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Genteel Guangzhou - 3 days/ 2 nights

 

  

The White Swan Hotel on the Riverfront.  

Enjoy a short break from Hong Kong in the ultra-modern city of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, China.
 
 
Formerly known as Canton, Guangzhou is less than 2 hours by luxury air-conditioned train from Hong Kong. Often maligned as a drab and uninteresting city, this short trip will show you that Guangzhou, formerly Canton, could perhaps one day eclipse Hong Kong as the most spectacular city in southern China.
  
    
  
 
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A city of 6 million, Guangzhou has totally transformed itself in the past twenty years. Much of the urban squalor has been replaced by soaring new buildings and landscaped gardens. Being more than one thousand five hundred kilometres away from the national capital, Beijing, Guangzhou often ignored imperial edicts. The last dynasty, that of the Ching Emperors, began to decay and crumble in the second half of the 19th Century.
 
 
It was in Guangzhou that the great Chinese revolutionary, Sun Yat Sen, engineered the Ching dynasty downfall in 1911, ending more than 2000 years of imperial rule. Subsequently, Chairman Mao Tse Tung  spent a great deal of his time residing in Guangzhou.
 
  
Canton, with a history of more than 2800 years, was China’s foremost trading port for centuries and any current visitor to the city might believe that the new Canton, Guangzhou, is striving to restore that former pre-eminence. It is the biggest city in southern China.
 
  
As China's only "official" trading port, Canton became the target of British interests eager to force China to fully open up for foreign trade. The conniving British, in co-operation with unscrupulous Chinese, introduced the opium trade. Opium addiction rapidly increased and it was not long before China’s silver reserves, which were exchanged for the opium, became seriously depleted. The end result was the Opium War of the 1840's and China's ultimate defeat.
 
  
Western influence and China’s humiliation increased with the establishment of the British and French concessions on Shamian Island, the location of your hotel. The imposing Victorian and older style European buildings on Shamian Island, including the parks and churches, are a poignant reminder of that period.
 
 
The first day is spent visiting some ancient sites including the Zhenai Tower, which has overlooked the city since 1380.
 
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The historic watchtower and its ramparts formed part of a great wall that surrounded the city. Today you can see an impressive model of early Canton in this Tower, now the Municipal Museum.
 
  
The morning of the second day dwells on the period of European influence in Canton. Among other interesting places, a visit will be made to Shamian Island. Decisions taken there were important in the origins of the subsequent Opium War, the reparations for which resulted in the establishment of Hong Kong.
 
 
In the afternoon a visit will be made to a truly spectacular ancient site, the Museum and Tomb of the Southern Yue Kings (137-122BC).
  
  
  
  
Day One      Hong Kong to Guangzhou  
 
 
Depart Hong Kong by rail in the late afternoon or early evening. The journey time is less than two hours. On arrival Guangzhou   Met on arrival and transfer to the hotel.
 
   
Hotel: Whte Swan     
(A very attractive 5 star hotel with a swimming pool overlooking the Pearl River. It is superbly located on Shamian Island.)
 
 
After settling in, proceed via the smart new residential district of Ershatou to the impressive Dongshan Lake, to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant beautifully situated overlooking the lake.
 
 
After dinner, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the tree-lined causeways crossing the lake. 
 
 
    
  
Day 2      Guangzhou 
  
    
 
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After a wonderful buffet breakfast overlooking the busy Pearl River, depart for the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, founded in the 5th Century. The focal point is the 60 metre Pagoda, constructed in 1097. The Pagoda can be climbed for a fine view of the temple grounds and the city. The Temple is the centre of the Canton Buddhist Association and remains a monastery for a community of monks.

 

The next visit is to the unique Chen Family Temple, built between 1890 and 1894. This very impressive structure offers fine examples of Chinese workmanship, exquisite woodcarvings and spectacular glazed pottery sculptures along the roof.
 
 
  
 
After this leisurely sightseeing, proceed to a local Restaurant for lunch. This is a rambling structure with old style banquet rooms, blackwood furniture and stained glass windows. Serene ponds and picturesque bridges complement its ambience. 
 
 
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Later, after lunch, a brief stroll through the Park brings you to the five story Zhenhai Tower, first built in 1380. The Tower now houses the excellent antique and reproduction displays of the Municipal Museum. On the top floor balcony overlooking the city, one can enjoy a quiet drink with fine city views.

 

A short drive brings you to an old Garden, an incredible haven of peace in the midst of this turbulent metropolis. Beautiful teahouses are set amongst well-maintained gardens and lotus ponds.  Meander through stands of bamboo and enjoy being served fine tea by hostesses wearing classic cheong sam gowns.

 

In the evening, proceed to another picturesque lakeside restaurant in a Park. It is difficult to believe that you are in the middle of a huge metropolis.
 
    
 
 
Day 3      Guangzhou to Hong Kong           
 
  
 
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The first stop this morning is at the Neo-Gothic style Roman Catholic Cathedral, built between 1860 and 1863. The Chinese call it “The Stone House”. For many years, during the Cultural revolution, this grand structure had been stripped bare and served as a warehouse. Now, the congregation is gradually restoring the building to its former glory.
 
At Shamian Island, a morning walking tour reveals a small enclave of stately former European mansions, churches, embassies and banks. After the 1949 revolution, the mansions became government offices & apartments.
 
 
These gradually deteriorated, some becoming derelict. Recently, the architectural worth of these buildings has been recognised and the whole island is undergoing a process of structural restoration.
 
 
Lunch today is at another attractive local Restaurant.
 
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After lunch, visit the Museum and Tomb of the Southern Yue Kings.  Discovered in 1983 by bulldozers clearing land for the construction of a hotel, was the intact tomb of Emperor Wen Di who ruled Nan Yue (southern China) from 137 to 122BC. Carefully restored, with the artifacts placed in the adjoining Nan Yue Museum, the tomb contained the skeletons of the king and fifteen courtiers who were buried alive with him, to attend him in death.
 
  
Among the excavated relics on display is the fantastic jade suit of Wen Di, made with over 1000 pieces of jade and the earliest jade suit so far unearthed in China.