If you fancy a weekend getaway with your mates or a quick family break over the summer, head to Guangzhou, in Guangdong province. The “City of Five Goats”, or the “City of Flowers” as it is sometimes known, is an easy two-hour train ride away from the 852 and has plenty to offer for adventurers, foodies, and history buffs.
Here are just a few of the things you might want to check out if you’re ever in the neighbourhood.
The Statue of Five Goats
A statue of, well, five goats sits in the city’s Yuexiu Garden. The statue, built in 1960, refers to a legend dating back to the Jin dynasty (265-420) that describes how the gods saved people from starvation.
The legend goes that five gods gifted the people wheat and five goats. After the people spread the grain from the wheat on the ground, they began to have rich harvests. The five goats became stone goats.
The city walls of ancient Guangzhou can be found not far from the statue, too. As the city expanded, the old boundaries were knocked down. The only section, which was built in 1380, that still remains is in Yuexiu Park.
Sacred Heart Cathedral, or Stone House
The cathedral, known to locals as the Stone House or Shishi, is one of the few churches in the world to be entirely made of granite. Built in 1888, it is the largest Gothic-style cathedral of its kind on the mainland and in Southeast Asia, and is tucked away from the busier streets of the city – making a visit here a relaxing one.
Remember to bring your camera: you’ll want to take as many photos of the beautiful stained glass windows as you can.
Pearl river night cruise
What cooler way is there to see the sights of the city than to take a cruise on the scenic river? Soak up the city’s stunning architectural mix of old and new as you sail down the third largest river on the mainland, an evening breeze ruffling your hair.
There are 10 wharves in Guangzhou where you can begin your cruise, including ones at the foot of Canton Tower and Tianzi Wharf – the city’s oldest wharf. If you’re feeling peckish, buy the cruise and buffet option and you’ll get snacks as you sail the waters.
If the views from the river aren’t what you’re after, then maybe it’s time for an entirely different perspective – from up high. Canton Tower is one of the newest landmarks of Guangzhou. From it, you will get a bird’s-eye view of the city.
This tower also boasts the world’s highest outdoor sightseeing platform, a bubble tram that takes visitors on a gentle ride around the tower like a sideways Ferris wheel – and the Sky Drop, which is the world’s highest vertical free fall ride. Just don’t look down.
How to get there
The Guangzhou-Hong Kong train runs between Guangzhou East Railway Station and Hong Kong’s Hung Hom Railway Station. It will take about two hours. Alternatively, a cross-border bus that picks up passengers from various points around the city can be taken. It will take you about 3-4 hours.
Where to eat
Did you know many people will, in Cantonese and Mandarin, tell you to “Eat in Guangzhou”? That’s because the city is a foodie’s paradise.
In June, the Michelin Guide released its first-ever Guangzhou edition. The guide is a good place to start your gourmet hunt, but locals would argue that you won’t need a guide to find good food here – you’ve just got to start walking about.
In the Yuexiu district, the best street food and double skin milk (dessert made of milk, egg whites, and sugar) can be found in Dongshankou. Head to Wenming Road for amazing noodles, congee, and desserts. Find exotic restaurants, dim sum places, and good quality beef offal along Jianshe 6th Road.
Alternatively, head into any residential area and speak to the locals for their best recommendations.
Before you go
It’s much easier to get around and communicate with people if you know Cantonese. It is the main dialect spoken here, so brush up on your speaking skills.
Attach a credit or debit card to your Alipay and WeChat Pay accounts before heading into the city: a lot of the time when you’re at the till, the cashier will expect you to whip out your phone, not your purse or wallet, to pay for stuff.
Alipay is owned by Alibaba Group, which also owns the South China Morning Post.