In March of 2019, I had to make a second trip to China, on business. There, with a few companions, I visited Zhuhai, Shanghai and Beijing, three cities on the eastern seaboard with very different histories and geographies.
We flew from Wenzhou, Zhejiang province to Guangzhou, Guangdong province, located in China’s south. Wenzhou was cool and rainy when I left. Guangzhou, by contrast, was sunny and warm. It was good to feel the sun’s rays as I stood in the parking lot waiting for my car. In a few minutes I had to take off my outer jacket, it was getting hot. The car came and we began the two hour drive to Zhuhai.
In the 1980s, China was opening up and establishing economic expansion zones, well demarcated regions that would form the incubators of capitalism. Zhuhai was one such area on the shores of the South China Sea, close to Macau. Initially it was an economic backwater with about 400,000 people, but soon that began to change. The government poured money into its development that spurred growth on an unimaginable scale. Several high-tech industries e.g., pharmaceuticals and electronics are situated here. Housing is plentiful and often subsidized by the government. The local language is Cantonese but Mandarin is widely spoken as many Mandarin-speaking Chinese came to work in the region. The climate is sub-tropical, warm most of the year. It rains a lot, so vegetation is green and lush and the flowers, bright and colorful. The area near the beach is swank with high-end hotels and residences. Some have called this the Chinese Riviera and Zhuhai, the most livable city in China.
We drove under an arch proclaiming, “Welcome to Zhuhai Special Economic Zone”, and shortly after, stopped at a company for talks. Later I was taken to the Nest Hotel just off the sea shore. From my room I got a lovely view of the sun as it was setting, turning the sea into shimmering gold. I gazed enchanted for a few minutes and took some pictures.
Then it was time to head for dinner at a nice sea food restaurant. It was adjacent to the unique clam-shaped Zhuhai Opera House.
Dinner was a hot-pot affair of meats, abalone, oysters, shrimps, noodles and vegetables. These were brought to the table raw.
We had to dunk them in a pot of hot broth to cook, hence the name ‘hot pot’. The time depended on the food being cooked and I had to keep track of the time.
Sometimes I failed. It was an adventure. The challenge for me was to pick up the cooked food with chopsticks from the ‘hot pot’ as the broth got progressively greasier as dinner progressed. We were given bibs to protect our clothes, a wise decision.
Wine was an excellent St. Emilion Grand Cru in elegant, slant-top glasses which enhanced the bouquet. At the end of the meal, we sipped the broth as a soup. It was delicious. It was a wonderful dinner and I was very full.
The next morning we had some free time and decided to take a walk on the beach. The sun was bright and warm.
We saw the waves of the South China Sea gently lapping the shore and in the distance, the long bridge that connects the mainland to Macau, a gambling haven.
The sand was clean. We soon realized why. There was a team of women in large hats working on the beach picking up and discarding all litter.
Simple perhaps, but it works. I noticed trucks with tanks and large nozzles that were literally blowing a fine mist of water into the air as they drove through the streets. The mist helped the dust and smog settle down to the ground. This seemed a nifty way to control air pollution so endemic in the developing world.
Soon it was time for lunch and the next phase of our journey to Shanghai.