Around 5pm it’s impossible to get a taxi anywhere in town, and even if you do, it moves so slow it’s double the usual price. So much for multi-level motorways running through the streets. Last year I was in Dong Shan Kou and taxiless, took the motorbike taxi option for the first time. 100 000 dead every year in car crashes in China? What’s a helmet? But I didn’t expect the rider to head straight for the front door of an apartment block, go through into the courtyard, and then on through a bewildering spin of turns through alleys, fresh food markets, and lanes, coming out a spit from the Zhong Shan Interchange, about 5 minutes walk to my door. The magic motorbike riders, who know every shortcut in the city, like a good bicycle courier, they know a red light doesn’t mean stop, and ‘no entry’ only applies to cars.
So yesterday, having taken a good beating in class, and full of Japanese lunch, it was off to find this place, where every second building was glorious beach resort Art Deco and early modern. But the way in had gone, replaced by a school. So, wandering with Stone again, we headed as far east as the military walled town, and worked our way back, ending up a block from the Dong Shan Department Store. This was all once the area where rich Chinese merchants lived in gigantic mansions along gardened and tree-lined streets, the shops along the streets around Dong Shan kou being their local markets and businesses. Many of these houses are either empty or lived in by several families or migrant workers, and in serious disrepair. But the architecture and the opulence is still visible, and occasionally restored to their dazzling glory, and with the increasing number of foreigners permanently settling here, it wasn’t a surprise to see at least one obviously lived in by a non-Chinese. Further south, the streets are cut by canals, making this the closest thing I’ve seen to Amsterdam outside of Nederlans. More pictures, less words: