I awake, get off the train, and spend a few hours wandering around
Guangzhou in a jet-lagged, curious, stupor. Aside from lots of
pollution, traffic, and busy Chinese, the most interesting thing I see
is some guy getting his moped impounded: he's riding on the sidewalk,
a cop grabbed the front, and he's off to join a dozen others waiting
to get their means of transportation driven away on the back of a
truck. Who says China has no traffic laws?
And then I eat, but not before totally losing my appetite. The restaurant's bigger, cleaner, and, most importantly, has English menus; safe, right? So I'm more than a little surprised to find man's best friend on the menu, twice: dog meat with or without skin. Fortunately, there's only a picture of without and it looked no different than roast beef. Needless to say, I stick to flatbreads that are (hopefully) as likely as anywhere else to be Lassie-free.
Because my attempts at navigation here are basically random paths, I took and, big surprise, fell asleep in a taxi to White Cloud Mountain. It would've needed magic dragons or at least ninjas to live up to its name, but this touristed, paved, and well-manicured trail ends with an impressive panoramic of the surrounding city. I consider the presence of concrete trash can convincingly painted to match the surrounding trees to be strong evidence that China's got too much labor force with not enough to do; the multiple service slogans at each entrance (like "customer is right always" and others more out of a Simpsons trip to Asia) complete with redundant workers, because the same person you pay can't possibly rip your ticket, make me feel more like some more businesses need to open or revolutions get started. Oh yeah: I'm in a socialist country, in case I forgot in he midst of the billboards and McDonald's': special half-rice discounts to White Cloud Mountain for "model workers."
Next was an extended quest for more weirdness of the culinary variety. Qingping Market turns out to be mainly a bust: some cubicle-sized stalls selling fish, eels, and maybe the occasional turtle were about as crazy as it got. There were some kittens and puppies, but I think/hope they were meant as pets. Looking for the point-to-your-food-alive-before-we-kill-it-and-serve-it spectacle of Guangzhou East River Seafood Restaurant proved that my Let's Go map didn't include a scale because it wasn't to one. I'd walked so much that I actually realized it might make sense to jump on a bus. Eureka: a bit more wandering later and I'm at the spot.
The name's a bit different and it's a block from where Let's Go depicted, but this must be y place. Half aquarium and half restaurant, you have all kinds of "delicacies" wiggling around at your disposal: turtles, snakes, what I think is a sea urchin, and water beetles are some of the more exotic fare. What are probably baked maggots aren't kicking but are on the menu; ditto with the crocodile and shark fin. Best is the total lack of any attempt at dividing aquarium from cafeteria: many diners can actually see the former tank and brethren of what they're devouring as they eat! This is definitely getting nice and weird.
And uncomfortable: I round off the night nearly missing my train. Fortunately, an angry old lady who works there rouses me by screaming at me at the top of her lungs. Things aren't much more peaceful aboard: I opted for the cheap seats instead of upgrading to a bed. Even with my narcoleptic abilities, sleep is challenging to say the least. There are 4-5 seats facing each other, 2-3 on one side of a tiny table and 2 on the other, all filled to the brim. Unfortunately, the table only extends out far enough to be a headrest for those nearest the window. Everybody else sort of bounces around, hang their heads towards their laps, or use their neighbor as a pillow. I push my neighbor over to squeeze a few precious inches of table space, waking up and shifting around as I get too uncomfortable. An awkward ending to the day, but a challenging way to travel that I hadn't previously tried. Then again, you could say the same about being dragged behind a horse, and one might wonder if this is less novelty and more uncomfortable stupidity...