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The Hidden Treasures of Southern China

The residents of Guangzhou employed in major industries often prefer to spend their holidays at home.

Published: April 23, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • A trip to the southwest of Guangzhou, to the town of Kaiping, offers a parallel reality that thrusts the traveler into a magical realm.
    Photo: Tourism Board of Guangzhou

  • A potter working at the Museum of the Great Maritime Silk Road in Guangdong.
    Photo: Galina Stolyarova / Vedomosti

  • Seafood is popular in Guangdong province, the homeland of Cantonese cuisine.
    Photo: Galina Stolyarova / Vedomosti

  • The mesmerizing serenity of semi-abandoned villages contain rare examples of Diaolou architecture, an unusual hybrid of traditional Chinese and colonial architectural styles.
    Photo: Tourism Board of Guangzhou

  • The colorful entrance to a traditional restaurant in Guangzhou.
    Photo: Galina Stolyarova / Vedomosti

  • The Guangdong coast is the starting point of the Great Maritime Silk Route.
    Photo: Galina Stolyarova / Vedomosti

Guangzhou is a place where several major European brands have located factories and is host to many trade fairs. The city is also home to the seemingly endless shopping arcades of a gargantuan market where one can buy skilled forgeries of items by the worlds most popular luxury brands and attracts millions of tourists.

Guangzhou doesnt lack business visitors either. It is Chinas third city in terms of both economic and political importance, and population. Its rate of economic development is drawing closer and closer to that of the business centre of China, Shanghai. With the launch of direct flights between Moscow and Guangzhou, the Chinese are trying to attract not only business travelers to the province but tourists as well. Guangdong, which is just a short hop from neighboring Hong Kong is terra incognita for many foreign travelers but its popularity among locals is very high, not least for gastronomic tourism. A Chinese proverb says: You must live in Guilin but you have to eat in Guangdong, giving compliments both to the natural beauty of Guilin prefecture in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and the elaborate culinary specialties of Guangdong, the motherland of Cantonese cuisine.

Guangdong has access to the South China Sea with a number of small seaside resorts that envy the popularity of nearby Hainan Island, with whom they favorably compete with their moderate prices.

Hopping in the car and driving down towards the South China Sea, in about twenty minutes you will be surprised with the changing landscape that is like an instant leap back in time. Along the route are fragile shacks and small ponds in which locals wearing conical straw hats wade waist-deep in the muddy water to feed the frogs that they are raising. Along with goose farms and orchards, its a popular business for the local population.

Fresh seafood is perhaps the most highly-prized ingredient among Cantonese chefs. The streets in the coastal towns glitter with towering aquariums filled with the bounty of the sea, all of which can be had on your plate simply by asking.

For members of international environmental organizations, mention of the province causes uproar. Animal-welfare advocates have repeatedly called for boycotts of Guangdong, where any living creature is literally seen as a source of protein. The pet market in Guangzhou has a deservedly wretched reputation where living purchases are frequently butchered in front of the buyer.

Signature dishes in many eateries are wontons and dim sum with a variety of fillings, from shrimp and meat to nuts and dried fruits. One rare local specialty, perhaps thankfully so, is turtle pudding. This bitter dish is made with a broth of local herbs and usually is served for dessert.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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