Foshan, China

Chinese Martial Art School, no Shaolin

Needing to do some exploring and get away from the “Island,” I came to Foshan, a city of a mere 5.9 million according to Lonely Planet*, just a couple hours by bus from home. I got here Friday and was underwhelmed. My hotel, Aloft delighted with its funky colors and chic décor, but it’s way out on the fringes of Foshan and requires a 30 minute bus ride in a bus that’s crammed with people. By the time I’ve boarded I have to hand the fare to riders blocking the driver and then after he gets it, trot to the back door and squeeze up on to the portion of the bus floor that says “Don’t Stand Here.”

Last night I ventured into town and found it disappointing. The main street featured little that I’d like to wonder into. Down at heels is the term that fits. There was a little flea market with fake jade, house plants and porn DVDs that was the highlight. There weren’t any restaurants that enticed so I settled for this Chinese chain of fast food owned by a kung fu master.

Today I was determined to find the temples and sights. I hoped that the bus wouldn’t be crowded on a Saturday morning, but that was naïve. The first two buses were packed and didn’t even open their doors for those of us waiting. After half an hour of waiting, I opted for a cab. They’re expensive in Foshan and cost me 70 rmb. Budget travelers are better off in the north of China. I did get to the Zu Miao Temple and Ancestral Hall, which had a museum for Ip Man, a reknowned Kung Fu master. The grounds were tranquil and historic, sure to satisfy the traveler who wants a bit of old China. On Saturdays they have concerts and I caught a band playing old Chinese music. After the ancestral hall, I walked up the street to Renshou Monestary, a small worth a quick look.

The temple and monestary are on another, far more appealing street parallel to the one I wandered along on Friday. The weather’s sunny and cool, a beautiful fall day in Guangdong.

Between the temple and the monestary I found the terminal for my K5 bus, the place to get on and possibly get a seat for the 40 minute ride back. So I headed back to that stop. I noticed a sculpture that beckoned me. Then I saw that down that alley was a series of old-style shops so I wandered down. So far they just have some high end paper cut shops and bubble tea cafés but beyond the gate at the end of that alley was a whole new complex of retro-style shops and restaurants. Only a couple restaurants were open, but this district, which reminded me of a cross between Beijing’s Qianamen Square and the renovated hutongs that now house shops and restaurants. When these businesses open and the surrounding apartments are occupied, this is sure to be a magnet for chic professionals. Give Foshan a year and it’ll be a nice getaway for the Guangzhou crowds.

*So there must be like 7 million.

About smkelly8

writer, teacher, movie lover, traveler, reader
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