It’s been a year or so since I last visited the noisy metropolis of Guangzhou and so, when earlier this week faced with a deadline to create a snappy city guide to the place formerly known as Canton, I thought I’d see if anyone had any useful nuggets of info on Facebook. I asked my 193 friends on the social networking site what are the five best things about Guangzhou. The responses were predictably dire from those who have lived in Hong Kong. Below a sample from one wit:
1. The train to Hong Kong.
2. A flight to Hong Kong
3. Barge down the river to Hong Kong.
4. They sell beer.
5. Seeing your pet cat about to be disemboweled and fried.
Poor old Guangzhou, host of this November’s Asian Games, has never ranked high on people’s travel lists. And yet, I really like it. I prefer it over Shanghai, for instance. Its huge sprawl can make it appear tough, grimy and confusing for first time visitors (often referred disparagingly as China’s Los Angeles) but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll see wonderful ancient culture coupled with soaring modernity and the best cuisine in the People’s Republic. After much thought here then are my five favourite things about this 2,500-year-old city.
1. Shamian Island – This tiny spit of land was the only place that Europeans could establish settlements. Beats the Bund hands down for outstanding 19th century European architecture.
2. The food – Undeniably the best in China.
3. The annex of the Victory Hotel – One of the best bargains accommodation-wise across the whole of the nation.
4. The markets – Alright, post-SARS the full on gore of many of the wet markets has been toned down, but the city’s assorted stalls are still pretty unique in their offerings.
5. Karaoke – For some reason I always seem to have a crazy singing session when in GZ – cantar in Canton.