Guangzhou, the first city for most travelers to mainland China visit, is overwhelming with its energy. Being as China's third largest city, Guangzhou has lot to offer to anyone who comes here.
Influenced by neighboring Hong Kong, Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, is a modern, vigorous metropolis filled with supermarkets, skyscrapers and flashing neon lights. Pearl River (Zhujiang), the third longest river in China runs through the city and is navigable to the South China Sea. These geographical features bestow the name "South Gate of China" upon the city.
Attractions in Guangzhou
The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees
Guangzhou's most celebrated temple. Dating from the mid-sixth century, the temple was built to provide a reliquary for some of Buddha's ashes. The octagonal Flower Pagoda is the tallest pagoda in this park and even Guangzhou. It has 17 floors, you can climb to the top for excellent views over the city. The road leading to the temple bustles with stalls selling souvenirs, religious accessories and jade objects.
This park is a vast diversion where you will find the rather ghastly Statue of the 5 Goats, symbolic founders of the city, and the Zhenhai Tower, a pagoda built in 1380 and once part of the old city wall.
Today it houses the city museum, devoted to the history of Guangzhou. In the south section of the park lies the Sun Yat-sen Monument, dedicated to China's famous revolutionary.
Shamian Island is another world when compared to the traffic-locked snarl elsewhere in Guangzhou. This island quickly assumed a foreign guise after 1843, with banks, churches, administrative offices and all the trappings of Western culture.
A half day's walk here can be pleasant. You will pass the occasional tree flagged for its age and rarity. Small residential streets lead into very tranquil backwaters. They offer a glimpse into courtyards and the occasional open doorway leading to old, sturdy, wooden stairs that climb into cavernous interiors.
Pearl River Cruise
This cruise takes you along Guangzhou's main artery, the Pearl River. The neon hoarding of the southern shore illuminate the evening trip.
The boats depart from Xidi Pier, or you can book through your hotel or travel agency.
Guangzhou Museum of Art
Opened in 2000, This museum has an extensive collection of works, ranging from ancient to contemporary Chinese art and sculpture.
Other interesting exhibits include a fantastic room on the top floor with displays of rare Tibetan tapestries.
Food in Guangzhou
You cannot talk about Guangzhou without mentioning the food. It's here you will try Guangdong cuisine (also called Cantonese cuisine) cooked at its very best. The city boasts the largest number of restaurants per capita in China. The Cantonese will certain you won't leave their city hungry.
Guangdong cuisine uses a great variety of ingredients such as birds, freshwater fish, snakes, and saltwater fish. It emphasizes freshness and tenderness. Representative dishes of the Guangdong cuisine are three snake dragon tiger meeting, dragon tiger phoenix snake soup, stir-fried shrimp, eight-treasure lotus-seed glutinous rice, fresh mushrooms in oyster sauce, pot-cooked soft-shelled turtle, and crisp-skin roast piglet.
Transportation in Guangzhou
Guangzhou, the south gate of China, has a satisfying transport system radiating to the whole country and even the world. It has direct flights with Los Angeles of US, Vancouver of Canada, London of UK, Paris of France, Amsterdam of the Netherlands, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia, Bangkok of Thailand, and many other Asian destinations.
If you are already within China, a wide range of vehicles can facilitate your trip to and from the city, including the planes, trains, long-distance buses and ships. The urban transportation is generally good due to the orderly planning roads and the developed city-buses, taxis and subways.
Shopping and Nightlife in Guangzhou
Guangzhou is always renowned as the shoppers' paradise because of ton of quality goods at affordable prices. The city is prosperous with various kinds of commercial streets. Shangxiajiu Road, Beijing Road and Shifu Road commercial area, full of time-honored brands and modern shopping malls, is the most traditional and popular among the locals.
Yide Road is the best choice for seafood and dried food. Wende Road is the right place for curios and tourist souvenirs. For those seeking for clothes and current fashions, Baima Clothes Market, World Trade Mall and Teemall should not be missed.
During the evening and night, Guangzhou offers wide choices of nightlife hangouts. For visitors fond of lively parties, the three bar streets are recommended, namely the Huanshi Road which is favored by foreigners and white collars, Yanjiang Road located along the Pearl River and popular among the young, and Baietan area which is developed from a village and today more like a night fair.
For tourists who want to have a tranquil nighttime, to enjoy a cruise on the Pearl River or watching the enchanting night scene from the White Cloud Mountain are wonderful.
The history of Guangzhou can be dated back to the Zhou Dynasty (1045 B.C. – 256 B.C.). In the local legend, the Cantonese people suffered from famine for many years, until one day 5 gods riding 5 goats descended from the sky and saved the city from starvation.
Thus, this city earned the nickname "Yang Cheng" (Goat City). The legend is not always true. However, the first settlement on the site of the present-day city is now commonly considered to be a group of the troops sent by the first Emperor of Qin to gain control of the South Sea in 214 BC.
Because of its fortuitous location on the northern end of the Pearl River, Guangzhou from early time was China's most important southern port. It served as a maritime route for shipping silk and other goods to the West since the Tang Dynasty.
Although history takes a backseat to its modernization drive. Guangzhou, the south gate of China, is still a top travel destination you should not miss in China.