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Guangzhou Travel Guide

Yuexiu Park

Five Rams Statue in Yuexiu Park

Guangzhou (or just simply GZ) is the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China and has a population of over 10 million (The official registered population is 7.3 million, with over 3 million unregistered residents), making it the third largest city in mainland China after Shanghai and Beijing. It is adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau forming an urban tri-angle. In the era of tea clippers, Guangzhou was known in the West as "Canton". The food and the language of the area are still known as "Cantonese" and it is perfectly acceptable to use either the western or Chinese term interchangeably. The Cantonese are proud and hardworking people known throughout China and the world over for their famous cuisine and tack for business.

The city is famous for foreign trade and business doings, and holds China's largest trade fair, the Canton Fair. However, in between the seemingly endless skyscrapers, shopping malls and building sites there is a lot of culture and history. While Guangzhou is not usually high on the list of Asian tourist destinations, it is amazing how much the city actually has to offer.

Climate and Geography

Located in the south-central portion of Guangdong, Guangzhou spans from 112° 57' to 114° 03' E longitude and 22° 26' to 23° 56' N latitude. The city is part of the Pearl River Delta and the city centre is situated next to the Baiyun Mountain, which is locally referred to as 'the lung of the city'.The total area under the city's administration is 7,434.4 square kilometres (2,870.4 sq mi), with the 10 districts occupying 3,843.43 square kilometres (1,483.96 sq mi), or 51.7% of the total, while the two county-level cities occupy the rest.

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

The elevation of the prefecture generally increases from southwest to northeast, with mountains forming the backbone of the city, and the ocean comprising the front.

ClimateLocated just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Guangzhou has a humid subtropical climate influenced by the Asian monsoon. Summers are wet with high temperatures, high humidity and a high heat index. Winters are mild and comparatively dry. Guangzhou has a lengthy monsoon season, spanning from April through September. Monthly averages range from 13.6 °C (56.5 °F) in January to 28.6 °C (83.5 °F) in July, while The annual average temperature in Guangzhou is 22.6 °C (72.7 °F), the relative humidity is approximately 68%, whereas annual rainfall in the metropolitan area is over 1,700 mm (67 in). Extreme temperatures have ranged from 0 °C (32 °F) to 39.1 °C (102 °F). The latest recorded snowfall in the city was in January 1893.

Guangzhou Attractions

Beijing Road Shopping Street

Beijing Road Shopping Street

Yuexiu Park
Covering an area of 860,000 square meters (212.5 acres), Yuexiu Park is the largest comprehensive park in downtown Guangzhou. Built in 1952, the park consists of three artificial lakes and seven hills of Yuexiu Mountain; hence the name Yuexiu Park. If you want to travel around Guangzhou, Yuexiu Park is a good place for you to know about the city - both today and yesterday. The charm of Yuexiu Park as one of the new Eight Attractions of Guangzhou is completely presented by verdant trees, thriving bamboos, and blooming flowers. Besides the splendid natural wonders, there are many famous cultural scenic sites of different historical period.

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Guangzhou Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is really a magnificent building in the shape of octangle. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is built in order to commemorate the contributions of Sun Zhongshan, the great predecessor of Chinese revolution for democracy. It is a memorial construction donated by the people in Guangzhou and the overseas Chinese and is listed as one of the first class cultural relics in Guangdong Province. Designed by the famous Chinese architect, Mr. Lu Yanzhi, the construction started in 1929 and finished in October of 1931.

Sword of Goujian in Nanyue King Museum

Sword of Goujian in Nanyue King Museum

Pearl River
The Pearl River in Guangzhou City is the largest river in south China and is the third largest river in China with a length of 2,214 kilometers (about 1,376 miles). The name Pearl River is said to derive from a huge boulder in the river bed. This rock, with the name of "Sea Pearl," is so round and smooth that it looks like a large, shining pearl.

Spanning eight provinces, the Pearl River consists of four river systems, West River, North River, East River and Liuxi River. The four rivers meet in Guangzhou, form a large estuary between Hong Kong and Macao, and flow into the South China Sea. The river links Guangzhou to Hong Kong and the South China Sea, is one of China's most important waterways, and is one of the centers of its world trade. Pearl River Delta has a network of rivers, fertile soil, abundant natural resources and a sense population.

