26 January 2017

China: The Wildcard Cities!

Following the crowd is boring, dealing three of China's wildcard cities showed me how to be a travel trailblazer! Bowing down to the favourites like Shanghai and Beijing I wanted to give three alternative cities my full attention, I took on that travel challenge without question! Feeling like the only 'Waiguoren', Guangzhou, Changsha and Zhengzhou are my three wildcards!

I had never heard so much shade thrown at one place before I visited the first of my Chinese wildcard cities in February 2016. Guangdong's mega-city called me after checking out China's two Special Administrative Regions during Spring Festival 2016. Guangzhou boasted a super speedy rail link from Zhuhai, hopping over the border from Macau I zoomed to GZ to give this Canton giant a thorough inspection! Apparently I was going to be visiting a great dirty, smoggy and boring city but let me strike down those haters with one snap back, I saw nothing but greatness! Spurred on by the negativity of others I was amazed by everything Guangzhou served! The memorial of Dr. Sun Yat Sen showed me another slice of this savvy Chinese leader for free, Chinese New Year's Day allowed me complimentary access to that museum, my hotel was named after that site too! Guangzhou's Metro showed me the way B!

Shamian Island took me away from China for a brief interlude, that former trading post guarded by the British and the French defecated on any report that this Guangdong city wouldn't be cultured, people need to leave their hate for another day! The Pearl River spanned across the two sides of GZ with finesse, for such a large river I was reminded of Wuhan's branch of the mighty Yangtze River. This wildcard city served me some amazing Cantonese food, I was staggered to be getting a taste of Hong Kong in Guangzhou! With the night fast approaching I left the pandemonium of Beijing Road to catch a glimpse of a sleek and sexy Guangzhou icon, shining in its rainbow fashion Guangzhou's Canton Tower served like a true glamazon! Guangzhou was snatching wildcard points for its city from all directions, I would be having the last laugh! No, I didn't see any smog, dirtiness or I wasn't bored for one second because Guangzhou served nothing but China wildcard city Realness! Go GZ!

Humid Hunan lured me to its provincial capital of Changsha for 2016's Tomb Sweeping weekend. Changsha didn't choose me, I went to visit a friend who I had met online via social media. Andy showed me this wildcard city well, weather permitting we saw a sweeping stone figure of former leader Mao Zedong, it was more like a scene for Disney's Magic Kingdom due to the hysteria over a sight. I sensed Changsha's development was behind compared to the likes of Wuhan but I admired the unassuming city streets of Changsha too much to care. It was apparent very quickly that the tourist boom had not hit Changsha, or was it ever going to? That for me sealed this Hunan city as a favourite because I despise the tourist traps, I love a wildcard city! Seeking some sustenance I was introduced to some delicious Hunan rice noodles, am I an alien? Those children must have never seen a 'Waiguoren' before?! No!

Tianxin Pavilion allowed me to see Changsha's growing cityscape, the rising skyline was being fashioned for the future but the untouched nature of the Changsha's current view looked great! I wasn't looking for an ordinary kind of 'Next Level' amazing because that was what Hong Kong's for but the Sha served! No way was I going to be trying any Stinky Tofu but hitting up Huogong Palace showed me a snapshot of that potent Changsha signature snack, catering to my ever-lasting thirst of seeing something that is memorably on the down and low! No hotel reservations were made, I had lodgings at Andy's place, affording me to catch a glimpse of an unchanged Changsha city neighbourhood. Why was Changsha worthy to be a wildcard city of mine? It served a vibe that told me that this Hunan city was getting ready for the future, allowing me catch a glimpse of normality. Ultimately, curiousity and a new friendship took me to Changsha without much thought. Oh, Changsha!

I wouldn't say that I'm handy with my fists but if provoked I'm a force to be reckoned with! Keeping with that fighting talk, I chose Zhengzhou as my third wildcard city in September 2016 during Mid-Autumn Festival. The distant home of Chinese Kung Fu, I self-navigated this Henan city, relying on public transport in place of an expensive tour. Arriving under the cover of darkness by High Speed Train from Wuhan I made my way to my Jinjiang Inn hotel without stress. I literally had no clue what the city of Zhengzhou would serve up to me, I had my Dengfeng plan ironed out but I needed some other trouble to make in Z'Zhou! The stone carved figures of Huangdi and Yandi were easy enough to find at Zhengzhou's Yellow River Scenic Area, those former Yan Emperor's both gave me stern looks, three can play at that game! Zhengzhou's tourists were mostly Chinese, loving life I was probably the only 'Laowai' knocking about. Win!

Staying next to Zhengzhou Railway Station, I was fronted a nonstop energy with passengers catching their long distance China trains. Leaving my hotel I was in pursuit to find Z'Zhou's Erqi Square, making it to that sight of crazy I was greeted by the illuminated Erqi Memorial Tower. Sipping my Starbucks coffee I was loving the technicolour view of Erqi's manic square and its shimmering towers much! Seeking the legendary Shaolin Temple and the Pagoda Forest I boarded that early hour bus to Dengfeng, Henan. On some extra crazy person mode I went to battle, this wildcard city had me mad because I wanted that photo without waiting for those family poses to be over, slaying I got my photo of the Shaolin Temple, I wasn't taking no for an answer! Shaolin's Pagoda Forest took the madness away from me, it was quiet and fenced off for a reason! Seeing a short Kung Fu show concluded by third wildcard city experience, I wouldn't mess with those brothers! Zhengzhou brought it! 

Pick Your Wildcards!

Joseph Harrison 

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