Looking for easy credits in college I came to a course called Photogrammetry. After this I was hooked to aerial photography. Many years later, I walked into an exhibition of photos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand in the Luxembourg gardens of Paris called “The Earth from the Sky”. This was a science made into art. With camera drones this has become easy today, when it is allowed. But for an amateur like me, the only way is still to take a window seat on a plane or to climb a high tower.
Coming in to Guangzhou, I looked past The Family, out of the cramped aircraft’s window, and saw a city where land and water mingled together. The first impression was of low houses in the baked-earth colours of southern Spain, but with flat roofs. The feel of Guangzhou on the ground is nothing like sparsely-populated Spain. This is, after all, one of the earth’s most crowded regions. Atmospheric haze is a major problem in tropical air. Even the cleanest of air will have so much water vapour that the saturated colours of Arthus-Bertrand’s photos are not visible to the eye. One can edit one’s photos to get a similar effect, at the cost of the reality of the tropics. Over a city the air is never clean. Although Guangzhou is not the most polluted city in the world, not even among the top 100, there is a definite haze visible from the air.
The views of central Guangzhou come from the top of Canton Tower. We managed to make it to the viewing platform of the tower in the golden hour before sunset. Looking east you can see the many bridges which connect the Huangpu and Panyu districts. We never managed to explore these two regions, although there are many historically important things to see in these parts of Guangzhou. The modern city is enormous, and includes many districts which historically were separate towns. Panyu was one of these. As evening fell we sat in a cafe in the Canton Tower and watched the enormous traffic jam centered on the nearest of these bridges. I was happy that we had elected to travel mostly by the metro. Looking west (featured photo) towards the posh district of Haizhu, taking a photo against the setting sun was a bit of a challenge. Later we would walk through this area, but for now one of things which intrigued me was the long island with the huge park which takes up much of the foreground of the featured photo.
The photo above is of the Tianhe district in the last light of the day. This is the new town, with all the swanky high-rises and the signature buildings by the world’s major architects. They lie in the shadows at the base of the tall towers. Beyond the high towers you can see the hills which are a special feature of Guangdong province. The Chinese word Tianhe translates into Sky River. The same translation works for the word, Akashganga, which describes the Milky Way in Sanskrit and other Indian languages. Akashganga. Tianhe. Which way did the cultural influence run?
Panyu was a pretty long car ride from Guangzhou when I lived there. It was beautiful, caves along the river where pirates had lurked, stored opium, attacked foreigners. It was relatively un-urbanized, as was Foshan, which, I’m sure, has been swallowed up by this mega-city. It’s lovely to see the silhouette of Baiyun mountain in the bottom photo. That, too, was outside the city. Between the city and Baiyun Shan were a military base, rice and vegetable fields, and villages. We rode our bikes up Baiyun and back down, going through the military base where we were NOT supposed to be (the only time my ID was checked while I was in China) then laughingly escorted out after a phone call, I imagine to our university. “Your foreigners (probably named by our nicknames) are lost again.”
Have you visited the tomb of the Moslem saint, Waggas (sp)? It’s kind of near the Dong Fang Hotel Is the mosque with its old tower still there? It was near the river, the minaret once doubled as a lighthouse. Those were two lovely and peaceful places.
If I were to bet on which way the influence ran, I am sure it ran from India to China.
Thank you again. ❤
Nice to read your reminiscences with every post. I do hope you scan your photos and write about your time in Guangzhou.
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I’ve loved your posts so much. I’m “scanning” Amazon for the best scanner. I think it will be my Christmas present to me. Then we’ll hope for a few too-cold-to-go-out days. 🙂
I like the plan.
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I do enjoy the perspective from high up, as you do. Smog is an eternal bane, at all levels.
Unfortunate, but it is.
Loved the bridge with the tall white arch. Great photos.