Western Han Nanyue King Museum
The Museum of the Tomb of the King of Southern Yue in Western Han Dynasty or officially the Museum of the Western Han dynasty mausoleum of the Nanyue king is a museum in Jiefangbei Road, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou, southern China. With an area of 1,4000 sq. m, the tomb is the witness of Guangzhou’s history of over 2,000 years. It is well known for its well-preserved tomb and funerary antiquity from the Han Dynasty, as well as elegant and grand architecture from the Lingnan (south of the Nanling Mountain) area. The owner of the tomb is the second king, King Wen of Nanyue of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD).

Chen Clan Academy

Chen Clan Academy

Chen Clan Academy
Chen Clan's Academy (Guangdong Folk Art Museum), sitting in the west town of Guangzhou, is just most recommendable buildup of folk art and tradition of the city. The academy was established in 1894 in Qing Dynasty. Its construction was financed by all the 72 Chen clans in Guangdong to provide to Chen juniors accommodation and place to study and prepare for provincial examination.It features classic excellences of typical Lingnan architecture, well-and-balanced layout, exquisite, and richly-decorated. You are greeted in a spacious square just outside and then attracted into the open matrix of four landscaped courtyards, imposing halls and peaceful corridors inside. Wood, brick and stone carvings, clay and pottery sculptures, iron structuring, glazed glass windows, painting, calligraphies and so on by local masters are all in functional art here and there. It is now the biggest, best preserved and decorated clan complex in Guangdong.

History of Guangzhou

Formerly known as Canton in the West, the city of Guangzhou has a history dating back roughly 2,500 years. Although the actual origins of the city are lost in the mists of time, the most popular legend tells of five celestial beings riding into the area that is now Guangzhou on five rams and carrying sheaves of rice. The celestials bestowed blessings on the land and offered the sheaves to the people of the city as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. After the celestials left, the rams turned into stone, and Guangzhou quickly developed into an affluent and influential city. Due to this legend, Guangzhou has gained several popular nicknames: Yangcheng (City of Rams), Suicheng (Sheaves of Rice City) and Wuyangcheng (City of Five Rams). In addition, due to the abundance of flowers along the city's main thoroughfares, Guangzhou is often referred to as Huacheng (City of Flowers).

Canton Fair

Canton Fair

According to historical records, the city was built in 214BC and was known as Panyu. The name Guangzhou actually referred to the prefecture in which Panyu was located. However, as the city grew, the name Guangzhou was adopted for the city itself.

As a major sea port, Guangzhou's history is full of color. In 786 the city was sacked by the Persians and in 1711 the British East India Company established a trading post here. In 1842 the Treaty of Nanjing was signed, which designated the city as one of the five ports that were allowed business transactions with foreign nations.

Guangzhou was also part of the so called "Maritime Silk Road" that linked southern China with India, South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. As a result of its links with the Middle East, a mosque was established in the city in 627, and a small Muslim community continues to live in Guangzhou to this day. Additionally, the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism was born in Guangzhou and taught the famous Platform Sutra in the city. As a result, Guangzhou has retained a strong connection with this school of Buddhism, and the monastery where the sixth patriarch studied is considered a local treasure.

How to get there

China High Speed Train

China High Speed Train

By plane
The New Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (IATA: CAN, ICAO: ZGGG) is a major hub in Southern China, second only to Hong Kong. The airport is the base of China Southern Airlines and has not only an extensive range of domestic and Asian flights, but some direct intercontinental connections including Lufthansa to Frankfurt, Air France to Paris, and China Southern to Los Angeles, Melbourne and Sydney.

The airport is 28 km north from central Guangzhou, and should not be confused with the former Baiyun Airport which was closed in 2004. Metro Line 3 now connects the Airport South station to central Guangzhou, the journey to Tiyu Xilu station taking about 40 minutes ( CNY 12). Trains run every five minutes, with the last train to the airport departing at 11 PM.

Traffic allowing, a taxi is the still fastest option. See the airport fare table for approximate fare cost. A taxi ride to central should cost no more than CNY 120, inclusive of a CNY 15 toll fee. As of 2009, there is a CNY 1 fuel surcharge that is not shown on the fare meter.

Guangzhou Taxi

Guangzhou Taxi

Airport Express buses still run, but are a distant second to the metro in reliability and comfort, unless you have luggage and a line happens to be going precisely your way. Line 1 (CNY16) departs every 15 minutes from 7 AM until the last flight and takes 45 minutes to reach the train station and Central Hotel. The ticket prices range from ¥10 to CNY 36. Lines 1 to 6 are traveling within the metropolitan area, while lines 7-9 go to outer districts. There are also direct Airport Express buses to some cities in the vicinity, including Zhuhai and other cities in the Pearl River Delta.

