Canton, also called Guangzhou, is the capital of Guangdong province in south China. Being the first cities benefited from the Reform and Opening Up policy since 1978, it acts as the pioneer of the economic development of China, with numerous enterprises to offer many job opportunities.
It is a city very popular with tourists as it has so many attractions to offer. Despite its rapid modernization, much of the metropolis still vibrates at a pleasant and calm pace. The narrow and green streets hide temples, mosques, and beautiful buildings testifying to the colonial era. The city is also renowned for its cuisine. You will come across many typical local restaurants on your way to enjoy the tasty Cantonese gastronomy. Between modernity and tradition, and natural and cultural wonders, Canton indeed has a lot to offer for your trip to China.
What to Do in Canton?
The Canton Fair is an unmissable event for the city and is held twice a year, in April/May and October/November. As one of the world’s largest exhibitions of manufactured goods, there are more than 200,000 exhibitors to participate and present their know-how and catalogs.
Walk in the city old town
A walk in the old town will allow you to soak up the authentic character of Canton. You find the old Canton and the ingrained habits of its inhabitants. It is a pedestrian area still flanked by typical old Cantonese houses where you will discover a local life a little out of time. In this area, Shang Xia Jiu shopping street (上下九购物街) is a famous pedestrian street that displays luxury boutiques contrasting with the small alleys and their traditional architecture.
From the old town, you will reach Liwan Square full of Jade Market managed by many antique merchants, and the Huadiwan Bird Market. Not far away, Haizhu Square is also home to a large market. You can find everything there, from “made in china” technological gadgets to traditional costumes and thinking of fruits and vegetables. It is a great place to pick up bargains and shop for souvenir gifts!
Pearl River Cruise
Pearl River is the mother river of Guangzhou flowing through it. In the evening, taking a boat trip on the river to admire the breathtaking night view of the city is a great pleasure. During the cruise between Shamian Island and Liede Bridge, you would see many modern buildings and unique bridges, such as the magnificent Canton Tower that lights up the city.
Qingping Ancient Market
The largest traditional market in Canton is located a little further south of the old town. It is undoubtedly the largest open-air Chinese pharmacy in the world. You can find numerous traditional Chinese medicine: jars, animals, insects, plants, etc., and you will get surprises by walking through this market.
Shamian Island is the former Franco-British concession, famous for the more than 150 historical buildings in Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical, and other styles, and it is a haven of peace popular with locals. It is advisable to come early in the morning to admire the esplanade planted with banyan trees and camphor trees on the banks of the Pearl River. You will have the opportunity to meet followers of Tai chi, badminton, mahjong players, improvised dance lessons, and other Chinese sports. After strolling around, you may have a break or afternoon tea at a cafe to enjoy some leisure time.
A little further from the center
Visiting the Sun Yat-sen Memorial allows you better understand the history of Guangzhou and its role in the development of China. It is the most important relic in Guangdong Province, and it was built for Dr. Sun Yat-sen after his death in 1925.
Yuexiu Park is the largest park in the city and takes its name from Yuexiu Mountain. In this park, you would see a Five-Ram Sculpture, a well-known symbol of Guangzhou. Yuexiu Park is renowned for its magnificent landscapes and a large number of historical relics, such as the ancient city wall and the red Zhenhai Tower.
A little outside the city, the ancestral temple of the Chen family is one of the most important ancient historical sites in Guangzhou, in particular for the carving of wood and stone. There are also magnificent murals. As for carving techniques, the realistic and abstract styles give the temple a unique and solemn atmosphere.
Mount Baiyun (Baiyun Shan) offers you a magnificent panorama and the opportunity for a getaway in nature. At the foot of the mountain, you will discover monasteries, pagodas, and tea houses. It is easily accessible 15 kilometers from the city center. Tourists can take a cable car to reach the top of the mountain.
Finally, Guangxiao Temple located on Guangxiao Road is the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in the Lingnan region. It plays an important role in the history of Chinese Buddhism as many famous Buddhist monks came here to preach religious doctrines, bringing glory to this temple.
How to Get to Canton?
Considered the South Gate of China, it has direct flights with Los Angeles in the US, Vancouver in Canada, London in the UK, Paris in France, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Sydney, and Melbourne in Australia, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Bangkok of Thailand, and many other Asian destinations.
Within China, you can have lots of transport to go to the other cities, including the planes, trains, long-distance buses, and ships, especially the high-speed trains.
Cantonese cuisine is one of the most famous eight Chinese cuisines and is characterized by its wide range of ingredients and the refined choice of ingredients. The cuisine focuses on quality and taste and is relatively light and fresh in flavor.
Among the renowned local specialties:
- Pork Gulao (pork with sweet and sour sauce. 咕噜肉): This is a dish very popular with many foreigners in Guangzhou. We use boneless meat, which they cover with cornflour to form meatballs. Then, these balls are fried in oil to give a crispy taste, and at last, pour sweet and sour sauce over the meat.
- Boiled chicken without seasoning (白切鸡): This is a famous local family dish. Characterized by the natural and original taste, the chicken is tender and slippery with a light and fresh flavor.
- Meat overturned and steamed with taro: This is a famous and traditional dish in the Pearl River Delta. This dish is made from taro and pork and follows this cooking order: blanch, fry in oil, and steam. The preparation process is a bit complicated. The taro absorbs the oil and flavor of the marbled pork. The latter is then less greasy and gives a sweet and delicious taste.
- Wax gourd soup: This is one of the classic dishes of Cantonese cuisine. This dish is characterized by its white color, tender, and chewy wax gourd, aromatic flavor, and clear and fresh soup. This soup is to use 8 materials, dubbed the 8 treasures, to stew in a wax gourd cut into the shape of a bowl.
- Dim Sum: Emblems of Cantonese street food, Dim Sun are small steamed, baked, fried, or sauteed dishes that can be eaten all day long. Shrimp or meat bites, spring rolls, egg tarts, and rice cakes are available in many versions. The Qingping market and its tasty scents will probably make you crack.
- Cantonese rice (广州炒饭): Fried rice uses eggs, vegetables, diced ham or Chinese sausage, and sometimes prawns as ingredients.
The best time to visit Guangzhou is during fall and winter (October to March of the following year). You should better avoid visiting Guangzhou during the Chinese New Year holiday in late January or early February or the Chinese National Day Holiday from Oct. 1st to 7th. Otherwise, tourists may feel upset by the expensive accommodation charge and the crowded scenic spots. And in summer, between June and September, it enters the hottest period while each year the arrival of several typhoons.
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