Thursday, July 17, 2014

A lil' Canton Colonialism: Shamian Island, Guangzhou, PRC

As one comes near to the end of an adventure, you tend to slow down a bit. Reflect, get an iced Americano and dream of home. So too, did the British as they neared the end of their global imperialist exploits. Shamian Island is a bizarre amalgamation of this same end of an époque architecture and modern non-western life that you across the old Empire from Rangoon to Penang.  

Where once a beautiful park sat, surrounded by high end hotels, the Bank of Taiwan and the British consulate, now sits a lovely mini track and work out area.  Where there was a stunning neo-classical facade is now drying laundry hung over peeling paint.  The hotels gone, the most magnificent Starbucks in the world moved in (yeah they own the whole building, including theta lovely veranda we sat on).   

Old Canton was the centre of the Eastern empires for years.  It hosted the Brits, French, Germans, Portuguese and yes even imperialist Americans (clearly we won, there is both a stunning Starbucks AND Subway).  All of this fun; the Opium Wars, the Nationalist revolution under Sun Yat Sen and the Communist insurgents under Mao has made for a fascinating intro to Sydney's understanding of geopolitics.  

Liji was fascinated with the tanks of swimming spoonbills, giant bullfrogs and snails all headed for the dinner plate. "Don't the French eat frog legs?" "Yes, but I doubt they invented it."  So for a lovely stroll back into a fascinating era of China's past, hit the European island of Shamian.