Hear about what to do in Guangzhou as the Amateur Traveler talks to Bill Abbott about a somewhat less well-known area for tourists in China.
Bill says, “We are talking about one of the largest cities in China and in the world. You’ve mentioned in your shows about Hong Kong how Hong Kong is China with English subtitles. I can’t agree more. If you want to delve into the Chinese culture Hong Kong is a really good place to start, but when you’re ready to go behind the curtain I thing Guangzhou should be one of the places that you consider. It really has been the center of Cantonese culture for 2,000 years. One thing to remember about Hong Kong is there really wasn’t a lot there before the 1840s when the British moved in. When you want to go deeper into the history and culture Guangzhou is the place to go and I might add that its quite a bit less expensive than Hong Kong.”
Bill studied Chinese in college and his wife is from Guangzhou, so he has traveled here often.
One your first day in Guangzhou Bill would send you to Shamian Island in the Pearl River which is the 3rd major river system in China. During the Opium Wars, this island became a foreign concession. It is a very peaceful part of the city and possibly the prettiest part of the city. It has a lot of old western buildings that were used as consulates.
Getting around on the metro is easy. Take it to the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall if you have time on the first day which is nearby. What stands out from this hall is the carvings and the southern Chinese architectural style.
If you only have one day in Guangzhou, Bill would send you to the Yuexiu District which has a cluster of sites like the Zhenhai Tower, the Guangzhou Museum and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. The temple was originally built in the 6th century. The best site is the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King. Bill says, “I think this is one of the best museums I have been to in China”. This is the tomb of an early ruler in the 2nd century B.C. in the Han dynasty. The tomb was not found until the 1980s.
If you have another day head over to the gleaming skyscrapers of Newtown where you can find the new Guangdong provincial museum and the Guangzhou Opera House. Not everyone is going to love Cantonese opera.
Then Bill heads us out of town on a day trip to Foshan see the Foshan Ancestral Temple. This is the home to Kung Fu and there is an exhibit there about that martial art. The Liang Garden is less than 2km away and Bill recommends you really should visit at least one of the gardens in the area and this one of the best. The 3rd stop he recommends is the Nanfeng Kiln. This is one of the places where ancient porcelain came from. Around the complex, you can see artisans working on their crafts.
To finish out the itinerary Bill recommends an overnight trip to Hailing Island, through Yangjiang. There is a resort area on the island, but Bill came for the Maritime Silk Road Museum which is built around an 800-year-old shipwreck that was found just offshore. On the way back you can stop at the UNESCO site Kaiping Diaolou and Villages. The area has several villages with towers built for protection against bandits. There used to be 3,000 of these towers in the area.
When you are ready to explore the culture and history of southern China, Guangzhou might be the place to start.
Blinkist.com summarizes biggest ideas from bestselling nonfiction via 15-minute audio and text
Chen Clan Ancestral Hall
Temple of the Six Banyan Trees
Mausoleum of the Nanyue King
Zhujiang New Town
Guangzhou Opera House
Foshan Ancestral Temple
Maritime Silk Road Museum
Kaiping Diaolou and Villages
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