There’s a pretty good chance you may not have heard of Guangzhou, but if you ever find yourself in Hong Kong and want to experience more of China, Guangzhou is just the ticket.
Getting there is easy and fast thanks to the train line that runs direct from Hong Kong’s Hung Hom station right up to Guangzhou station. A one way ticket sets you back around $35AU and it’s a short two hour trip on a comfortable train.
Arriving in Guangzhou can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re coming from Hong Kong with its cosmopolitan feel. But jump in a taxi and head to your hotel and you’ll be bonding with the locals before you know it.
It isn’t exactly a small town, with a population estimated to be in the vicinity of 14 million it crams in over half of Australia’s entire population; making it China’s third largest city. It is a sprawling expanse of high rise buildings and buzzing locals and perfectly combines the old with the new.
Ancient facades from historical China are backed with huge skyscrapers that tower above. Older locals wear conservative clothing teamed up with converse high tops and mega food chains like Starbucks sit next door to tiny local restaurants. It’s a culture that has embraced the west, but kept its traditional eastern roots.
Discovering the city on a foot is a mammoth task, trust me, so you’re best advised to use the efficient and affordable train system to get you around. Trains come every few minutes and cost around $0.80AU per person one-way.
For a seemingly endless shopping experience the Shangziajiu Pedestrian Street is a must do. The street is closed off to cars in parts and absolutely packed to the rafters with food and shops. It comes alive and makes your local Westfield look like amateur hour.
Visit the Temple of Six Banyan Trees, a 1,400 year old Buddhist Temple with a stunning pagoda which has stood through China’s famed dynasties. The pagoda towers above and there surrounding gardens are the perfect spot to sit a while and soak it all in. The surrounding shops sell bright and beautiful trinkets worthy of a look.
Stroll the hundreds of shops lining Beijing Road and haggle with shop owners for bargain buys on clothes, backpacks, luggage, shoes, hats and everything else you can think of. Take a wander through the Daxiong Baodian Hall, home to three huge copper Buddhist statues that will take your breath away.
For a slower pace and to spend time with the locals, head to People’s Park and Fuqian Square near Gongyuanqian Station. Older local men and women spend days playing checkers, talking, laughing and napping under the shade of beautiful trees that create a dreamy green canopy above.
As night starts to fall, hop aboard a cruise along the mighty Pearl River and watch as the city lights up, particularly the multi-coloured Canton Tower. If you’re not afraid of heights, jump on the Bubble Tram ride which sits atop the tower and gives you absolutely unbeatable panoramic views of the city.
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