Tangjia is a community in Zhuhai about three-quarters of a mile from where I live. I'm there on most days, eating supper, shopping, or catching the bus to go downtown.
The main street varies between four or six lanes of traffic with an imposing median in the center. Wide pedestrian and bike paths line the sides of the street. There's usually more walking or parking spaces next to the buildings as well. Roads and walkways are really spread out here.
Shops, apartments, and hotels line the busy sections of street. This is where K-Box and the Dragon Union Hotel are too. K-Box is a Karaoke (KTV) place and Dragon Union Hotel was where I stayed when I was here in March. I didn't see much of the town then, but I've explored a lot more of it now.
A large band shelter sits on the corner near a bank. The tall arching structure stands at the back of a wide brick pavilion paved with light colored stone. During the day a few people sit on the steps or play music on one of the benches. On Sunday a couple of children could be seen running back and forth though the square with kites.
There's always people milling about, lots of individuals or small groups going their separate ways. It's a hub of activity, but at night the place really seems to come alive.
The sun sets around 6:40pm these days and as dusk falls, Tangjia lights up. Small green canopies line the streets sheltering vendors selling iPhone cases, socks, or other articles of clothing. Small shops sell fruit, plants, shoes, belts, purses, or appliances. Shop owners sit on small chairs, stools, or just squat on the curb while pedestrians walk past. Nearly every other shop appears to be a restaurant or is at least selling food. Four cell phone stores within a block of each other all have doors wide open and half a dozen staff on hand, even at 8:00pm. The workers sit on stools playing with their phones or lean on the glass display cases looking bored. The shop is otherwise empty.
Tables line the sidewalks, especially outside restaurants. Family and friends sit and eat together. Kids play on cell phones, older men sometimes play cards or Chinese chess.
People sell fruit out of carts or off the back of trucks. Some of it is locally grown, but it's impossible to know for sure. You can try to ask, but they'll always answer you with a yes. Everyone seems to have the same selection of edibles and the prices are all fairly similar.
Middle-aged (lower class?) men wear their shirts rolled up, exposing their bellies. This is known as the "Beijing Bikini" though some shirts are rolled up to the armpits and it's unclear why they don't just take them off. (It's only coving their shoulders at that point.) T-shirts are popular with the younger generation and nearly every one bears a slogan in English. Many of them don't make sense. It's difficult to distinguish brand names from bad translations.
Here are a few favorites that our group has encountered:
Look into your heart / money beauty ambition / Hello
I am me why
I like boys in bands mostly
New York City, California
Cats are like potato chips, you can't have just one.
JOIN THE NANNY
Life is like a tube of toothpaste
Sexuality enot a crime[<= This last one was on a baby, who was also wearing crotch less pants. Potty training is... different here.]
The shop lights shine brightly, illuminating the street better than the sparsely placed street lights. A few of them flash or change colors. Barber poles spin and flash in reds, whites, and blues. There's no cross walks or traffic lights on these back streets. Cars occasionally they make their way slowly through the crowds, but bikes and motorcycles make up most of the non-pedestrian traffic.
Smells of food are occasionally replaced with sewer or rotting vegetables. The sidewalk outside the wet market is strewn with discarded fruit and spoiled veggies. The smell of raw uncured meat lingers near the small wet market. At the right time of day the stands are filled with people selling whole chickens, pig feet, or fish.
People are everywhere. They congregate in the open places. Near the side of a two story supermarket over 100 women dance and sway in unison to a song playing over a large PA system. The movement is synchronized but each individual puts in a different amount of effort or adds their own little flourish to the dance. Kids play ping-pong on large metal tables and men sit along the perimeter watching and smoking.
Fifty feet away, near the front of the same building, a more peppy song plays over a different PA system. A couple dozen younger looking women dance. One of the lead dancers is as thin as a stick and makes exaggerated hip movements. She has long black hair and is wearing red pants with platform shoes. Shazam tells me the song is called Day. [The songs is okay; the music video is NSFW.]
In one corner of the pavilion half a dozen couples dance to a slow song. The music sounds familiar, but I can't place it. It sounds like a Chinese lady singing English lyrics. I think I hear the phrase "when are you going to salsbury falls" but I can't be sure. My attempts to find the song later are unfruitful.
Children run about near the stage and people sit along the perimeter of this stone park. Others meander or stand around in the middle. A couple small tables selling trinkets sit along one side, a couple other venders simply use a blanket on the ground to display their wares.
On Sunday night a movie is projected on a large screen on the stage. A couple hundred people stand to watch the Chinese drama. To the left of the stage an oval of small four inch yellow cones creates a track for children to roller-skate around. Some of the rollerblades have red, blue, and green lights in the wheels. The colors flash as they race through the crowd.
A handful of men in security uniforms stand in a group smoking and talking. One is perched on a motor bike while another squats on a stone ledge. Motorbikes are not legal in Zhuhai, which only means they are not licensed. It's possible for them to be confiscated, but a lot of people have them. Electric bikes and scooters are also pretty common. I don't know if those fall under the same restrictions or not.
Street venders cook skewers of meat and veggies over large portable grills. It's only 9:00pm but the sun has been down for over two hours and it feels much later. Black taxis, rickshaws, and motor bikes line the side street nearest the restaurants. Each driver vying to offer patrons a ride home for a small fee.
By 11:30pm the activity has settled down. Many of the shops are closed, but the bars and some restaurants are still open for business. (KTV can go until 1:00am.) There's a lot less foot traffic and the crowds are now a little bit more consolidated.
The air cools down and the population makes their way home. Slowly, the city goes to sleep.