Friday, March 21, 2014

Shamian Island,113.244581&spn=0.010223,0.019011&sll=23.109181,113.248615&sspn=0.020446,0.038023&brcurrent=3,0x0:0x0,0&hnear=Huangsha+Station,+Liwan,+Guangzhou,+Guangdong,+China&t=m&z=16

When we arrived at Huangsha station near Shamian in Guangzhou, it was pretty clear, that Gloria had no idea where she was, relative to what she saw, despite having worked near this station some decades ago.  The shopping mall was new and the roads were bigger.  Eventually we managed to locate Shamian, whose location and character haven't really changed, since it's historical importance seems somehow valuable to the Chinese.  Travelling with someone who calls a place home, can drive our expectations up, thinking, mistakenly at times, that they are fully oriented, when in fact, things have changed dramatically, and the cues one might normally rely on are simply gone.

The Shamian is a neighborhood  on the Pearl river ... which despite being frequently referred to as an island, is actually a sandbar.  to steal directly from the Wikipedia (


Shamian Island was an important port for Guangzhou's foreign trade from the Song to the Qing Dynasty.[2] From the 18th to the mid 19th century, the foreigners lived and did business in a row of houses known as the Thirteen Factories, on the banks of the Pearl River to the east the present Shamian,[4] which was then an anchorage for thousands of boat people.[5][6] Shamian became a strategic point for city defense during the period of the First and Second Opium Wars. In 1859,[2] the territory was divided in two concessions given to France and the United Kingdom (of which 3/5 belonged to the British and 2/5 to the French).[7] It was connected to the mainland by two bridges, which were closed at 10pm as a security measure.[4][8] The English bridge to the north was guarded by Sikhs, and the French bridge to the east was guarded by Vietnamese French troops.[5]
Trading companies from Britain, the United States, France, Holland, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Japan built stone mansions along the waterfront.[4] The construction on the island was characterized by climate-adapted but Western-plan detached houses with hipped roofs and large verandahs.[9]
The island was the scene of fighting during the "June 23 incident" in 1925.[10][11]
After 1949, the mansions of Shamian became government offices or apartment houses and the churches were turned into factories.[4]

End of excerpt. 

We walked around the sleepy town in the evening and it seemed every bit it's laid back rumored self.  We went looking for the White Swan, a hotel down on the water, which as near as we could tell was closed for renovations.  I was disappointed because I thought I might be able to break my moratorium on ice and order a gin and tonic, and imagine myself a nineteenth century traveller in "Canton" to trade my sugars, and spices, and opium, and ...  whatever other magic they might have traded in those days. 

We had a nice walk about the neighborhood and then rode back to Gloria's on the subway. 

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