Bustling Guangzhou, China!

(as published in Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay magazine)

Shangxiajiu (Literally “Up Down Nine”) Pedestrian Street
It is interesting to note that the Portuguese first set foot in the city of Guangzhou, prior to colonizing Macau two decades later. Since then, this capital and largest city of Guangdong province has had a rich history of trade with Europeans in the early 16th century, although trade with Persians and Arabs date as far back as the 8th century. Today, much of Guangzhou’s commercial past has been carried over to its present as made evident by the biannual Canton Fair, China’s biggest import and export fair.

 

While mostly business travelers and tourists from major international cities can take advantage of direct flights to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, China’s second busiest (after Beijing Capital), they can also reach Hong Kong and Macau by land in just a few short hours, making Guangzhou a very strategic location in maximizing a trip to China’s southern coast. Rest assured you can extensively explore the entire city thanks to the highly efficient metro system, the sixth busiest in the world.
One of my favorite places to go bargain shopping!

Saying that the Cantonese love to shop is an understatement. You may notice that Guangzhou is essentially a huge shopping district, with street vendors, retail shops, wholesale stores and high-end malls lining every street. As a true shopper’s paradise, the city has limitless clothing, electronics, toys – you name it. Whether you’re looking for luxury goods or unbranded yet stylish pieces, this city definitely has something for every wallet.

Part of the Guangzhou skyline
The stunning Canton Tower
Begin your shopping frenzy by marveling at the grandeur of the prosperous Tianhe Central Business District. Here you can find upscale malls such as Tee Mall, Grandview Mall (one of the world’s biggest), and the swanky Taikoo Hui, where Guangzhou’s first Mandarin Oriental Hotel recently opened last January 2013. These modern shopping, dining and entertainment complexes are an attestation of how China exceeds today’s international standards.

 

A number of major Chinese cities seem to have that one popular yet geographically confusing pedestrian shopping district, and Guangzhou is no exception. Contrary to what our instincts dictate, Beijing Road is actually located here (just as Nanjing Road can be found in Shanghai, not Nanjing). Regarded as the central shopping area by the locals selling all items imaginable, Beijing Road offers a bonanza of visual stimuli: Brightly-lit signages embellish the façade of shops. Festive red lanterns adorn trees. Preserved historical roads from the Song and Ming dynasties beneath thick glass panels can be observed; simply look to the sky to rest your eyes.

The impressive Chimelong Zoo
If you’re looking to overhaul your wardrobe, head on to Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street and the nearby Zhuangyuan Fang, where the fashionable youth huddle. The apparel sold at Shangxiajiu is unfathomably cheap as the way going there is chaotic: narrow sidewalks meant bustling about with throngs of shoppers on the road while vehicles honk their horns for you to give way. It’s not necessarily stressful as it is exciting. To show how much bang you get for your buck: good quality leather shoes and sneakers are sold for as low as 50 RMB; 20 RMB can buy you a trendy T-shirt; while 10 RMB gives you four pairs of colorful ankle socks.
The very European Shamian Island

Although there are many other shopping areas which specialize in wholesale, you’ll find that Guangzhou contributes much to culture as it does to consumerism. Bask in the historical significance of the Buddhist and millennium-old Liurong Temple, the Taoist Sanyuan Palace and the nationalistic Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. Admire artifacts and collect art pieces as souvenirs while strolling within the relaxing confines of the palatial Chen Clan Academy. Go back in time to romantic colonial eras by visiting Shamian Island, a concession handed to the French and British in the 19th century by the Qing Dynasty. Immerse yourself where the most diverse of cultures converge in Xiao Bei District, a harmonious international community of local Chinese, Africans and Middle Easterners, and get to sample unique delicacies of bread and meat originating from far away lands.
 

Finally, a trip to Guangzhou wouldn’t be complete without partaking in some Cantonese cuisine. Visit one of the many branches of the established yet modestly named Guangzhou Restaurant and try their famous Wenchang Chicken and an assortment of authentic yum cha (Cantonese dimsum). Enjoy splendid vistas of the Pearl River in either of two ways: join an acclaimed yet reasonably-priced night cruise while having dinner on board, or be surrounded by magnificent structures and brightly-lit buildings from afar at the viewing deck of the equally illuminated Canton Tower, the tallest structure in all of China. There probably isn’t a more pleasant impression of Guangzhou to take back home than the reflection of alternating hues of light swaying heedlessly over the Pearl River. ~^~

Reach me at: thetravelguyshops@gmail.com

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