Guangzhou is the provincial capital of Guangdong Province. It is China's third most populous metropolitan area, after Beijing and Shanghai. It is a lively, prosperous metropolis and a foreign trade center, and holds many historic and cultural landmarks.
The city is nestled between the White Cloud Hill in the north and the Pearl River Delta. It is also a a port and lies 120 km northwest of Hong Kong. Its history reaches 2,200 years back, making it the oldest international port city in the world.
Canton was one of the first cities to open to foreign trade as a result of China's 1978 Open Door Policy and thus became a hotbed of entrepreneurship where numerous job opportunities were to be found. Today, Canton is working towards becoming an international metropolis and in attempt to to polish up its appearance, the city is quickly getting rid of clunky concrete architecture in favor of sleek shiny skyscrapers.
Traffic congestion is being relieved with the construction of a metro and stricter road rules. The city is still noisy and chaotic but nevertheless possesses pockets of tradition and beauty: elegant churches, villas and mansions, temples and gardens.
Among the biggest tourist draws are the Five Ram Statue in Yuexiu Park, Guangxiao Temple, Liurong Temple, Pearl River and the White Cloud Hill. In addition, Canton is blessed with long summers and virtually no winter. As it is the hub of Cantonese cuisine, it is also home to innumerable restaurants, so expect to eat a lot and well.
The city has a humid subtropical climate influenced by the Asian monsoon. Winters (December to March) are warm, mild and sunny, and summers (June to September) are hot. There is little snow or frost and a lot rain and sunshine. The yearly average temperature is a pleasant 20 to 22 C. Summers are characterized by high temperatures and humidity levels, the hottest months being July and August. The monsoon season is long, lasting from April to September. The winters are mild and dry with lots of sunshine.
January average temperature 14 deg Celsius 41 mm rainfall February average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 69 mm rainfall March average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 97 mm rainfall April average temperature 22 deg Celsius, 170 mm rainfall May average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 264 mm rainfall June average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 264 mm rainfall July average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 246 mm rainfall August average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 231 mm rainfall September average temperature 27 deg Celsius, 157 mm rainfall October average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 63 mm rainfall November average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 41 mm rainfall December average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 30 mm rainfall
The New Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is a large international hub, located 28 km from downtown.
The metro line connecting to the city is under construction. Taxi: a fast way of reaching the city, a ride should cost around ¥120. Bus: 9 Airport Express bus lines connect to several points in the city. Services operate from 7 am and leave every 15 minutes.
0pened in 1999, the metro network covers a large portion of the city and is continuing to expand. Currently there are 5 lines; however 1 and 2 are the most useful to tourists. Most signs and announcements are in English as well as Cantonese. Web: www.gzmtr.com/en/
Bus service is comprehensive and covers the entire city. Some information and station names are also written in English. Buses are useful for traveling to outlying suburbs not served by the metro. Congested traffic can turn an inner city bus ride into a slow and tiring experience. They can be used for cheap sightseeing as well. There are 3 tourist bus lines that run past many points of interest.
Taxis are a cheap and popular way of getting around.
Driving a car is an option, but you should take into consideration that driving conditions in China are unique and traffic can be very congested.
Ferry is the cheapest way of crossing the Zhujiang River. Boats run every 5 minutes from 5 am to midnight.
Pearl River is the third longest river in China, 2,000 km long and only 70 km wide. From Canton it flows into the South China Sea. An evening cruise along the Pearl is a treat for the tourist. It is a great way to see the Canton skyline, and the ten bridges that span the river are lit up to give the night cruise a special charm.
Cantonese Opera – Yueju is a traditional Chinese art that emerged in the middle of the Ming Dynnasty. It combines music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics, and acting. It is very popular in Canton, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia. It is performed in the Cantonese language but this does not pose a barrier to those who do not speak the language as the costumes, music and body language speak for themselves. Recently this art form was included on the World Cultural Heritage List by UNESCO.
Canton is famous as the home of Cantonese cuisine, renowned both in China and around the world. In fact, the city is probably one of the best places in China to grab a great meal - from world cuisines to Cantonese food.
WHITE CLOUDS MOUNTAIN
The White Clouds is a mountain range comprising over 30 peaks, located about 17 kilometers out of the city and is an ideal escape for those who love hiking and rock climbing. The mountain can be accessed via several bus lines. The ideal period for hiking and rock climbing spans from September to November.
