Our first job after having a cup of tea and some buns for breakfast was to catch a bus down to the ferry dock to try and buy tickets for the upriver ferry to Wuzhou.

When we got off the bus down at the dock, a young woman asked us in good English if we needed a helping hand to buy the tickets. She helped us get the tickets and then we all went for some tea at a sidewalk store. She told us her name was Pearly – in the endearing way that the Chinese have of taking English names – and that she was a third-year student of English. We arranged to meet her this evening and she will show us around.

Back of the Shaomin Island part of town, we spent an hour or so in the fascinating Chingping Market where row upon row of animals, fish, reptiles and plants were for sale: skinned dogs, cats, birds and small mammals, fish with their hearts still beating as they were filleted, cats in cages awaiting purchase and death, buckets of toads, baskets of eels, tanks of fish, dried snakes coiled and basketed, deer velvet hanging amongst dried bats, rat’s tails, dried fruit, and everywhere a bustle of people and an avalanche of smells.

At 2 p.m. we met Pearly and she showed us around Central Park, where there was a museum of sea creatures most of them in a shabby state, and an exhibition of paintings done by disabled artists. A traditional Chinese play was being performed, an ear-assaulting cacophony of screechy vocals and twanging instruments. Back over at the White Swan, we ate in a cheap cafe then sat outside and talked.

If it moves…eat it! Qingping Market, Guanzhou (Photo: supplied)

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