The Heart of Canton

Our provincial capital city Guangzhou simply must be on any fledgling Dongguaner’s bucketlist of places to visit. It’s so vast, even if you’ve been before, the chances are you didn’t see everything!

With over 2,000 years of history and originally founded as one the largest maritime hubs in the world, Guangzhou is now one of the most densely populated urban metropolises in Mainland China. The term Cantonese stems from the city’s historical name of “Canton” and it’s truly a megacity like no other. At the end of last year, its greater population was clocked at almost 15 million, making for one of the largest agglomerations on the planet! With its booming economy and oodles of history, where to even start?

Firstly, there are many ways to enter the city utilizing the various transport links and it really depends on which area one needs to get to. If your intended destination is the southern part, it is recommended to purchase a 40 RMB high-speed train ticket from your nearest outlet and head down to Humen station; a journey entailing less than 20 minutes, station to station. If you need to get to Guangzhou East or the city center, there are direct trains from Shilong station situated on the opposite end of Dongguan’s metro line from Humen. This takes slightly longer and is a touch more expensive but is a no brainer in terms of convenience.

There are also many bus options available from all over Dongguan, which can also be convenient providing the traffic is forgiving. I personally always use the bus link from Gedi Metro Station if ever needing to go to Guangzhou Airport, located in the north of the city. If you’re traveling in a group, its even possible to entertain taking a DiDi, as the individual cost will not work out much different to the bus or train. Wherever you find yourself in Guangzhou, it’s almost unavoidable to get anywhere without having to use the metro system, so be prepared for the hustle and bustle—especially if the Canton fair is open!

With an utterly unique double helix style design, it truly is a stunning sight and looks even better when lit at night.

My first pitstop recommendation has to be Guangzhou’s most iconic building, the 604-meter Canton Tower, which has its own designated metro station, so it is not difficult to find. With an utterly unique double helix style design, it truly is a stunning sight and looks even better when lit at night. I braved my vertigo and took the turbo lift to the 106th floor where I enjoyed the lunch buffet in its revolving restaurant. After that I made my way to Shamian Island, which still bears the hallmarks of the British and French concessions there through its colonial style buildings. There is a quaint little diner there known as“Lucy’s” if one needs a quick bite, but try to avoid photobombing the hordes of couples taking their wedding photos on the beautiful island.

Nightlife in Guangzhou offers a few options. For the younger generation it’s worth seeking out the nightclubs around Tianhe, but I personally prefer hitting the more laid-back bars around Liede. An authentic Turkish dinner followed by some beers and shisha made the perfect end to the day. Morning began with a trip to the Guangzhou Museum where I reveled in admiring hundreds of ancient Egyptian relics on loan from Turin. The many priceless antiques consisting of sarcophagi and deity statues throughout the Egyptian dynasties were truly fascinating and gazing on “the book of the dead” was a most humbling experience.

One cannot talk about Guangzhou without mentioning the food. One of the main eight cuisines associated with China, Cantonese food has probably the most diverse assortment associated with its selection. From traditional dim sum served in steamed baskets, to the seemingly endless plethora of dishes, including staples such as sweet and sour pork, beef in black bean sauce and duck with hoisin sauce.

Guangzhou doesn’t just stop there; short train journeys can whisk you to the outskirts of the city for even more cultural experiences. Perhaps head south to Foshan, which literally translates as “Buddha Mountain,” after three bronze Buddha statues were discovered there over 1,000 years ago. Or head north to Qingyuan where the Yao villagers have been living since the Song Dynasty and indulge in a river cruise to visit the various temples. Wherever you find yourself in Guangzhou, there will undoubtedly be something to sate your appetite, the perfect spot for an awesome “weekender.”