The city hosts the Canton Fair and has numerous other shopping areas. Its most popular shopping streets are Shangxia Jiu Lu, Beijing Lu and Renmin Nan Lu, while Teem Plaza and China Plaza are the most popular department stores. Shangxia Jiu Lu is a pedestrian street and a prosperous traditional commercial district in the Liwan District of Xiguan, featuring many brand name restaurants and teahouses. The best known department store in the city is Teem Plaza, which has become the city’s new commercial center, housing numerous boutiques, shops and restaurants.
Beijing Lu, in the center of the city, is a different shopping experience from Shangxia Jiu Lu. It is fashionable but traditional at the same time. Hualin Jadeware Street & Wende Calligraphy and Painting Street, found on Xia Jiu Lu abounds in jade and jewelry retail and wholesale places and is said to have a history stretching back to the Qing Dynasty.
Address: 109 Jinghui Lu, Xiguan Open: 6:00 am - 5:30 pm Access: metro 1 (Xīmén Kǒu station)
The temple is a popular pilgrimage site for Zen Buddhists and the oldest temple in the city, dating back to the 4th century. Many famous Buddhist monks came here to teach, including the founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidarma. The temple was destroyed several times so most of the buildings date from the 19th century. The interior features a 10 meter high statue of Buddha.
Temple of Six Banyan Trees
Address: 87 Liurong Lu Access: metro 1 (Gong Yuan Qian station) Open: 08:30 am - 5:00 pm
The Temple of Six Banyan Trees, a Buddhist temple built in 537, is one of the four most renowned temples in the city. It features a 57 meters high, 17 storey octagonal pagoda, called the Flower Pagoda, which is topped with a bronze column featuring 1,000 Buddhist sculptures. The interior of the pagoda is wonderfully decorated. The temple itself features three large bronze Buddha statues, weighing 10 tons each.
Address: 13 Jiefang Beilu, Yuexiu Park Open: 6:00 am - 9:00 pm
This vast park is located in the very heart of the city and encompasses 212 acres. It features 3 artificial lakes, gardens, wooded paths, museums and historical monuments. There is also an amusement park, swimming pool, gymnasium, and several restaurants. The park features the famous Five Rams Statue (Wǔyáng Shíxìang), depicting the five immortals who, according to legend, founded Guǎngzhōu.
Access: metro 1 (Huángshā station)
The island, situated in the Pearl River, was a defense post during the second Opium War and was later divided into two sections, one given to France and the other to the United Kingdom. Today this pleasant island affords an interesting glimpse into its colonial past and is a peaceful haven away from the chaos of the city due to its traffic restrictions. Many buildings have been restored and now house chic restaurants, hotels and cafés.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Open: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
The memorial hall is a typical Chinese octagonal building, constructed between 1929 and 1931 to commemorate the forerunner of the Chinese democratic revolution, Dr. Sun Yat–sen. It also includes a 4,700 seat auditorium used as a conference and performance venue. It is situated on a hill in the beautiful Yuexiu Park, on the site of his former presidential office.
Cantonese cuisine combines colors, taste and presentation, and an amazing array of ingredients. The local saying goes that Canton people will eat anything from the sky or earth except for a plane and stool. Generally, thick spicy dressings are avoided in order to keep the original taste of the food. The best known dishes are Roast Suckling Pig (Kao Ru Zhu), Dragon Fighting against the Tiger (Long Hu Dou) - stewed snake and wild cat, Taiye Chicken (Taiye Ji) and Stewed Wild Dog Meat.
Canton is especially well known for dim sum, a brunch affair that is basically a meal of bite-sized snacks and considered the best in the country. There are 1,000 varieties available, but the most typical are shrimp dumplings, steamed shaomai, and steamed vermicelli rolls. They can be found everywhere in the city. The city’s range of restaurants is wide: from the esteemed traditional food to various international cuisines, such as Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, Indian and Portuguese.
Western fast food chains are widely available as well; you can easily find KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Starbucks, and Haagen-Dazs restaurants, at Zhengjia Plaza among other places.
Address: 2 Wen Chang Street Phone: 020-81888388
This garden-style restaurant has been acclaimed as the No.1 restaurant in Canton. Its best loved dishes include Wen Chang Chicken, Kapok Duck, Deep Fried Duck Palm, Three-colored Lobster and moon cakes. The restaurant has trained many famous chefs.
Address: 318 Xianlie Rd Phone: 020-87705998
This restaurant serves snake food and snake drinks. The special dish is enticingly called Chrysanthemum Dragon-Tiger-Phoenix Soup.
