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Guangzhou Travel Guide

Guangzhou

Few cities have developed as quickly as Guangzhou and while many guides may treat its metropolitan atmosphere with disdain, the city has many attractions for those who seek them out.

During the Tang dynasty, thousands of trade ships visited Guangzhou annually; a large community of Arab traders lived in the old Muslim quarter, now Liwan, dealing in exotic commodities such as pearls, rhino horns and hawksbill turtles.

Situated on the Pearl River, Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong Province and was the epicenter of the West's semi-colonization of China, which began in the 19th century. The two Opium Wars both began here and following years of often violent and turbulent relations with the West, foreigners have now returned under the auspices of China's economic reforms. Under Deng Xiaoping's reforms, the first Special Economic Zones (SEZ) were created in the south, and when these economic experiments flourished, Guangzhou were quickly adopted the same economic reforms. The city soon became an economic role model for the rest of China. The surrounding province continues to be by far the most developed and wealthy in the country.

During Guangzhou's transformation into a city of commerce, many of the area's traditional arts and crafts have suffered. Skills requiring years of apprenticeship, such as embroidery, gem cutting and carving have all declined as the enterprising businessman and their factories, keen to exploit this geographically important gateway replace the traditional craftsman. Fortunately, jade polishers and silversmiths are still at work in the old-quarter surrounding Changshou Lu.

The march of time has not been so kind to local music styles. Yue, Chaozhou and Guangdong Han operas have all but dwindled into obscurity and there are fewer opportunities to see performances of the traditional music as the young and hip are more interested in modern pop. Just a handful of stores still stock the intricately embroidered costumes of Guangzhou's opera stars of yesteryear, though performances are still given at various venues.

The central shopping street Shang Xia Jiu sports glossydepartment stores and fashionableboutiques line the main pedestrian street.Every alleyway leads back in time to revealclassic Liwan architecture. Take a shortcutthrough the modern shopping mall that is Liwan Plaza, todiscover the jade market and literallyhundreds of antiques dealers.

The recently opened subway means that the bird market at Huadiwan is now easily accessible. Animals of all shapes and sizes fill the stores but it may well be the inanimate objects such as viewing stones and bonsai landscapes (called in Chinese), that many international visitors will find most fascinating. Huadiwan has its own stop on subway line 1 and is located in the Fangcun District just south of the river from Shamian Island.

Perhaps the most representative wholesale area in this vast city of markets is the one found at Haizhu Square. Anything and everything that bears the ubiquitous "Made in China" tag can be found here. More colorful than any Arab souk and certainly to have more bargains, this is a fantastic display of the export machine that feeds the rest of the world.

Baiyun Shan, which is a small mountain that dominates the town, is approximately 15km north of the town centre. Hardly a mountain at only 382m, it's part of the Kun Shan mountain range. Pagodas, monasteries and teahouses are dotted about its base and when the weather is clear and the pollution isn't too bad, views from the top can be gorgeous. However, it is often difficult to get away from other tourists. Some cramped cable cars ascend to the peak known as the "Ridge that Scrapes the Stars", but be aware that it's a good 3-hour trek back down to the base. Recently, bungee jumping, grass skiing and tobogganing facilities have opened.

For a more relaxed stroll, the former British Concession area, Shamian Island, offers peaceful surroundings. Here you can see the old British and American consulates and buildings of colonial foreign powers such as Jardine & Matheson and Butterfield & Swire. Heading eastward is the old French concession, which includes the former French Consul's garden, now a public park, and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. At one time, overseas traders were restricted to this small island, the bridges were closed at 10pmand merchants were forbidden to learn Chinese. These days it's home to some of the priciest shopping in the city. Many visitors are also attracted to the tranquility of the Overseas Chinese Village on Huanshi Lu.

A little outside of town is the Chen Clan Temple, the formeracademy and ancestral shrine for the largeChen family. Built at the end of the 19thcentury from funds given by Chensthroughout the province, this compoundwas built in a broad and open classicsouthern Chinese style. The lavishlydecorated compound was where the familyran their private school and maintained theirancestral shrine; today it exhibits local craftssuch as potteries and carvings.

Top Guangzhou Tours

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  • Days: 4
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Summary: Visa-free tour in Guangzhou!.

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Summary: For all your "Foodies" out there - there is something special. We promise that your local Chinese take-away will never seem quite the same again..

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Summary: A 11 day perfect itinerary for first time travellers wishing to get a taste of the historical legencies, picturesque landscape and thriving atmosphere that this dynamic country has on offer: Beijing-X.

Guangzhou Highlights City tour

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  • Days: 1
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Summary: Visit Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Memorial Hall, Chen Clan Academy, Yuexiu Park, Six-Banyan Trees Temple and Xiguan House. Lunch included..

Half Day Guangzhou City Tour

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  • Days: 1
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Summary: Private half day Guangzhou city tour with lunch. Visit Dr.Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Zhenhai Tower, Chen Clan Academy..