Before I write about Shamian Island (which isn't really an island at all, it's just surrounded by the Pearl River and a moat), I have to tell you about the other shopping we did after the Chen Family Temple. I have never in my life seen anything like it. There was a mall that was AT LEAST 5 stories tall and everywhere you went, there were bead stores. Not the plastic junk, these were strings and strings of semi-precious stones like turquoise and tiger eye. It was an incredible thing to behold (says the girl who collects jewelry as her travel momento of choice).
Now on to Shamian. We, of course, went shopping here too. Shamian is an area in Guangzhou that has western, colonial/victorian style architecture - and up until 2005 the US Consulate was also located here. It is also home of the famous (at least in the Chinese adoption community) White Swan Hotel. We saw Lucy's (an American style food restaurant that is also popular with adoptive families), but we didn't eat there. Instead we ate at a place that was supposed to have Thai food - but it wasn't that spicy in my opinion. Good, but not spicy. I think SongSong is missing the spicy Sichuan food already. Since the Consulate moved and the White Swan is closed for renovation, the shopping at Shamian was not very crowded. The owners were very willing to make deals with you. You could tell that the lack of adoptive families patronizing the shops there was having a big impact on the shopkeepers bottom line.
Unlike Chengdu, there are many people in Guangzhou who speak English - and a lot fewer people stare at the weird white people here. We've pretty much done all of our souvenier shopping in Guangzhou. We found an incredible underground shopping mall near our hotel (Hotel Elan). In Chinese cities, you don't typically cross the street above ground, you use underground tunnels - safer for you and the cars don't have to deal with so many pedestrians. Anyway, we thought we were at one of those underground crossings, but it turned out to be the entrance to a huge underground mall. Clothes as far as you could see in front of you and behind you (I'm SO not kidding about the emincity of this). Mens clothes on one level and womens clothes on the next level. There was also a food court in the basement. Now I've been to Oklahoma City and seen their underground shopping... not even close to what this is. I understand Minneapolis has one too, but I haven't been there to compare. You just have to see this to believe it. Canyons of buildings all around you above ground and more levels of shopping underground - the best part about the underground shopping is that is is actually cool down there :). They will try to tell you that the cost of the clothes are fixed, but if you start to walk away, usually the price will suddenly take a dive. And if it doesn't, there are literally hundreds of shops selling practically the same thing.
Right before we went to Shamian, we went to have SongSong's TB test poke read at the clinic. He got a 9/9. If he had gotten a 10, we would have had to get chest X-rays because that would have been considered a positive for TB. We're so thankful that we didn't have to do that. I knew it was going to be close because where they poked him was very red and still a raised bump. I've had the TB skin test before and knew mine didn't look like his did after a day or so.