Inner Circle

Not Just About Size

Yeoh Siew Hoon is in favour of quieter, smaller towns in her travels; and with good reason, too.

Not Just About Size
Cathays Park, the Civic District near Cardiff Castle, is reputed to be “the finest civic centre in the British Isles”.

The more I travel to big cities for business, the more I like to explore smaller towns either at the beginning or the end of my business trips. After all, it’s always in the detours that travel becomes interesting.

My goddaughter Kimberley and I took a train from London to Cardiff to spend the weekend in the capital city of Wales. It was past Chinese New Year and we were in the heart of Celt land when I heard the clash of cymbals and drum beats while walking along Cardiff Bay one lovely spring afternoon.

“Is that a lion dance?” I asked my goddaughter somewhat in jest. At that time and in a place where dragons are the de facto mythical creature, a lion dance was probably the furthest thing from our minds. As it turned out, there was indeed a lion dance being performed just outside the Cardiff Assembly Hall. In our curiosity, Kimberley and I walked up to join the onlookers.

It was a small lion – just two male acrobats – but indeed an agile, feisty and mischievous big cat which brought smiles to the faces of the children and adults gathered to observe a small piece of Chinese culture on display in the historic heart of Cardiff.

Immigrants, among them lots of Chinese, started coming into Cardiff Bay in the 1900s and by 1950, the area around Tiger Bay and Butetown had become the most culturally diverse area of the city. The Cardiff Barrage development has revitalised the Bay area into a top lifestyle and recreational district for locals and visitors alike. It is indeed a sign of the times, of how globalised our world has become, that no one seemed fazed by a lion dance in Cardiff. It also shows that European nations are getting used to the new wave of Chinese travellers visiting to their county.

Cardiff has certainly changed over the years, becoming more cosmopolitan in its offerings for visitors. Most of the food and shop brands you see in London can be found here. Such change has obviously come at a price - a lot of the independent high street merchants have been marginalised or even replaced by big retail brands. I was disappointed that the local butcher in the Cardiff Market had closed down – it simply could not compete with the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury.

Fortunately, there is still a part of Cardiff that remains real and authentic. Cathays Park, the Civic District near Cardiff Castle, is reputed to be “the finest civic centre in the British Isles”. Here you will find early 20th century buildings and a central park area, Alexandra Gardens. Gorgeous Edwardian buildings such as the Temple of Peace, City Hall, the National Museum and Gallery of Wales are all located here. You will also find the Cardiff Crown Court and several other buildings belonging to the Cardiff University campus.

The National Museum and Gallery of Wales is free for visitors and is definitely worth a visit. I was most impressed by the Davies Sisters collection. Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951) and Margaret Davies (1884-1963), two sisters from Mid Wales, amassed one of the greatest British art collections of the 20th century and generously bequeathed 260 pieces of artwork to the museum, among them Rodin, Monet and Manet – and guess what? In the absence of crowds you can have the art all to yourself.

That’s the charm of travelling to smaller towns – getting away from the crowds and finding space and time for yourself.

Note: Cardiff is less than three hours away by train from London.

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Showing 1 comment

  1. kunio Osanai: 4 years, 5 months ago

    I'd like to confirm my available point.

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