Address: The Metro Plaza, Tian He Bei Lu Phone: +86 20 3880 8118
Japan Fusion is the largest Japanese restaurant in the city, famous for its enormous hairy crabs.
Address: D2, 1-48 HaiYue Street, New World Plaza, Zhujiang Xin Cheng Phone: +86 20 3825 8181
This Indian restaurant has a pleasant atmosphere and charming decor and serves authentic Indian food.
Cow and Bridge Thai Cuisine
Address: 1 – Xiang Long Garden, 175-181 Tian He Bei Lu, near Metro Plaza Phone: +86 20 8525 0821
This is the city’s most authentic Thai food restaurant, where the ingredients are reputedly shipped directly from Thailand.
Date: The first day of the first lunar month (January or February)
The best party in town is the Chinese New Years Festival. Celebrations last for 15 days, streets are filled with revelers, dragon dances and fireworks. Some sections of the city however are completely deserted as the workers return to their home province for celebrations. A week before the New Year there is the Flower Fair and Spring Festival that brings a kaleidoscope of colors to the city.
Dragon Boat Festival
Date: The fifth day of the fifth lunar month (May or June)
The festival celebrates the memory of the famous poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the river as a protest against a corrupt government during the Warring States Period in the 3rd century BC. The Dragon Boat race is held on the Pearl River attracting thousands of spectators who come to cheer their favorite competitors.
Date: The 15th day of the eighth lunar month (September or October)
People celebrate autumn by making Cantonese moon cakes symbolizing good fortune and prosperity. Children make paper lanterns and river cruises are a favorite way to watch the full moon ascend
The fair is held twice a year and has been running since 1957. It was, and still is, one of the most important business events in China for foreigners. It is held at the city’s two major exhibition halls: the Pazhou Complex (380 Yuejiang Zhong Lu) and the historic Liuhua Complex (117 Liuhua Lu). It is advisable to book your hotel well in advance as prices trend to inflate and accommodations fill up quickly.
Canton is a bustling metropolis and has many nighttime attractions and its not all dim sum and Cantonese opera. The city has a wide range of entertainment from karaoke bars, to cinemas and trendy nightclubs.
BARS, DANCE CLUBS
Canton has a large expatriate population and numerous bars. Bai'e Tan, Huanshi Lu and Yanjiang Road are the city’s bar streets, packed with bars and pubs. The local beer brands are Tsing Tao and Zhu Jiang. Yanjiang Road, located near Zhujiang River boasts an elegant and sophisticated atmosphere and river views. Huanshi Road is located in the city center and serves as a good starting point for a night on the town. Bar Street in Bai’etan is new and is famous for its exotic atmosphere.
Other trendy late night spots are the Velvet Club on Huanshi Dong Road and the Bio Fashion Club on Yanjiang Zhong Road. C:Union (No.115, Shuiyin Rd., Chengshihui) plays a wide variety of music, including rock and reggae, has friendly staff and several floors.
The Cave (360 Huanshi Dong Lu) is a favorite expatriate hangout that also features exotic dancing. Club NaNa, (No. 26 Tianlun Garden Jian She 4 Rd.) is famous for throwing the wildest parties in the city.
Feiyang Cinema City
Address: 4/F, Team Plaza Open: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
This five star movie theater holds 14 halls.
Mayflower Cinema City
Open: 10:00 am – 11:00 pm Address: 6/F, Mayflower Business Plaza, No.68, Zhongshan 5 Rd.Canton
The Mayflower is another five star multi-cinema complex with seats that can be transformed from single to double.
