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A Day in Guangzhou Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in architecture, architecture and landscaping, Art, Beer, Culture, Drinking, Education, environment, food, history, housing, Leisure, religion, sightseeing, travel

On our recent trip from Hong Kong to Kunming overland, we had to include an overnight stay in Guangzhou (广州 – guǎng zhōu) for transportation reasons. Having previously only seen Guangzhou from the window of a train and having heard from a friend who spent some time living there that it’s “the place dreams go to die,” I wasn’t exactly thrilled about visiting the capital city of Guangdong province. If there’s anything I’ve learned throughout my travels, though, it’s that you can never dismiss a place without actually visiting. As such, we tried to make the best of our one day there and give this Chinese mega-city a chance. Here’s a little rundown of how to spend a day in Guangzhou:

Enjoy a Dim Sum Brunch

Dim sum in Guangzhou.

Dim sum in Guangzhou.

There’s no better way to  kick off a day of exploring the place formerly known as Canton than with some real Cantonese food. A brunch of dim sum (点心 – diǎn xīn) is a dining experience not to be missed. Take your pick from countless tasty little morsels, from pork buns to little scrumptious shrimp dumplings. Wash it all down with a few pots of tea and you’re ready to rock.

Visit a European Island

Architecture of Shamian Island.

Architecture of Shamian Island.

The “Sandy Surface Island” (沙面岛 – shā miàn dǎo) is a little slice of Europe in a Chinese metropolis. Once a part of the French and British concession, this island has beautifully restored buildings and is a nice escape from the chaos of the city. Check out the architecture, enjoy a stroll through gardens, and grab a cup of coffee in one of the cafes. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating with us on our visit, but we still enjoyed our short visit to Shamian Island. I especially liked the interesting statues, such as the one with a Chinese and European man jamming together.

Gardens and statues around Shamian.

Gardens and statues around Shamian.

Visit an Ancestral Temple

The Chen Clan Academy of Guangzhou.

The Chen Clan Academy of Guangzhou.

After getting a bit lost trying to navigate the streets in the rain, we ended up at the Chen Clan Academy (陈家祠 – chén jiā cí). Built in 1894 by a wise man named Chen to serve as an ancestral temple and study hall for his family, it’s now a museum full of artifacts and artwork. This is a great place to visit for a dose of Chinese culture and history in Guangzhou.

Some of the rooms in the complex.

Some of the rooms in the complex.

It’s a large and impressive complex, and there are things to see in each and every room. It has been well preserved, and at just 10 RMB for the ticket it’s a good, cheap option for sightseeing in the city. My personal highlight was all of the intricate carvings and works of art. Some of these things must have taken weeks to finish.

Some of the impressive displays.

Some of the impressive displays.

Wind Down the Day with Craft Beer

Good beer!

Good beer!

Beer lovers have it rough in China, as Chinese beer tends to be incredibly watered down and tasteless. Things are changing, though, thanks to places like the Strand Beer Cafe in Guangzhou. Here, you can try some of their own locally brewed craft beer on tap. You can also order a variety of bottled beers from around the world. We were happy to wind down our day of running around the city munching on peanuts, throwing back a few tasty beers, and chatting.

Before calling it a day, we took a stroll in the new part of the city along the Zhujiang River to see some of the modern architecture. On the other side we could see the Canton Tower (广州塔 – guǎng zhōu tǎ), the world’s tallest TV tower. There’s probably a great view from up there on a clear day, but we weren’t about to drop 150 RMB to head to the observation deck on a cloudy day.

Stay in a Local Apartment Hostel

A nice hostel in Guangzhou.

A nice hostel in Guangzhou.

We loved staying at the Plum Flowers Hostel, which is set up in a local apartment with a nice garden out front. The owner and his mom run the place, giving it a real homey feeling. It was great sitting out in the living room or hanging out on the porch and enjoying the view. It’s too bad we had crappy weather for our short stay, but we still had a good time and would definitely go back to Guangzhou again. There’s lots else to do there – parks, museums, temples, and of course lots of great Cantonese food.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


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