31st December 2018 – Hogmanay – started cold in Jiangmen. This was to be our first New Year experienced in Asia but we had to fill our day before we got to whatever festivities the evening may hold.
It was my turn to do some research and I had decided we should explore the Changdi waterfront which my research had led me to discover was an area where some fine examples of old colonial architecture still survived. As an adventure, we decided to take a taxi down there and walk the six miles back to the hotel, stopping en route at the bus station to check out transport to Macau, our next destination.
The concierge organised a taxi for us and gave us a card with the address that we could hand to the driver. The drive seemed a little longer than we were expecting but we duly arrived at the correct destination and paid the princely sum of £2 as fare. Sure enough, there were several terraces of older buildings along the waterfront.
They’re not maintained as valuable architectural monuments and are still being lived and/or worked in but it’s an interesting contrast with all the new construction in the area around the hotel. The area around Changdi as we walked up Chang’an Road away from the water is altogether more vibrant and lived in than most of the spots we’ve visited so far. The population of Jiangmen is 4.5 million – almost the same number of people as the whole of Scotland – so we had expected to hit a crowded commercial centre at some point and this was it.
Despite the thronged streets lined with shops, there’s always time for an oasis of calm and we decided to take a flight of steps off to the right of the main road just to see where they would lead. They climbed quite steeply and gave us an interesting view over the rooftops of the low rise buildings in the area.
At the top, we encountered a memorial to Dr. Sun Yat Sen. If you’re wondering who that is, we were wondering the same thing, especially when we saw this quote attributed to him.
‘Nationalism, People’s Rights and the People’s Livelihood embodies the essence and spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s saying, a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” and French Revolution’s “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. ‘ He had a fascinating life and it would be impossible for me to do justice to his achievements. If you get some time, look him up.
Ever onwards, we managed to locate the bus station from which Macau buses depart. We had a small amount of communication with the staff there but decided it would be far too complex to mime a requirement for two tickets to Macau with lots of luggage in three days’ time, so we deferred that challenge.
We then continued our stroll back to the hotel, passing various locations on the way that Ishbel deemed worthy of a photo.
One thing I’ve noticed about commercial areas here is that competitors in the same field tend to cluster together, much as they used to in London (think Savile Row for tailors or Harley Street for doctors). This makes for an assault on the senses when you encounter the street of mobile phone vendors.
Apart from Apple and, of course, Huawei there are another two equally ubiquitous brands: Vivo and Oppo. This street had a minimum of ten specialist shops for each brand. I assume they find some way of making it work commercially, but it seems unnecessarily over-competitive.
Back at the hotel after 16,000 steps, according to our iPhones, we decided to relax a little so out came the instruments again. We didn’t want to eat too early as we wanted to stay on the go until midnight to see in the New Year. Eventually, we went down to the hotel’s buffet restaurant and enjoyed a delicious mix of western and asian foods and a couple of glasses of wine. We got talking to the assistant manager, Paul, whose English was excellent. He advised that there would be some entertainment on the plaza across the road at midnight, so we went over there at around 11:15 and enjoyed a concert extravaganza featuring pop singers and what looked like a local high school’s ukulele orchestra. And we found out what the Chinese call a ukulele. Ukulele.
There was an impressive light show on all the buildings around the plaza, which we’ve attempted (and failed) to capture with the photo at the top. And that’s how we ended 2018.
We’re more than a month into the trip and still have seven full months to go. Happy New Year to everyone following along on the blog.
Brian and Ishbel