Fortunately, I have kind, generous friends in Panyu (suburb of Guangzhou). I took a taxi to Clifford Estates and my dear old friend Robert met me. (Robert was one of the first people I met in China when I taught English at the Clifford Kindergarten. I hadn't communicated with him for 4 or 5 years, but a few days before the trip I decided I would try the old email address I had saved. Now, I can't believe I was going to just cruise through Guangzhou without contacting any of my old friends, but that was the original plan.) Robert took me to his brother's restaurant near the front gate of Clifford Estates, Old Man Zeng's Noodle Shop. This was the best Chinese food I had the entire trip. I strongly recommend going there if you're ever in the Guangzhou area. Get the fried dumplings (jin jiao), the Gong Bao Ji Ding, and this vegitable/tofu salad thing (don't know what it was called but it's fresh, healthy, and delightful). There's a subway stop not too far from Clifford Estates. Do it. Or they have a restaurant opening in Guangzhou soon. I have the address somewhere.
Lesson #1, Just because Plan A doesn't go according to plan, doesn't mean Plan B isn't going to be way more awesome.
I ended up staying with Robert and his beautiful, kind wife, Rosie, for two days because I couldn't get a train ticket to Guilin until the following day. I also happened to mention another good friend of mine from back in the day, Joey. We called her and I surprised her and got to spend the afternoon with her. This was probably the happiest day of my trip. It is an amazing, happy thing when you find someone you really care about but haven't heard from in about a decade and figured you'd never see again, but hoped you would.
I also got to eat at the Clifford medicinal restaurant. They serve really yummy food but every dish has plants or herbs that are good for you. My favorite was the mushroom dish as I recall.
I spent part of my last day in Panyu/Guangzhou with friends, and then took the Subway into Guangzhou and hung out at the Xuexiu Park (5 Rams park). It was such a treat to carry two backpacks all over the park. Ok, I did get sore some days from carrying three weeks worth of stuff around, but it was actually amazingly light for 3 weeks worth, and it was better than dragging 50 pounds of suitcases up and down stairs. The park is beautiful though. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.
Some culinary delights, and yes, I ate one of the chicken feet. Yummy, just hard to eat.
I found Guangzhou and the area changed quite a bit. Mostly all in good ways. I saw a lot more cars, a lot! Fewer bikes. Some of the bike lanes have been removed for more car lanes. I would say the area and many of the large cities in China have developed a very high level of sophistication. The cities were very modern when I was there before, but they seemed more polished and sophisticated now. The people are hospitable and kind as ever. One thing that did surprise me was that I still got stared at. I thought maybe people were used to foreigners by now, but I was stared at a lot and had a lot of people ask to take pictures with me. My ego is still reveling in delusions of grandeur. That's all for now. The Amy is going to take a Sunday afternoon nap. We are still overcoming the jetlag.