What are you first thoughts on China? The Great Wall maybe? Shanghai or Beijing? How about Dongguan in the Guangdong Province of China? Well, that’s where I spent a month of my summer teaching. If I were to tell you that it is a sightseeing hot-spot, full of tourist inspired shops and a variety of a fun and western friendly things to do, I would be lying. Terribly.
I arrived at Hong Kong airport, and spent the next five hours being driven through the Chinese – Hong Kong border (not the highlight of my journey to say the least). After those five, very long, hours I finally arrived in Dongguan. I lived in a flat (something which I wouldn’t recommend) in the Nancheng district of the city. Despite my unappetising accommodation, there are various aesthetically pleasing hotels in and around the city. The sky-high buildings are the first to catch your attention. I was often left mouth half ajar searching for the very top of the buildings, being met half way by the blinding light of the sun.
The weather during July and August in China however, is not quite the same as here in the U.K. Many of the children I worked with, for example, associate July and August with Typhoons and heavy storms. In the middle of my stay, I experienced my very first Typhoon. At around five o’clock in the afternoon, the outside became something like that of a scene from Jurassic Park. The electricity was cut off; candles were put to use, and the room I was in shook as a result of the thunder. Despite the typhoon though, the weather did improve, and I was able to enjoy blistering heat and sunshine.
The Nancheng district of Dongguan is well known for being the home to many enterprises such as Walmart and Nestle. Not only that, but it is also home to many factories which make and distribute clothing. In a vast developing country, this is not unusual, and I often found myself walking past dingy looking factories on my way to local shops.
Despite this industrial side to Dongguan, there were also many, many more pleasant parts to my stay. The food was always delicious, and cheap! The language barrier did occasionally hinder the process, for example, I once asked for a banana and got pineapple ice-cream instead – still very yummy! The best bits for me, surprisingly, were the bakeries. They supplied endless varieties of both sweet and savoury breads, and all sorts of milk and fruit drinks, including a lovely mango juice. However, if you want to try some authentic Chinese cuisine the best places to go are the street restaurants. I went to one restaurant in which the chef made her noodles from scratch in front of you, dividing the dough into the noodles we all know and love. The end product, a noodle soup, was the best I have ever tried!
Although Dongguan is not Beijing or Shanghai, it was definitely an experience. It was confusing, bemusing, terrifying, and amazing. On one occasion a woman nearly fell off her bike after staring at my blonde friend and me for a prolonged period. I would recommend exploring and experiencing the ‘other side’ of China to anyone and everyone ready for a complete and utter culture shock…