Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shamian Island

Early morning meeting in Changsha with the very affable Director Chen Jianming and Huang Lei of Hunan Provincial Museum before catching a hi-speed train to Guangzhou. 567kms in 2hrs 45m was going some.
On arrival, time enough in the afternoon to meet the scarily young Wei Jun, the new Director of Guangdong Provincial Museum, a big box of a place next to Guangzhou Opera House. Then, from heritage to contemporary, a meeting at the equally newish Times Museum which is part of a big housing complex in the north of the city and feels nicely plugged into the local community. The ground floor entrance ushers you into a funky shop and cafe; the surprise is that the galleries are 19 floors up with apartments in between. 
All good. As was a couple of hours to myself on Shamian Island, the old colonial enclave in the centre of town (if Guangzhou has a centre). It's a delightful place, set on an island in the Pearl River and full of gorgeous 19th & early 20th century western-style townhouses, some of them ex-consulates, a couple of churches and lots & lots of trees.  It was all really well preserved, but not in aspic. The cobbled streets were full of people strolling or playing badminton in the semi dark; there was the sound of children (still at school for some reason) and it hasn't been taken over by tourist tat. 

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