The southern city of Guangzhou, China is the third largest city in China and the center of the Chinese manufacturing powerhouse that has filled the Wal-Marts of America with cheap plastic shit. Manuel and I took a weekend trip down there to explore the scene and in our opinion is not a great option for Single Dudes. While there are some good possibilities for making money and some hot chicks, there are far too many cons for me to recommend it.
First thing that jumped out at us was the price. Guangzhou was shockingly expensive. This was my first trip to the mainland and I was expecting it to be a bargain, but Guangzhou is definitely not even close to cheap. Drinking at bars was quite expensive- at nice higher end places a glass of wine or a mixed drink was 60 RMB and up, meals for two (without alcohol) 150-200 for 2 people even at mediocre restaurants and reasonable accommodation started from 300 RMB and up. At least transportation was cheap with taxis that drop the meter at 10 RMB and public transportation that was practically free. That said, a standard Single Dude day would easily set you back a minimum of 600 RMB (~$100 USD) with basic shared accommodation for two, meals and a few drinks out at the clubs. Generally speaking prices are approximately the same as the nearby and far superior Hong Kong.
This to me was quite shocking, after hearing stories from Boris of great fun to be had for bargain basement prices in Suzhou and even Shanghai. However, times are a changing. All the money printing the central banks of the world have been doing for the last five years there has left trillions of dollars worth of phony fiat monopoly money sloshing around the world looking for a home, and as a result Chinese inflation has been absolutely out of control the last five years. Guangzhou in particular has been hit hard by the inflationary bug with many people having become very wealthy in a short period of time. Sure, you can still get some cheap noodles or some fleabag hotel but this is China. You don’t want to eat the local cheap food or stay in low end accommodation, trust me.
There are definitely some very nice girls in town and that was one of the few pros about Guangzhou. Mainland girls are often beautiful and nice and like to dress well, with miniskirts and high heels. On our trip, especially in our neighborhood there were some real stunners. The Chinese however, are not particularly outgoing and the English in this town is quite bad, however, so bring some Mandarin skills if you want to make headway with most of them. It seemed like every local girl we met who we were able to communicate with was a buyer of some local factory produced product and hated their job. Still, it’s not bad to be a white guy in China as far as girls are concerned.
A special note about the taxi drivers: illiterate, unable to read maps, unfamiliar with major landmarks, and without a word of English, Guangzhou taxi drivers are some of the worst I have ever dealt with. We were staying on a major, major street in Tianhe (the new town) and even though we had a map of the apartment provided by our host, the address in Chinese, and the address was on a 4 lane divided highway in the center of town, all of our taxi drivers were unable to find it without me sitting in the passenger seat and giving them GPS assisted turn-by-turn directions. They also would refuse to take us to major city landmarks such as the Canton tower (the largest tower in China) and the party pier (a major party destination in the center of town) claiming they didn’t know where they were. One must have a GPS equipped smartphone with a local data plan to get to one’s destination in Guagnzhou.
There is a bit of party to be had in town. I highly recommend the new Party Pier on the river for a weekend night out. The view along the Pearl River is great and there are many clubs and bars there. Expensive drinks, hot Chinese and Russian chicks and ear-splittingly loud music is the norm. One troubling experience I would like to relate to you however was from the Wave Club on Friday night. We were having a pretty fun time there, drinking 6 beers for 240 RMB ($6.50 each, quite a good deal for the party pier) when around 1:30 AM, seemingly out of nowhere, 100-150 sketchy looking African dudes came out of nowhere and descended the Party Pier like locusts with a particular affinity for the Wave Club. I don’t know where they came from or what they were doing in town, but it all of a sudden did not seem like a very safe place to be and we got the hell out. I try not to judge people based on the color of their skin but when a bunch of lower class black guys come into a club in the nicest part of town and take the place over all at once it is never a positive sign for Single Dudes or little Chinese chicks. Interestingly enough the nearby Suns Club seemed to not be as affected by this foreign invasion so we proceeded to have a blast over there for the rest of the evening.
