Eating is an important part of all my travels. My itineraries are often organized based on my eating destinations at any given city. The art of travel, however, is more than just eating and spotting out the next best food joints off the street. To quote Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel:
We are inundated with advice on where to travel to, but we hear little of why and how we should go, even though the art of travel seems naturally to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial, and whose study might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia, or 'human flourishing.My recent travels have somewhat changed to involved more than just food but also a deeper understanding of the cultures, history, architecture and customs of that particular city or regions. All these elements contribute somewhat to the development of local or perhaps regional culinary cultures, hence not to be underestimated. With the above taken into consideration, this post consists mainly of photographs I took around the city of Taishan, treat it as a photo essay or whatever you like to call it, I simply want to share my experiences one frame at a time.
Taishan is a rapidly developing city in the Pearl River Delta Region, but like many other cities in China the growth is centralized in certain area and perhaps industries as well. No matter how much one tells me Taishan is growing exponential in terms of GDP or whatever, to a certain extend I judge trough my eyes. Many parts of the cities are still lack proper maintenance, I can feel from the vibe of the air that income disparity is still fairly huge. Did I mention aging population?
A 5 mins walk in the downtown of Taishan, I found that many buildings are fairly low as in 2 - 3 story high only and they have a fairly bit of western influences on the exterior.
Some open ceiling have very colorful paintings and patterns as well. I am not talking about one or two buildings but almost all of them which are still standing. Apparently many of these buildings (avg 70 - 80 years old) were built or financed by overseas Chinese in the early 1900s. These overseas Chinese either settled or worked aboard in European countries so when they returned they brought back their experiences as well as observations in all aspects and implement in their livelihood. Architecture was just one of many.
When travel, I tend to walk very slowly and be nosy so I look around to spot interesting things or happenings. Check them out!
About 30 mins away from the city center, one will find the filming set of Let the Bullet Fly. I was quite excited when I found that out but once I was there my feeling was rather ... uneasy. Why?
After a mere 100 steps into this township which was, once again, built but returning overseas Chinese with a touch of European flare in the architecture, I realized that ... people still live here, living their daily lives in these very torn down buildings led in on uneven pavement / roads. Of course in general they are much better than rural areas where roads are still a luxury. That's not the point though, I mean do they choose to continue to live at these buildings or they have no choice but the stay? Of the 100 or so houses, only 10 - 15 are still occupied, the rest are there ... filling the void.
It must have been a very busy township before because they built a two-story restaurant just to serve the residents I assume. Of course it no longer is a restaurant but a temporary location for some ... processing work.
Even a hotel before as well?
People still live off self raising-poultry (I assume they raise for themselves and not for resale of course). Yes, that was a dead chicken!
Of course there were some free range chickens, literally running around.
A closer look around, I somewhat felt like we, the group of tourists, were actually intruding the peace and quiet of the residents' home.
You may notice the strong Western influence of the buildings here as well, similar to those in the city. While the exteriors of each "town-houses" are different, their interior in terms of designs and layout are exactly the identical. What's more interesting is actually the roof which is quite hard to capture in photograph of course ... what so special?
Apparently the rooftop of all these buildings were constructed using traditional Chinese tiles as shown below instead of following the Western architectural implementation. There was a rather symbolic reason (or rumors?) behind it as I was told. As mentioned, these houses were built by overseas Chinese and while working overseas, many experienced hardships in foreign land, occasional suppression from respective employers or social segregation. It was the early 1900s as a reminder. Therefore, upon returning, they put the "Chinese tiles" at the TOP over the Western architectural designs as a way to express their ... anger? Very symbolic indeed but the truth to that is yet to be determined.
While torn down and ... messy, I have to respect and understand that these are homes for many people, I am lucky and fortunate enough to be a tourists and not a residents here. What I think to be an unfortunate circumstance can be what they considered as the norm for as long as they can remember. I am in no position to judge, but I can learn from my experiences and observations, few of the key objectives in traveling in my personal opinion.
On a light note to end this post, we often find mis-spelled English in China and yes they are funny but sad at the same time. On this trip, I found something very enlightening on this issue, English is out, French is in!!! HAHA ... and this mark the end of my 2 days trip to Taishan, China.