Walking to work – A short stroll from “Ming to Modernity”

My walk to work is nothing short of magic. 

Guiyang is situated in one of the least developed regions of China, once ruled over by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis).   It is one of the smallest of China’s cities with a population of a mere 4.4 million.

Walking the 1.5 km to work is, as I have mentioned in a previous post, a complete delight. With each block there is a new sight and experience.

It’s like walking through time in some respects. There are pockets of town like areas still wedged in between modern high rise. Some of the lane ways in between the large modern four lane city streets are like the market towns of old.   You can see the same connection to the old village ways of living even in my own apartment complex.

This morning I walked through the car parks and weave my way in between the two other apartment blocks between mine and the road. I passed people boiling bok choy and Chinese cabbage to sell to restaurants and street vendors out the side of their ground floor apartment. It’s a large fire pot in the lane, the side door to apartment open and the kids rushing in and out. The hot coals under the fire burn red and the bundles of produce are stacked along the side wall.

They say hello to me now, and I always wave at the kids. Of an evening you can often here the group of children from this apartment rushing around playing out in the courtyard/carpark. It’s lovely to hear the sounds of their shouts and laughter as they play.

This morning a man was walking down the lane into the apartment complex carrying a freshly killed (unplucked) goose and a large hare. When I get the 50m out of the complex and onto the road I turn right and pass the dog grooming salon and peak through to see what divinely pampered creatures are there. On the way home they turn on a massive red neon sign that says in both Chinese and English “SPA”; for dogs, not humans.

Then another 30m and the village-like markets I have described. I love walking past these, food carts, fresh fruit and vegetables straight from the outlaying farming areas and prayer beads and some jewellery. There is an entire laneway that is pet products to the right and a complex of low rent shops that I have not yet fully explored that the locals shop at. I figure this will be my regular shopping spot and I have picked up some yummy treats here.

In the mornings, under the highway overpass that covers the market here, there are groups of people gathered sitting on their back baskets. These large baskets shaped to fit on your back are hoisted on like back packs and double as comfortable seats. They await an employer and sometimes there are many waiting and sometimes very few.

There are two areas like this one on my journey and they are the places I dwell the longest. You also see people with bamboo poles across their shoulders with two suspended baskets on the ends full of produce in these locations, a stark contrast from the rest of the walk through modern shopping areas. The food carts vary and there are a few that are clearly permanent and they are the ones I tend to gravitate to. Noodles and a variety of other things I cannot yet name and will describe at a later date – but nonetheless very tasty. A favourite sells delicious bacon and egg omelettes. Next to them is a stall with egg based pastries with a variety of fillings and shapes and sizes.

Some of the shops here sell massive urns with bluestone Chinese glazing with magnificent designs and one shop sells the most diving jade and other gem stone jewellery and statues. These more exclusive shops are tucked away inside the markets where you wouldn’t expect to find them. Unless you are a sticky beak like me! These are the places the locals buys beautiful things to grace their homes, not cheap crap, but things crafted by artisans.

Then within 100m you go from the old to the new and the Hunter shopping mall which is as glitzy as any in any other large city in the world. This is where the street is fronted by Pizza Hut, KFC and Starbucks as well as H&M fashion. In front of the high end shopping are fewer street vendors and I tend to walk more briskly pass.

I will sometimes stop at the Laodongmen relic site (see pics) behind which is the public primary school I teach at on Monday afternoons.

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It has the most divine eatery tucked up the side of it. Rows of little coal grills and they bring you skewers with vegetables and meats of your choosing (and tofu) and you cook them yourself and enjoy the heat of the fire as well. It’s a pleasant spot and I just love the way the seating is arranged, low benches and tables that encourage groups of four to six people to eat and enjoy close conversation. They are in a wide but quiet thoroughfare and are spread out far enough between them to create a leisurely eating experience right in the middle of the city.

In the mornings there is tai chi here and public dancing in the evenings. The rest of the way, the last 700m is largely shops until I get to work and every day I notice more and more. I do love my walks to work.

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