Nanning City: Past and present in harmony

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First batch of the media group going inside Fantawild’s replica of Angkor Wat. KT/Hiezle Bual

China does not just hold a billion people in its territory; it also possesses colourful history, vast landscapes, extreme arts and crafts, massive buildings and bridges and unparalleled scientific advancements. Its cities and provinces bear different stories of past and present – but are all equally worth the visit.

Khmer Times’ Hiezle Bual and journalists from other media organisations join the ‘2018 Cambodian Mainstream Media to China’ and discovers the East Asian country one city at a time.

It was a little colder than expected in Nanning. On our third day in the city, one of our hosts asked how I was feeling to be in the city for the first time. I honestly replied, “it’s really cold in here”. But, I was surprised to hear, “we’re also cold and we’re not expecting this cold yet”. Note that I am writing this piece on a bus just moments after we checked out from our hotel. I am feeling a little less cold to see locals who are freezing, too. I am not alone.

Apparently, it’s been raining for two weeks now in China’s Green City of Nanning. The breeze started to blow early this month, causing locals and foreigners to feel the icy cold a little too early. But no weather condition can stop me and the rest of the Cambodian media delegation along with the Ministry of Information representative from going around the charming Nanning.

With all honesty, there was no “I like this place” or “this place is awesome” moments when the plane landed in Nanning. No, it was not instant. As I have said, some nights are really freezing cold.

However, as the days passed, I discovered that this city has its uncanny way of making us feel at home while also making us want to explore it more and unearth its treasures. As we started to navigate the city, we saw how the people here carefully preserved its historical past amid tangible proofs of modernity.

Slowly, I fell in love with the city. And I know the rest of our team also did.

But let’s start from Day 1.

From Phnom Penh, the team took off the 8 am flight to Guangzhou, which was the stopover before heading to the first and major destination – Nanning!

Flights were on time and airport processes were smooth. I must say, China’s security efforts are really strict yet very reasonable.

First night was a blast. The warm reception, welcoming people and seemingly endless food on our table made it such. Oh, not to mention the unexpected ceremony where we had to drink rice wine to receive a lucky ball as lei.

The next day came. The getting-to-know Nanning through its people and past started.

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region’s capital, Nanning, has put its name in the map as the permanent venue for the China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) for more than 10 years since 2004.

With over 7.5 million people – 58 percent of which is made up of ethnic minorities, ranking first among China’s five ethnic autonomous regions. Nanning city has yet to boast its beautiful past and how it has turned the southern province into a booming charming city now.

Located in the south-central part of Guangxi in South China, Nanning lies to the south of the Tropic of Cancer, opening close to Indo-China Peninsula, China-ASEAN economic rim, Guangdong province and significantly adjacent to Pan-Beibu Gulf Economic Cooperation Zone and the Greater Mekong River Sub-region – a favourable location for economic transactions.

During a visit in Nanning Planning Exhibition Hall, the evolution of the city’s simple and ethnic ways of living to the present modern and impressive state was highlighted – showing that Nanning is truly at its vital period of speeding up the development, both externally and internally.

Fantawild Asian Legend is truly a place where imagination comes to life. KT/Hiezle Bual

In one video presentation held at the hall’s 3D cinema, the city presented its 2030 plans and how the world should expect Nanning to become a city where there’s unlimited opportunities, embracing foreign investors and having young professionals who see the world in a bigger picture. It also pointed out how the green city is preserving its human resource by providing convenience and taking much consideration of the possible effect of modernisation in the community.

Nanning is also home to the newest amusement attraction, the Fantawild Asian Legend. Fresh from its August opening, the park shows off its massive and at the same time miniature perspective of some of ASEAN countries’ main destinations.

What to see? Various national treasures in smaller forms without compromising the whole feel of being in the actual place. Of course, Cambodia’s very own Angkor Wat stood among Myanmar’s pagoda, Thailand’s grand palace and Philippines’ church.

But that’s not it. Aside from the massive art the park is showing off, it also is packed with technological advancements, giving visitors a unique way to learn about China and the world.

Given the technology aspect, Fantawild Asian Legend spoils you to get onboard a fantasy ride at its Let’s Fly ride. You’re literally just sitting but it feels like you’re over Singapore and seeing the Merlion, Myanmar and its huge Bagan city, Thailand’s Menam river and the rest of 10 Southeast Asian countries – all in a bird’s eye view.

On the rural side, Nanning’s countryside is a testimony how much of its ancient times influenced the present lives of people. We visited two villages: Zhongliang and Qingwa Fang.

Zhongliang Village, which translates to loyalty (zhang) and good (liang), is filled with so much history and peace. Situated amid bodies of water and freezing temperature, it was an afternoon of time-traveling back to when President Xi Jinping was living there for a couple of years.

Qingwa Fang village, qing refers to the roof piece and fang means house, is a preserved village purposely for tourists to see and experience the life then. Traditional planting of rice, chicken farms and 90’s trains are some of its attractions.

From the outside, Nanning city is but a province in Guangxi but if you look closely, you’ll see a lot more. Apparently, it’s not just a quiet province in its south side or a bustling city – it is both. It has preserved history while embracing modernity.

In the coming days, we will see more of Nanning and its neighbouring places. Tonight, we will go onboard a train to Fangchenggang, a prefecture-level city in the south of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Our team will be seeing more of China one city at a time.

Nanning didn’t give us a warm weather but its warm people welcomed us beyond expected. Truly a charming city with charming people.

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