August 25, 2013

GuangZhou, China - Beautiful Run Along The Pearl Delta River

The monument outside of Guangzhou Hotel
It's a typical hot and wet summer in the bustling southern hub of China, Guangzhou and the perpetual morning rains kept me away from my routine of Run-Touring (Means touring the city via running. I invented that Lingo!)The run finally let up at the last day of the journey and I was able to initiate my ambitious project of running from my hotel to the Canton Tower, a journey of around 10km.

The starting point was at my hotel at Guangzhou Hotel (广州宾馆)located at Hai Zhu Square (海珠广场)and I ran south towards the direction of the Pearl River. This part of the city is the cultural, food and shopping hub in Guangzhou with many famous restaurants and shopping streets all around the area. The Hai Zhu Square is also one of the main gathering point for travelers who intent to travel to Hong Kong or Macau by coach.

Headed South towards Pearl River
The 2 while lines indicate the cycling track
View of Pearl River from North Bank. Canton Tower can
be seen in the horizon
The First leg of my run. The GPS dot is off.
The starting point should be much further south
at the HaiZhu MRT
There has been many stories, of Chinese citizen becoming fat and unhealthy, due to their rapid rise in wealth and lack of exercise, which made me conclude that, this is going to be a pretty lonely run as the typical Guangzhou city dweller will still be snoring away on a Sunday morning.

Well, I was pretty wrong on that sterotype.

The walkways along the Pearl River were bustling with activities, and the locals were out in force, jogging, working out on the exercise machines, performing Taiji and walking their dogs. The running track along the bank of the Pearl River is a joy to run, as it stretches on and on with no disruption due to traffic lights or road crossing. I was very impressed by the city planner, who was able to bypass all the major roads with underpasses and bridges, creating one safe and "vehicleless" journey, cutting across the heart of the city. 
The fees for taking a ferry ride along Pearl River

A Tablet at the Ferry terminal deciphering the revolutionary hero
Sun Yat-sen
A Tablet deciphering the Opium War Hero, Lin ZeXu
Government Propaganda to remind citizens of good behavior.
How familiar!
A shot of the running track from a bridge
Humans and Dogs working out!
A local doing some stretching, with high rise condos as the backdrop
Boarding the ferry. It's one of the best method to travel along
Pearl River
Colonial era canon commemorating the wars between the Qing
Dynasty and the Western Colonists
The Workout area is filled with people!
About 4KM into the run, I was faced with a decision to either run along the north bank of the Pearl River or taking a turn running into the Er'Sha Island. Er'Sha Island is a small island that lies smack in the middle of the Pearl River, in the heart of the City of Guangzhou. This curious strip of land is not frequently mentioned in any of the tourist guides and I saw quite a number of parks dotted along that piece of expensive real estate. With little hesitation, I ran up the bridge that lead me towards this piece of greenbelt, in the middle of the river.

The work-out crowd thinned considerably once I crossed the bridge and the bustling city noise of Guangzhou City muted down to the sounds of birds and rustling trees. There is almost negligible vehicle and pedestrian traffic along the entire island. Other than a few other few joggers and cyclists, the only other people that I met were parties of garden maintenance crew. They were pruning the bushes, cutting the grass and spreading fertilizer, in essence, doing their best to maintain the numerous parks and gardens on the island, with few locals or tourists to appreciate the result of their efforts. The gardens were not spectacular like Singapore's Garden by the Bay or having Zen like meaning like the gardens of Suzhou. Instead, the gardens are just ... "neat". It is a good place to bring the family for a picnic and let the kids and dogs run around without risk being run over by a car. The silence is also a bit unsettling after all the noise and din I experienced in the main city itself.

Er'sha Island on the right. You can see the connecting bridge
The Bridge that leads to Er'sha island
There are so many parks in there! This is just one of it.
Nicely pruned. Green and deserted...
Look at all the greenery and open ground!
There was almost nobody around except me.
Keeping my end point Canton Tower in Sights
Another well maintained desolated garden
I need to get up to Guangzhou Bridge. Can't find the stairs! Help!
Second part of the run. Move the red line a few mm
down. The GPS doesn't work well here!
There are a few buildings on the Er'sha island but they either seems to be residence of important people (Guards and angry dogs) or government administrative buildings. There is also an international tennis club at the eastern side of the island, with big and expensive cars parked outside. With my objective, the Canton tower shimmering in the morning sun in a distance, I tried to figure out a way to get out of Er'sha island. The only way out of the island, leading to the south towards Canton Tower, is via the Guangzhou Bridge.

However, I could not seem to find the staircase leading to the bridge.

This lead me to run another 1-2km all around the bridge to find the way out of this island!

Taking a cab was not a good option at this point of time, because I saw probably only 1 cab during my entire 40 mins run around the island. With my endurance sapped by trying to look for a way out and running in circle, I contemplated calling for my buddy, who was still probably snoring away at the comfortable darkness in the hotel, for help. (He swear he will workout with me but he chickened out last minute, citing fatigue.... and went back to sleep)

After circling to the southern side of the island and nearly giving up, I saw a small stairway leading up to the massive Guangzhou Bridge. I found my salvation at last!
At the south bank of Er'Sha Island. About to give up.

Looked around for a way out. Nobody around....
Spotted the stairwell to Guangzhou Bridge.
Summoning up my inner energy, I jogged over to the stairwell and ran across to the middle of the Guangzhou Bridge.

The whole of the Guangzhou Central Business District and Canton Tower area was laid out to see, and with the cooling breeze in the face, it is a pretty uplifting experience (especially when I was exhausted from a 9km run already)

I ran the last 2km from the bridge to Canton tower with renewed vigor.

View from the top of Guangzhou Bridge
Might as well snap a picture!
The narrow pedestrian road on the bridge

The walkway along the southern side of the Pearl River was filled with activities too. Interestingly, the crowd here seems to be younger as I saw families with young children having fun along the banks of the Pearl River. Generally, the folks on the North Bank were slivered haired. I wondered if this side of the river is where the new community is with a younger demographics.

Anyway, I was too exhausted to contemplate the population layout of Guangzhou city and trudged towards Canton Tower

The base of the Canton Tower was deserted, with a few street vendors setting up camera kiosks, getting ready for the tourist crowd that will stream in later. There were people glancing curiously at this sweaty dehydrated young man, who was limping around, gingerly looking for a drink kiosk to quench his burning thirst. This young man found his salvation inside the MRT station and purchased a 5rmb huge chilled, bottle of isotonic drink.

The activity at the southern Pearl River Bank.
Woah. Inline skaring lessons!
The Guangzhou financial district with the IFC dominating
the skyline.
At the base of Canton Tower.
Reached my destination at last!
The MRT station at the base. Few people around. Exhausted.
A map showing the surrounding area in the MRT
Overall, the whole run is a pleasurable experience. From the historical district of Guangzhou, to the scenic quiet Er'sha island, to the modern convention hub where the Canton Fair is held. The cycling/running track is fantastic and well marked by the 2 white lines. I will encourage any runners, who are traveling to Guangzhou city to take a trip down the running lane, and you will enjoy the variety of sights and sounds that await you.

Now that I am on the other side of the city... Its time to look for a taxi back... 


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