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.