According to legend, Canton was established when five gods descended from heaven, riding goats, carrying five ears of corn to save the local population from starvation. The area has been inhabited since Neolithic times. During the 8th century B.C. agriculture was introduced and during the Qin Dynasty, Canton became the administrative seat of the Nan Hai prefecture. This brought new development to the already established port which quickly became a major regional center. Throughout its history the port town served as China’s contact with the outside world. During the Tang Dynasty trade developed with Arab, Indian and Persian merchants and as a result the town had many Islamic inhabitants. By the end of the first millennium it was already home to 10,000 foreigners. The first Europeans to come to the area were the Portuguese in the 15th century. They gained a trade monopoly in 1511 but that was broken by the British in the 17th century. Soon the Dutch and the French, who were looking for profits in the tea, porcelain and silk trades, became entrenched. Trade, however, was restricted to Canton and foreigners were restricted to Shamian Island. In the 1770s the British, dissatisfied with the trade deficits, started importing Indian opium through Canton. This enlivened the trade but also caused massive problems for the Chinese population. As a result the Qing government banned the opium trade, but the British merchants ignored it. An anti-opium campaign was started by the Imperial High Commissioner, Lin Ze Xu in 1839, destroying thousands of tons of the drug. The British sent a fleet and the situation escalated into a conflict that came to be known as the Opium War. In 1842 a treaty was forced upon the Chinese by foreign powers, in particular to cede the island of Hong Kong to the British and open up Canton port to unrestricted foreign trade. Not surprisingly, Canton became a hotbed of radicalism and a revolution, led by Hong Xiu Quan, was orchestrated. Sun Yat-sen, who founded the Chinese Nationalist Party, soon came on the scene. He launched several coup d’états that were all doomed to failure but finally he triggered the massive protests that led to the collapse of the Quing Dynnasty and the formation of the Republic of China in 1911.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
The city continued to be a rebellious hotbed, where frequent protests and demonstrations were organized against foreign presence, some ending in forceful foreign retaliation. During the 1930’s, the city was an important industrial base, but it was seized by the Japanese in 1938 until the end of WW II, only leaving after severe bombing raids of the city in September, 1945.
In April 1949 the capital in Nanjing fell and the Nationalist government, under the president Li Zongren, relocated to Canton. In October the same year communist forces entered the city, the nationalists blew up the major bridge across the Pearl River and the acting president fled to New York. The communist government brought a new prosperity to many, implementing urban renewal projects and housing for the poor. Under the Communist government the city developed as an industrial center and modern port, increasing trade to and from Hong Kong.
In the late 1970s Deng Xiaoping came to power, he instigated reforms that led to rapid economic growth in the city. Since then the city has continued to grow and many industrial plants have opened attracting an influx of cheap labor. In recent years the city was given a makeover and gained a more cosmopolitan look.
The Chinese are a very collective society and they direct their behavior so as to avoid public embarrassment for everyone, at all times. Losing face is a big taboo. In any disagreement, a person should not be confronted publicly, as this would make both parties lose face. Here, discretion is valuable.
Foreigners are usually greeted with handshakes. Many Chinese look at the ground when greeting someone.
The Chinese have three names. Address people by their honorific title and surname. If they want to move to first-name basis they will ask you do so and tell you which name to use. Chinese handshakes usually last longer than in the Western world. Personal space is smaller- people tend to stand closer together when conversing.
It is polite to smile back at people. Bowing your head with palms pressing together is a gesture of gratitude. Avoid public display of affection.
Remove your shoes when entering someone’s house, and be on time. It is polite to bring a small gift to the hostess. Chinese people like to be punctual so being late for a meeting is considered rude.
Accept gifts with both hands. Gifts may be declined three times before they are accepted. Do not give four of anything as it is considered an unlucky number. Eight is considered the luckiest number.
Try to learn a few Chinese words. Xiè xiè is Thank you (pronounced shee-yeh shee-yeh) Ní hao is Hello (pronounced nee how)
Non verbal communication: Chinese maintain an inexpressive expression during conversation because frowning while somebody is speaking can be interpreted as disagreement. In public places staring in peoples’ eyes is considered rude. The Chinese avoid eye contact to gain privacy.
Canton is not a particularly safe city, its crime rate is higher than other cities in China, but mostly petty crime prevails. Pickpockets and thieves abound in public areas like markets and stations. The best defense is common sense and prevention, so do not show off your valuables in public. If you get robbed do not fight back, especially if the robbers are armed. Remember that the crowd will probably not help you.
There have been reports of HIV infected people, threatening people with syringes for cash. Also, in recent years armed robberies in the open and abductions have been on the rise. Practice caution around popular expatriate bars at night as there have been attacks on foreigners that look as if they are alone. Use only official taxi cabs.
Traffic accident rates are much higher than in other countries. Be very cautious when crossing a street, and make use of pedestrian bridges where available. Drivers are used to having priority over pedestrians so do not expect them to stop.
Foreigners must carry their ID at all times. Check-ups are common, and not having an ID results in a fine or detention.
Summer humidity and high temperatures can be unbearable. The best time to visit is during the spring and autumn, but avoid visiting during the annual Spring Trade Fair when hotels are packed and the prices quadruple. Winters can be a bit chilly. All in all, the best months to visit include September, October (except during the Golden Week - 1 to 7 October), and November.