Friday, November 6, 2009

Fall in Guangzhou--1

I wasn't expecting to be in Guangzhou for this layover, and I had lamented on my last visit that I was likely not going to make it back to this place for which I had a growing fondness. I was originally scheduled for a one day layover in Shenzhen, which will be our new base of operations in this area; but I was informed a couple weeks ago that Shenzhen is not quite ready for business, and so the trip would take us back to Guangzhou. And then a scheduling SNAFU caused me to lose my planned three-day layover in Sydney and turn my one-day Guangzhou layover into a four-day!

Talking to my fellow crewmembers, I appear to be the only pilot who feels any affection for this place (beyond the near-universally-admired shopping opportunities), but I was very happy for the additional time here (not that I was in any way complaining about three days in Sydney; I was sorry enough to lose that).

This trip was my first opportunity to fly into China in daylight. We flew in over Hong Kong and Shenzhen, touching down in CAN about 5:pm. Seeing the massive urban sprawl in daylight takes one quite by surprise. From Hong Kong to Guangzhou--I'm guessing this is about 100 miles or so--it's virtually one big city, with an unfathomable number of construction projects big and small underway (the Chinese appear to have a special affection for the elevated freeway). I still have my hands quite full trying to do my job to some minimum baseline of proficiency, so I was unable to give the scenery more than an occasional glimpse. But what I saw made me want to sign up as a jumpseater on the next daylight flight here just to look out the window.

As for our time on layover, I'm accustomed after 15 years of this to spending my layovers alone. Not only do I feel like I get quite too much of my outspoken Republican coworkers, being locked in a broom-closet-sized space with them for 9 or 10 hours, but I'm happy to be beholden to no one on these days away from home. I've grown used to being my own master here, and I love wandering where I like or watching movies or listening to music entirely on my own whim. But I was surprised on the flight up here from Sydney that neither the captain nor the IRO, both of whom had been here numerous times, had every strayed from the immediate hotel area except for the occasional taxi ride to a market and back. They thought my wanderings seemed quite adventurous, and they both expressed a desire to accompany me to Shamian Island and the electronics markets. And in addition to being fun guys to fly with, they ended up being fine sightseeing companions and a nice change from my usual solo excursions.

By day's end we had logged over 12 miles on the hoof, hitting our desired spots and a bunch of other stuff to boot. We had picture-perfect weather, with sunny (and atypically clear) skies and light breezes and low 70s temps--I'm so used to it being a thousand degrees, so this was especially refreshing.

These are a selection of photos taken while wandering the streets, generally posted here in the order they were taken.

(So hard to find labels for places. This bridge is on Neihuan Rd.)

(A lovely park on the Pearl River. Lots of these range-of-motion exercise machines with people getting their daily exercise on them. We saw several parks like this around town. Free health clubs, as it were.)

(And right next door, ballroom dancing lessons! There were numerous groups at practice here and nearby.)

(Two of Guangzhou's newest construction projects in the distance. I would visit one of these in a few days.)

(Old and new; rich and poor.)

(A park by Dongshan Stadium.)

(New construction along the river. There are a zillion of these.)

(A floating TV screen, for nighttime advertising cruising the river.)

(A cool building with multiple four-story atria.)

(Lunch at Lucy's on Shamian Island. Like before, people collect here over lunch to kick around a hackey sack-like thing. Several groups were amazingly good, all just middle-aged normal folks.)

(In the White Swan Hotel, one of several huge Jade sculptures.)

(Architecture on Shamian Island.)

(... to be continued.)

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