The Hidden Treasures of Southern China
The residents of Guangzhou employed in major industries often prefer to spend their holidays at home.
Published: April 23, 2014 (Issue # 1807)
Guangzhou is a place where several major European brands have located factories and is host to many trade fairs. The city is also home to the seemingly endless shopping arcades of a gargantuan market where one can buy skilled forgeries of items by the world’s most popular luxury brands and attracts millions of tourists.
Guangzhou doesn’t lack business visitors either. It is China’s third city in terms of both economic and political importance, and population. Its rate of economic development is drawing closer and closer to that of the business centre of China, Shanghai. With the launch of direct flights between Moscow and Guangzhou, the Chinese are trying to attract not only business travelers to the province but tourists as well. Guangdong, which is just a short hop from neighboring Hong Kong is terra incognita for many foreign travelers but its popularity among locals is very high, not least for gastronomic tourism. A Chinese proverb says: “You must live in Guilin but you have to eat in Guangdong,” giving compliments both to the natural beauty of Guilin prefecture in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and the elaborate culinary specialties of Guangdong, the motherland of Cantonese cuisine.
Guangdong has access to the South China Sea with a number of small seaside resorts that envy the popularity of nearby Hainan Island, with whom they favorably compete with their moderate prices.
Hopping in the car and driving down towards the South China Sea, in about twenty minutes you will be surprised with the changing landscape that is like an instant leap back in time. Along the route are fragile shacks and small ponds in which locals wearing conical straw hats wade waist-deep in the muddy water to feed the frogs that they are raising. Along with goose farms and orchards, it’s a popular business for the local population.
Fresh seafood is perhaps the most highly-prized ingredient among Cantonese chefs. The streets in the coastal towns glitter with towering aquariums filled with the bounty of the sea, all of which can be had on your plate simply by asking.
For members of international environmental organizations, mention of the province causes uproar. Animal-welfare advocates have repeatedly called for boycotts of Guangdong, where any living creature is literally seen as a source of protein. The pet market in Guangzhou has a deservedly wretched reputation where living purchases are frequently butchered in front of the buyer.
Signature dishes in many eateries are wontons and dim sum with a variety of fillings, from shrimp and meat to nuts and dried fruits. One rare local specialty, perhaps thankfully so, is turtle pudding. This bitter dish is made with a broth of local herbs and usually is served for dessert.
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