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Guangzhou by night on a Pearl River cruise

Paris may be the City of Lights, but perhaps Guangzhou could snag the title, "The City of LED Lights." After dusk is when the Guangzhou skyline literally starts to shine. And the unanimous observation is that the best way to take that skyline in is afloat the gently lulling waters of the Pearl River.

Thin lines of LED lights border the contours of the Haiyin Bridge, the White Swan Hotel and countless other edifices cuddled up near the riverbank. The Canton TV Tower, impressive enough by day, glows and pulses by night, basking the river in its aura. After adding in classic colonial European buildings and other historic sites lit up by pink and blue floodlights, passengers could easily dwell on the postmodern aspects of the experience. if they weren't distracted by slivers of moonlight peeking out from behind the clouds.

A small fleet of boats wait to take passengers onboard, though there's no shortage of people either, often lined up to climb onboard.

A variety of options are available, though most people find that one hour is enough to take in the traditional and futuristic Guangzhou sights, which clash against each other in perfect balance. For more money, you can access a VIP area on the top level of a boat with open-air views.

Most boats sell seats at tables where guests can munch biscuits and sip tea. Passengers are advised to avoid the dinner deal, however, as the food is far from exemplary, and often in short supply. Most boats don't provide any informative discourse about the sights, and those that do will do so exclusively in Mandarin. But slowly drifting past Haixinsha Island and slipping under the Liede Bridge can be a pleasant meditation, disturbed only by the low-rumbling engine. If not quite tranquil, it's at least romantic. Nobody drinks wine on these boats, but maybe they should.