This is my second time in the city of Guangzhou. I was here exactly four years ago. It is not normally a place a leisurely traveler will choose with fierce intention, let alone twice. It’s one of China’s many megacities without much going for it, as far as the guidebooks will tell you, besides its Canton history and closeness to Hong Kong. Both times coming here it was a spur of the moment decision; though the first time was an exciting seizure of the unknown, while the second was fueled by a mellow curiosity and a penchant for the eternal question: How are things different?
I remember how much I loved Guangzhou, but beyond this I remember very little. My memory reaches out for it, trying to grab hold of something real to no avail. I am only left with split-second scenes without context: busy pillared sidewalks, the wide smile of a small boy, the way the setting sun shed itself through the canopies, scattering dots and rays of light everywhere. Large billowing trees decorated with glowing lanterns. Hot bamboo towers whose steam poured out onto the streets. It’s nice. I’ve got the same company here I had four years ago, along with this sweet thought: good things don’t have to end.∗