Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Spring Festival day 1 – canals, bridges and Cantonese Opera around Lychee Bay

After our visit to Renwei Temple, we went on to visit Lychee Bay (荔枝灣), which is this gorgeous park area with lakes, canals, architecture... And, since this is was the Spring Festival, some trees were already blooming, including one of my favourites – magnolias! I don't know, it just makes me so happy to see magnolias, you know?

Also, because of the festivities, parts of the park had red decorations, food stands, and even a candy artist who painted super intricate and delicate figures by pouring syrup that then would solidify and become beautiful candy!

We enjoyed fine weather, strolling around the canals, admiring the buildings and their reflections...

We even came across an Erawan Shrine, a Hindu shrine for asking whatever you may need (hence the multiple faces and arms of Lord Brahma). So interesting, because the first time we saw a similar one was in Bangkok in 2006!

And then, right nearby, we heard some singing. Cantonese Opera! Woohoo! We were feeling a bit bummed we couldn't get tickets for a performance at the Opera House, so we were so excited to catch a bit of this open air performance!

The day winded down with some dimsum, sunset views of decorated trees and historic towers, and some matcha and Hokkaido cream (whatever that may be) ice-cream.

And this (plus my previous post) was just day 1 of Chinese New Year...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Spring Festival day 1 – paying your respects to Tai Sui

Spring Festival extends for about two weeks. And I did get one of those off, which meant the first week of the year of the dog was full of exploring and seeing and eating... as you'll painfully see through maybe too many posts on this! Starting (or following, if you include the eve as part of the new year) with a visit to the Renwei Temple (仁威廟).

The road there from the subway station was cool, with lots of people carrying golden and red sort of shrines on a stick with pinwheels and hanging stuff... It's hard to describe, and it was impossible for me to get a good pic. But anyhow, many people, mostly older ones, were carrying those, and there were quite a few stands as well selling different Spring Festival-related paraphernalia, also in bold gold, red and yellow colours.

Finally, we made it to Renwei Temple. This Taoist temple, in the Liwan District (荔灣區) of Guangzhou and just next to Lychee Bay (荔枝灣), is where people went to pay their respects to the Tai Sui (太歲), or Master of the Year. Actually, we just found out this right then and there, we were just intending to visit "a" temple next to Lychee Bay. But then we found ourselves surrounded by people queuing to enter, rubbing a lion's head and putting money in its mouth, and then all the signs about the Tai Sui... What a fantastic surprise! 

People engaged in all sorts of rituals – praying, placing incense sticks, leaving money on top of a dragon statue... It was incredible. The temple is so complex, with hall after hall after hall, countless figures to pray to, thick wafts of incense, rays of light crashing into the darker shrines through open roofs, so many people! 

We visited all the shrines and spaces. What an experience. This below is a picture from one of the exists. Such a calm, unassuming side of the temple, hiding such colour and activity inside!

That could have been enough for the day. But we were right next to Lychee Bay...

Monday, February 26, 2018

New year's eve by the Canton Tower

After our visit to Nanhai Temple (see my previous post) we headed to the Canton Tower area by the Pearl River to have a look at a flower fair and at the last sunset of the year. The skies were beautiful, the sun shone big red, and as it got darker, buildings and bridges lit up... 

Right by the Canton Tower there was this pink huge artificial tree, which was used for projecting some images along with music. It didn't quite work as a screen, but I thought it was very pretty nevertheless.

Finally, we stayed around, because there was going to be a (nightly) light and sound show to celebrate the new year! Huacheng Square was packed with people, many of them tourists from other parts of China, and we all waited around, with numerous buildings in the vicinity adding red to their usual light decoration. 

Finally, the show! Sorry I'm only posting photos here and no video, but it was very nice! They did some impressive tricks with laser beams and lights! At some point, it looked like there were wavy rays coming off the tower! Loved it!

And so the new year began. The year of the dog. And we used ever day we could to explore the city in this festive light. Which means there are tons of Spring Festival-related posts ahead!

Friday, February 23, 2018

New year's eve by the abode of the god of the south sea

So, the Chinese Spring Festival holidays are over (at least for me). We welcomed the Year of the Dog here in Guangzhou, and we saw plenty! Like my habibi said in his own social media, we're learning to like and respect this city. It was a whole week off we had, so you can expect lots and lots of posts, beginning with this one on a visit to the Temple of the God of the South Sea (南海神廟, also kown as Nanhai Temple) on the eve of the new year. 

First of all, just look at the subway station taking you to the temple! How cool that it would have wave patterns! right?

The temple (apparently with a 1400 year history, and the only one remaining of four ancient sea temples in China) was a lot quieter than we expected. We thought we'd find a bustling temple fair and lots of people. Obviously, we miscalculated, as everybody was probably home preparing the new year's eve festive dinner. But at least it meant that we got to enjoy the temple in unusual calm as well. Loved the pinwheels and the bonsai by the entrance (or should I say penzai/penjing 盆栽/盆景? because this art form is originally Chinese, you know?), and the weird backdrop of a factory by one of the gates was... well, interesting as well. 

Befitting a temple to a god of the sea, there was a big special pond with carp and turtles, both real, stone and ceramic. 

We enjoyed the quiet of the temple guarded by all-hearing and all-seeing door warriors, strolling around, coming across a beautifully detailed gigantic bronze drum, seeing some few people burning incense (gorgeous incense burners) and praying at the different shrines, under one of which is supposed to lie a dragon, as depicted on a wall.

And then, we had a bit of a Lingnan (that's the culture of here down south) architecture lesson through various explanatory signs! There were oyster-shell walls, sliding doors, and patterns and shapes that we now recognize everywhere! 

Just before leaving, there were these trees covered in red ritual ribbons, as well as a pavilion atop a hill. In theory, that would have been one of the most beautiful spots in the area, from which to watch sunsets (I mean, it's a sea god temple, it's by the water, right?). But trees now block any views, and there nothing to see anyhow, as the area around has changed and is now urbanized. 

Awesome place. And we'll be back for it's own temple fair sometime in March. Anyhow, this is the beginning of a long series on the 2018 Spring Festival (Chinese New Year, whatever you wanna call it)!