Food in town is also an adventure, often quite bad and overpriced at the same time. Every meal the two of us ate came in around 150-200 RMB minimum while at the more expensive restaurants we visited entrees were as much as 180-250 RMB each! At every restaurant we experienced the same phenomenon that happens only once in a while anywhere else I have ever been. That is, we would point to order something on the menu and a few minutes later they would come back and tell us that that item was not available, or in Mandarin, “meiyo”. We never ate a meal where they had what we chose first and several times in the four day trip we would have to choose 3, 4, even 5 things before they actually had something. It is symptomatic of a larger problem of China that I am just beginning to get a handle on, but I will share some of my initial observations on it now.
Many people take it for granted today that China will rise to become the world’s great superpower over the next couple of generations, and for a long time I have shared that view. Certainly if you look at the numbers coming out of China in terms of GDP growth, corporate profits, and so on, extrapolate it and it would seem that a titanic economic powerhouse is rising in the East. However there is one problem: they are lying about everything. Numbers coming from Beijing are assumed by everyone now to be completely fabricated, as evidenced by how GDP numbers are completely inconsistent with electricity usage numbers. Corporations make up whatever numbers they want, as evidenced by the drying up of IPOs in Shanghai when basic accounting and audit requirements were imposed. The politicians are so corrupt, they make the US Congress look like nuns. Every time I look at the Chinese news, I see a story about some mid-level provincial government official who owns 37 houses or some spoiled brat kid of a government bigwig wrapping his Ferrari around a telephone pole with a couple Tibetan hookers in the passenger seat. This goes all the way down to the restaurants who want to look like they have a lot more on the menu than their kitchen has the ability to handle. “Meiyo, meiyo”, they say without shame, we don’t have that, and we won’t have it tomorrow or the next day either.
I’m sure many readers have heard about the ridiculous property bubble in China and the unbelievable glut of vacant real estate in China. While prices in Beijing for apartments are sky high, there are more vacant properties there than there are in all of America. Some current estimates top 100 million vacant units in the country, as everyone there, convinced that prices will go up forever, bought an investment property or 3 built by some property developer who showed them an artist rendering of a gleaming high rise with a view of a nice tree lined park outside. The reality is more like an already crumbling hastily constructed building with poor workmanship overlooking a toxic waste dump hours outside of the city.
We were presented with numerous examples of this on our brief trip to Guangzhou. Here are some examples:
1: The Canton Tower at 450+ meters tall is the tallest tower in China and according to their website has all sorts of tourist attractions like restaurants, “4D” movie theaters, observation decks, and rides. It is just a couple years old and we were excited to check out the view. When we arrived at the site on a Friday afternoon but it was closed. No sign was even present explaining what the deal was and the website claimed it was open from every day 7 days per week from 9:00 to 22:00.
2: Just up the street from the Canton Tower is the Guangzhou opera house, a modern art monstrosity designed by Zaha Hadid that was supposed to be a crown jewel of the city. However, just a year or two after completion, due to the shoddy slapped together construction job that is typical of China, it was already crumbling and leaking in the rain.
3: In the Zhujiang new town near where the opera house is there is a gigantic new mall, the Mall of the World, where we thought would be a great place to meet some of these hot mainland chicks with high heels and education. Oops! It was deserted and the vast majority of the shops were closed or had never even opened in the first place. There were signs trumpeting all the cool retailers with pictures of classy people doing classy things but the reality was more of a ghost town.
4: The Internet everywhere we went was absolutely atrocious. It was incredibly frustrating trying to do any business while we were there and it would sometimes take 30 minutes to send a single email. I think the Chinese government has bottlenecks set up at the internet borders and any websites from abroad are filtered through these bottlenecks. Domestic sites seemed to work OK, but regular sites like Google were incredibly slow and as I’m sure you know there is no Facebook, YouTube or Twitter allowed. I think China would be a very bad place to run a 4 Hour Workweek style business, plus, terrible internet is certainly not a bullish indicator for the country in general.
Anyways, in conclusion, don’t bother with Guangzhou unless you are there on business. It is perhaps a very good place to make money and a friend of ours in town explained to us that, “All you need is an order” and you can really make things happen if you want to get involved in the cheap-chinese-plastic-shit-for-Wal-Mart gravy train. For single dudes, give it a pass and just go two hours south to the dynamic, smart, fun, clean, and safe paradise of Hong Kong instead.