The Talking Travel Desk is out traveling, so for this edition, Jessica Rapp takes you to Guangzhou. Until the next post, one road flat safe.
More than a hundred years ago, Guangzhou was a place of uprising, its neighboring county, Xiangshan, being the birthplace of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen. These days, though, portrayal of the seaport city often gives its significant historical value a miss, with more travel guides pegging it instead as one of China’s most modern and wealthy cities. We agree – it’s difficult to ignore that sprawling, complex highway system and those sparkling shopping malls, and if these wonders don’t convince you to make the three-hour trip by plane, then surely it will be the outrageously cheap deals in wholesale markets bustling with African, Middle Eastern and Chinese traders.
What to See: Guangzhou is a bargain shopper’s heaven. Start at the center of Tianhe District, where the malls have a range of both high-end and street labels on offer, and then have a look at Guangyuan Xilu for wholesale clothing options. You’ll have to dig, but you won’t have to haggle. Need a wig to complete your look? Get those, along with vibrant Ankara fabric at the African market on Xiaobei Lu. On the weekend from 3-10pm, head to Haizhu District for Guangzhou’s biggest flea market, Mafa Bazaar, with more than 60 vendors selling everything from homemade food and handicrafts to vintage clothing and furniture. Once you’ve exhausted the shopping bug, go to the city center and take a ride to the top of the 600m tall Canton Tower.
Where to Stay: There’s no shortage of good budget options for a mindful traveler, including RiverSide YHA, which is located next to the Pearl River and near a spread of old factories that have been transformed into an art and culture district. For a seamless and more luxurious stay, try the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a sleek and contemporary offering from Swire (the company who created Taikoo Li), conveniently located close to a handful of 24-hour dim sum restaurants and cafes.
Where to Dine: Many Guangzhou locals will claim their food is better than the offerings in Beijing, and after a lavish sampling of dim sum by Mandarin Oriental’s Chef Fei, you just might believe them. Try the bulging shrimp dumplings or walnut paste buns at Guangzhou Restaurant (Guangzhou Jie Jia , 广州饭店), known for its longevity, or schlep to Mei Xin Garden in Tianhe District, highly regarded for its Chiuchow Steamed Dumplings. Wash it all down with a pint of Xurry’s Porter by Strand Brewing, Guangzhou’s tenderfoot of China’s craft brew scene.
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on July 31, 2014.
Photos: Jessica Rapp