We were in Guangzhou for a few days six years ago on our first winter trip as a family. Our son was only four years old then.
We stayed in an area near the Pearl River and the Swan Hotel. My husband had eaten lunch at the Swan Hotel in 1989, had walked to a then-nearby outdoor food market selling all sorts of animals for food, found very few cars on the streets, and a much flatter skyline. . .China was a different place then with few foreign travelers, and absolutely no local ones, just two months after Tiananmen.
Six years ago, 21 years after my husband’s first visit, the Swan Hotel had become a kind of staging area where foreigner couples could be seen in a nearby playground with Chinese toddlers they planned to adopt and in the adjoining small park we watched middle-aged Chinese couples practicing ballroom dancing and tai chi early in the morning.
This year, we stayed in a different neighborhood in Guangzhou, near a small park, something we look for before booking as a place where our son, now 10, can use the exercise machines or just run around. This year, we saw many Chinese tourists both domestic travelers and those from Hong Kong and Taiwan, wherever we went, but few foreigners.
We found the food better prepared and tastier six years ago, but that may have been just our hit-and-miss experience in choosing restaurants. We ate nothing particularly interesting this time, nothing memorable.
Prices had risen, too, in the past six years, not unexpectedly, prices for everything. People were warm and mostly helpful.
The Chinese Government seems to be promoting domestic tourism, now that its country’s middle class has grown and has more money to spend, and catering less to the foreign visitors still traveling to China. Frankly, there is less of traditional China to draw outsiders, and local people travel mostly on bus tours, taking selfies, buying inexpensive and cheaply made souvenirs, and moving quickly on to the next too-crowded site.
This year, we spent two weeks in China, all the time my son and I could spend in that country without a visa, and saw some interesting places in Fujian and Guangdong provinces (about which I will write more in another entry) and hope some of it sticks with our son and broadens his life (and ours) in some way.
Back in Nagano after a beautiful weekend in Matsumoto at that city’s annual “Crafts Fair.”
It seemed there were fewer visitors in 2015 compared with past years. One reason may be that a new crafts fair in Chiba-ken was held on the same weekend. It will be interesting to see the final attendance figures for both venues when they are released.
Upon our arrival, we visited the Matsumoto Folk Craft Museum easily accessible by local bus leaving Matsumoto JR station. The museum is housed in an old refurbished traditional Japanese storehouse to which have been added newer wings which serve as a visitors’ entrance and additional display space. The surrounding grounds are quiet and well maintained.
Next up, my online shop which we begin Monday, June 8th, at 9pm Japan Standard Time.
The following photos show interior views of the former Matsumoto High School presently located in Agata-no-mori Park. I am looking forward to participating again in the annual Matsumoto Craft Fair, and look forward to seeing my many friends and customers during the two-day weekend event, held this year on May 30-31.
The decorations for Christmas and the New Year in Penang had barely been taken down in a nearby shopping center, before decorations for Chinese New Year (celebrated on February 19th in 2015) were taking their place, as there is no time to lose in the drive to relieve shoppers of their money. There are so many red lanterns (too many?) hung everywhere that they are no longer special and one hardly notices them. If there is a lantern everywhere one looks, the point of decoration, to give something special to look at, is lost. I thought about our time in Hoi An, Vietnam, during Tet four years ago. I have posted here some of that which caught my eye of the decorations for Vietnamese New Year and of the multiply colored lanterns there on display and for sale. The old city seemed to retain many of the traditions of this holiday. I wonder how things have changed in four years, though, and how different they are in nearby Danang, say, which is a more built-up city.
A few photos below from a recent day trip to Penang National Park on the northwest coast of Penang Island. There is no vehicular access to the park beaches, so they are uncrowded. Access is by small boat or on foot. We walked in and out, a total of some nine kilometers.
We found Monkey Beach, named for the crab-eating macaques that live in the trees there, clean compared with other Penang beaches more often frequented by tourists in great numbers, drawn to parasailing, jet-skiing, and other such activities.
On a beach in the park, my son found a couple kinds of crabs: one a small fast-scurrying crab with a translucent body, and a larger fiddler-like crab, which he dug from its sand burrow. We also observed a few water monitors on the beaches and on the mudflats just off shore.
Recently, I asked a Tamil acquaintance why fish and shrimp are expensive here compared with other sources of protein. We had thought that living on an island would give us access to fresh, inexpensive seafood. He told us that 50 years ago, one could cast a line from almost any beach and catch stingrays, which are eaten here, at the rate of about one an hour; now, there are none to be found in local waters. This is true, too, he said for many fish and for shrimp. He told us that the sea nearby had become so polluted that many fish are now sourced from Thailand and Indonesia, thus driving up prices. Penang has become rich by some measures, but much poorer by others, I think, a story similar around the developing and developed world.