wonder how it would be different if I didn’t, especially with my explorations deep through the streets of China.

I make it to the scene of the mysterious fight only in time to see it disbanding, feeling slightly disappointed yet relieved.

As I continue walking through the empty aisles, I try noting the prices for essentials such as tissues and toilet paper. Cheaper, I note, but by a few yuan, if anything.

Soon, I make my way back toward the entrance, failing to find chocolate-covered almonds and seeing that the foreigner had already checked out and was walking back out into the rain. I see that he hesitates which direction to go in, first toward the right, then retraces and heads left.

I’ll never know why he went to this market in particular just for a pack of tissues.

Guangzhou supermarket

2 — Across the Street
Ever since someone mentioned it at the White Elephant Christmas party I attended, I’ve kept it in the back of my mind to go to the T.I.T Originality Park, a creative industrial park similar to Shenzhen’s OCT-LOFT and apparently home to the WeChat headquarters and Tencent. Today of all days, amid the coldest weather Guangzhou has ever experienced—and rain, nonetheless—I took my DSLR out to explore. After looking up the exact location, I saw that it’s right next to the Kecun metro station, the stop I first found during the Canton Fair to be a hub for shopping and food. Since then, I’ve returned a couple times via the No. 189 bus, but until now I had no idea the park is just on the other side.

Taking the No. 189 bus to Kecun Guangzhou

With an early day off from the office, I figured I would go check it out, and even if I couldn’t take many pictures with my DSLR, I would go to the spacious Starbucks nearby and make more progress on To Live (I never did get to watching the movie, of which I’m glad since I would much rather watch it after reading the book).

Going to the park on a cold, rainy day ended up being the perfect opportunity to take pictures. Not only was there hardly anyone to ruin my pictures, but I think to think that my umbrella also helped to conceal my picture-taking. Save for the occasional employee walking among the WeChat and Tencent buildings (couldn’t help but think what their jobs were), I had the freedom to explore the large park uninterrupted. I’ll definitely return on a sunny day, expecting more crowds but at least a livelier atmosphere.

I ended up taking the majority of the photos using my iPhone, given that holding an umbrella and my DSLR proved to be quite challenging. The photos I did take on the DSLR were shit, so I’m glad I can rely on the ones on my phone. And I took many :)

As for my DSLR photos from this past week, I ended up taking more than I’d thought, and I’ll see if I take more these next few days. Anyway, I’ll wait until closer to February to upload them—and when my WiFi isn’t so spotty (it’s a wonder I managed to upload these).

Kecun Guangzhou street market

Random shop selling the sketchiest hot dogs on the left. Liked this for artistic reasons.

***

CATCH UP WITH #GZBUZZ
⇒ Wet Markets & Phone Shops
Renter, Love & Care
Camera, Coffee, Clarity
The Catch-Up
Encounters
⇒ Holidaze
⇒ Passing By
(In)conveniences
Realizations

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