Saturday, May 24, 2008

how to recap the fifth day of my trip (guangzhou edition)

guangzhou is endless.

think of it like los angeles - a huge sprawl that spreads for miles and miles. except, when you drive through and around it, think of it like new york and chicago - nothing but high rises and skyscrapers everywhere you look. it's an utterly impressive city of twelve million residents.

and the architecture is stunning. i don't dig rectangles and squares, but that's what makes up most of american architecture. but like vancouver, guangzhou is full of misshaped buildings, with stylishly curved rootops and angles jutting out at weird but beautiful angles. and they transpose nicely with aging buildings beside them. this makes the city both old and modern at exactly the same time.

we headed out to the sports university to scout out our shoot. the land is amazing, with countless outdoor basketball courts and a modern soccer stadium that seats thousands. there's a multitude of gymnasiums and buildings, and arena we're shooting in features a gym that would make a small college proud. we arrived to watch a floor hockey tournament featuring teams from china, thailand, canada and australia. floor hockey is like field hockey, except on a court. it was kinda cool, and made me wish i had two working knees.

but that's not what this post is about. once we were done with our scout, it was time to eat and explore. our first stop was a farm. here's a photo:

the farm also served as a restaurant where everything they served was fresh. so we ate chicken and pork. remember, i said everything they served is fresh, so that means that they killed the chicken right before they cooked it, and the pig was killed just an hour before we ate. if we were unlucky, they could have caught an escaped chicken from the pen and wring its neck in front of us. i'm glad i didn't see that.

but it was so fresh, and the result is that i've never tasted meat that delicious.

the chicken, fried with its head still attached, was stuffed with garlic, ginger and basil. it was amazing. we had pork ribs, pork sausage in rice and pork burgers, which wasn't very good. we also ate this amazing vegetable dish that looked like seaweed but had a deep buttery taste to it.

all in all, an incredible lunch.

by the way, two things i learned here.

one: when you get your place settings, it is customary to pour yourself some tea from a kettle. you then use the tea to cleanse all your silverware for good luck. so you stir your chopsticks in it. then you pour some in your bowl. then you pour it on your plate. then, you dump that tea on the floor. now you are ready to eat.

two: when someone hands you something with two hands, it is customary and respectful to receive it with two hands. i really like that.

after lunch, we walked around downtown guangzhou, which is just like times square, except it's everywhere you look. it's just mobs of people walking every which way, going shopping, buying anything, and vendors running up to you with their best deals. it was beyond hectic. and people just walk out into the middle of the street with oncoming traffic. i'm amazed that i didn't see any accidents, but they must be used to this type of stuff. suddenly, the inner richmond back home makes perfect sense to me.

for dinner, we headed to a famous guangzhou seafood restaurant. our guides informed us that this part of the city is known for their various types of cuisine. this block we were on specialized in seafood. the next block down was dog, and the one past that, mouse. that last sentence is not a joke. he was serious. if you want to eat anything, come to guangzhou. the thought of all the possibilities made me a little sick.

anyways, we're at the seafood restaurant, and there's no menu. instead, you walk to a different area that's set up like an aquarium, with different types of fish in different tanks. your waitress walks along with you, and you have to point at which fish you want to eat. and by pointing at the fish, i mean you have to choose which exact lobster you want for dinner. as in which one. i thought i would have more guilt about this "playing god" manner of food selection, but honestly, if not me, then someone else is gonna eat them.

when they served each dish, the fish was about as fresh as you'll ever have. the shrimp, crab, lobster and mussels were among the best i'll ever eat. don't get me wrong; they were prepared with an expert touch. but they were just so immdeiately fresh, and you just can't beat that. how fresh? well, for some reason, the lobster's arm was still moving when it came to the table.

have i gotten you sick yet? just wait. in fact, i've written the next part to be as tasteful as possible, but scatatology is what it is. and i have to tell this because, well, once you read this, you'll get why.

at the end of the meal, i had to use the toilet. i walked in, and because i had to do poops, i decided to forgo the urinals and use the shitter. i walked into a stall, and only saw a tiled hole in the floor and no seat. whoops, my bad. so i peed, and turned to leave. that's when i saw the toilet paper hanging on the side, and a bar running horizontally on the door, and the urinals on the wall outside.

it took me about six seconds to figure it out. i walked back to the table laughing hysterically. that had to be a mistake, right?

no, it was not.

in china, people don't sit down to use the shitter. they pull their pants down, hover their ass over a hole in the ground, grab hold of rails on the door, lean back and plop away. i'm not shitting you. that's how they do it.

so, after waiting for my mouth to close, i then asked the obvious question: "what do they do with their pants? couldn't you accidentally leave a beijing steamer in your undies?"

well, yes, but some people take one pant leg off and twirl it around their ankle to the side, and other just take their pants off completely.

this absolutely blows my mind. how can a civilization that's been around for 3000 years not take ten minutes to figure out how to sit down during a crap?

what's my point about all this? well, for a city as modern as guangzhou, there's still a large amount of barbarism - not in an unsafe way, but in a way that should have evolved. and in a way that i can't believe still exists in any form.

i needed to end the night on a classy note. so i went to the cigar bar in my hotel and smoked down a cohiba siglo III from cuba with a glass of 1989 aberfely single malt whiskey.

it's so completely wild that i'm actually in china. but everything i saw and experienced just grounded it for me. and i know it may or may not have sounded like it, but today was actually a truly great day.

and to leave you with a wonderful visual, here's a shot of my gorgeous hotel room. i'm stunned each time i walk into it.

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