Do not accept solicitations for rides to the city. Those are illegally operated and use unmarked vehicles. They may cost more than taxis since many travelers do not know the cost of airport transportations.

For many travelers, especially those arriving from outside Asia, flying to Hong Kong may be cheaper. From there, cross-boundary coach service to Guangzhou (and many other cities in Guangdong) is provided by three companies: China Travel Service, Trans-Island Chinalink and Eternal East. Fares range from HK $220-250 one way.

By train
Trains cover the 182 kilometers from Hong Kong in about two hours (including a stop at Dongguan). Through Trains to Guangzhou depart from Hong Kong at Hung Hom railway station in Kowloon and arrive in Guangzhou at the East station in Tian He district. Trains operating on this service are operated by China Rail and the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR). Since the merger of the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) and the MTR, Hung Hom station and Hong Kong ticket sales are controlled by the MTR.

It is cheaper to take the high speed train (200 km/h) from Shenzhen to Guangzhou. Shenzhen is right across the border from Hong Kong and thousands of people walk over the bridge between the two every day. China High Speed train tickets are numbered D8## and can be bought from ticket counters or machines.

A project is underway to link the entire Pearl River Delta area with high speed (200+ km/h) train network. The Zhuhai-Guangzhou section is due to open in 2008, and the journey will take just 56 minutes. Shenzhen is already connected. This is part of a nation-wide high-speed network that is under construction. Eventually, this will allow a 7-hour Guangzhou-Beijing ride.

There is also a high-speed train service that connects Guangzhou to Wuhan via Changsha and various other cities. It takes only slightly over 3 hours for a journey to Wuhan, nearly 1000 km away. This train holds the current world record for commercial train services in term of average speed.

It is possible to book a train ticket from Guangzhou to Lhasa, Tibet. The 4,980 km journey takes 54h39m and runs every other day. A sleeper costs RMB 869 and up. The last stretch is on the new (2006) Qinghai-Tibet railway; for discussion see Overland to Tibet.

Bear in mind there are two major train stations in Guangzhou. The Guangzhou East Station services routes to Hong Kong. The Guangzhou Station is one of the biggest in the country and services routes that go all the way to Harbin. Countless travellers have gone to the wrong station and missed their scheduled trips, so be sure of your departing station, which is specified on the ticket. Metro line 1 ends at Guangzhou East Station, and lines 2 and 5 have a stop at the Guangzhou Station.

Note that there is little English signage at the train stations, and staff may not understand English well enough (except at the Guangzhou-Kowloon counter) - bring a phrasebook or a Chinese friend if you're planning on traveling deeper into China.

By bus
Coach services are available to bring passengers from Hong Kong International Airport to several locations in Guangzhou. Among the destinations are recognizable landmarks like Jinan University on Huang Pu Da Dao, Garden Hotel and China Hotel (see hotel section). The trip takes about 3+ hours and costs 250 HKD. There are also cross border bus terminals throughout Hong Kong. One of the Stations is at Austin Road and Canton Road near Kowloon Park. A one way ticket costs about 100 HKD.

Domestically, it is possible to hop on a bus from any corner of Guangdong province and get to Guangzhou. There are also many options from nearby provinces like Guangxi, Hubei and Fujian. The main stations are the Provincial Station, Tianhe Dasha Station, Liuhua Station and Yuexiu Nan Station.

By boat
There is a frequent ferry and hovercraft service from Hong Kong, Macau, and Haikou (Hainan Island) at the Zhoutouzui Ferry Pier . There are boats from other mainland cities, such as Xiamen, Shanghai, and Qingdao at the Dashatou Pier.

New Nansha Pier is now open with 6 lines daily traveling between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. The trip takes 75 minutes (CNY 116-230). However, Nansha is very far from the city center, although there is a bus servicde available from the White Swan Hotel, running three times a day. Location Nansha Port: 1.6km South from Humen Bridge, Nansha District, Guangzhou. Nansha can also be reached by taking the metro to the Panyu station and then hopping onto a bus or mototaxi. If you plan on exercising this adventurous option, it is advisable to have instructions written in Chinese for you in advance, as many of the motorbike riders do not speak English.

Schedule: Nansha to Hongkong: 09:30  11:00  12:00  15:00  16:00  17:30 Hongkong to Nansha: 08:00  08:20  09:00  13:00  14:00  15:30 Tickets: Economy CNY 116.00, Business CNY 170.00, VIP CNY 230.00