After our short stay in Kunming we have safely arrived in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province, the wealthiest province in China. Located only 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is the third largest city in China, only after Beijing and Shanghai, with a population of around 11 million people. The tropical city is known as China’s Southern Gate because it is connected to the South China Sea by The Pearl River (Zhujiang), which runs through the heart of the city.
After an early flight we spent the morning at one of Guangzhou largest and best-preserved cultural sites. Chen’s Ancestral Hall was constructed in the late 1800’s and served as a place for ancestral worship and a temporary residence for Chen descendants, a rich and powerful family, on their visits to the city. Today the hall houses the Guangdong Folk Arts Museum exhibiting cultural relics from the local province and beyond. The 19 building on the 15,000 square meters are adorned with amazingly colorful and detailed curving, which line the building roofs.
In the courtyards between each of the building are impressive horticultural displays including many examples of Chinese penzai (bonbai). Many of the buildings house shops that sell traditional Chinese artwork including paper cutting, pottery, camel bone carvings and paintings. Local artisans can be view creating many of the works on-site.
Following this tour, we enjoyed a drive along the banks of the Pearl River and lunched at a lovely restaurant on the south side of Guangzhou before checking into our hotel. In the late afternoon, a contingent headed out to take in some of the city’s major tourist attractions starting with Shamian Park. Once a sandbar in the Pearl River, the area was reclaimed in the mid nineteenth century and developed for foreign concessions still evident in the colonial architecture of the buildings. We enjoyed seeing many local residents using the public park for everything from their daily excercise to wedding photography.
We concluded our excursion with a tour of some of Guangzhou’s more adventurous shopping areas. First we explored the Qingping market, an area renown for unusual meats, spices, and other eclectic foodstuffs. Afterwards, we strolled along a brightly-lit and bustling pedestrian mall where local residents shopped for clothes, shoes, and other goods. Both venues provided an excellent opportunity to hone our negotiation skills and get some great pictures of daily life in the big city.