FUN FOR A FIVER: Guangzhou. It used to be a regular route for backpackers.
First visit Hong Kong on a “Visa Run” and then enter China overland heading towards Guangzhou the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine.
Backpackers from yesteryear tell tales of a hub where people journeyed to (before Internet, or mass production of travel guides) to discuss travel, where they’ve been, how they did it and where they are going to!
In 2013, after spending 4 days in Guangzhou we have barely seen another Westerner and certainly no one lugging around a backpack, we hear its because of the accessibility of air travel and these days the overland trek into China is no longer a necessity, you can easily fly to the major tourist cities of Shanghai and Beijing! So lets look at why we shouldn’t forget Guangzhou, yes, it is another big busy city littered with skyscrapers but we have discovered there are some great experiences to be had if you dig a little deeper!
So, here are our 5 favourite experiences in Guangzhou for under $5.
1. Eat Cantonese Food!
The Number 1 thing to do in Guangzhou is experience the local cuisine where Cantonese food or Chinese food, as we know it in the west today, was created. Yum Cha is a popular family affair especially on a Sunday morning (expect to wait in line for a table).
If you head to the area of Dongshankou there are plenty of restaurants to choose from including the famous Guangzhou Restaurant. We had some traditional soup dumplings which were delicious but scoldingly hot, so let them cool a bit before taking a bite!
How to get there: Take the MTR line 1 Dongshankou
2. See the Lights at Flower City Square
Many say that the Canton Tower is a must see attraction however to go up the tower it costs 150RMB (USD ) per person- way out of our backpacker budget! However if you head to the Flower City Square at night the view of the Tower is incredible, also many other office blocks in the vicinity have impressive light displays as well. The walkway of the Flower City Square lights up with all the colours of the rainbow and the view of the Canton Tower makes an impressive backdrop!
3. Haixinsah Travel Park (next to Flower City Square)
The Haixinsah Travel Park is an area where you can view the Guangzhou Grand Stadium built on the Pearl River for the 2010 Asian Olympics.
It was revealed that Asian Games and Asian Para Games officially cost about ￥122.6 billion ($17 billion USD), with ￥109 billion spent on infrastructure, ￥6.3 billion on the venues and some ￥7.3 billion spent on Games’ operation. (Source Wiki)
This extravagant area is a lovely parkland filled with local plants and at night the trees over the river light up in display. It is from here that you can get closeup views of the Canton Tower rising over the Pearl River.
How to get there 2 & 3: MRT line 3 Zhujiang New Town
4. Ride the APM – Automated People Mover
This is a very short ride but a little bit of fun!
The APM runs through the “new” CBD of the city, it is the shortest and least used line of the MTR system but it is unique in the fact that the front of the first carriage (there are only two) has a large viewing window where you can sit and watch the train move through the underground subway tunnels! It’s like a mini roller coaster ride!
Cost: about 2RMB (less than a dollar) per person
5. Chen Clan Academy
The Chen Clan Academy is a complex consisting of 19 buildings with nine halls and six courtyards. Many of the rooms contain local arts and crafts including embroidery, ivory carving and palm fan making etc. In some of the rooms there are even locals demonstrating crafts live so you can see the extreme craftsmanship required for these traditional art forms.
The building itself was built in 1894 so is not an old school Chinese relic by any means, but the design and architecture is quite beautiful!
Cost: 10RMB (about US $2) per person
How to get there: Take MRT line 1 to Chenjiaci Station. Leave from Exit C to Chenjiaci Square or Exit D to the main entrance.
Note: this place is listed on ALL the tourist websites and offers many guided tours, if you go at the wrong time the place can be swamped with other tourists! As we left, a group of about 30 people were just arriving….talk about good timing on our behalf!