Experience Canton – More Than Amazing Cuisine!

Guangzhou Guangzhou, previously Canton, is 75-miles north of Hong Kong. The third largest city in China houses over 15-million – the God of Wealth has attracted 105-million to the whole of Guangdong Province, and expanding fast.

Guangzhou Underground TrainHundreds-of-thousands arrive with little more than their shirt, hoping to earn enough to send back to their village. Everywhere is busy. Expect to wait for restaurant tables’ and queue for everything. Rapid urbanization has resulted in Guangzhou’s underground railway growing in 16-years to the 9th longest globally.

Before the Tang Dynasty Guangdong was a poor backward region far from the Emperor. Later, Arab traders, Jesuits, and other foreigners flourished there  – until 1757 when the only place immigrants could live in China was restricted to tiny Shamian Island on the Pearl River in Guangzhou. Until British drug dealing opened the country after the Opium War.

Cantonese FishI believe the birthplace of Cantonese food is the best place in the world to dine. Subtle seasoning ensures the freshness of the food is not masked – and everything is eaten, from chicken feet to dog. All meat is chopped into cubes, bones and all, so easily eaten with chopsticks.

Popular is roast pig, goose, chicken, steamed fish and seafood. Breakfast dim sum is ace – shrimp dumpling, steamed siumai, vermicelli roll and sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. In winter hot pot is fun. Lightly boiling delicacies like live shrimp, mushroom, chicken and tofu dangled in a pot on the table, with lots of cheap beer and tea.

Guanzhou Pavement ResturantEateries are everywhere – Guangzhou once boasted a restaurant for every 500-citizens. Stay away from rip-off famous places and gorge yourself at one of the many al fresco pavement cafes. Be like a local: have fun and make a mess!

If you’re yearning for Western, my favorites are the Brazilian BBQ and Sultan Turkish Restaurant near the Garden Hotel, Lucy’s outdoor American diner on Shamian Island; and one of the Japanese Italian chain called Saizeriya, like on Liwan Square.  Best area for pubs is around the Hill Bar, close to the Sultan. Happy Hour finishes at 8pm.

Top Tourist Sights
Pearl River, Guangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou Tower1) Evening Pearl River cruise – now goes close to the dramatic Dutch-designed Canton Tower. Illuminations only on from 7.30pm to 10pm and boats leave about every 20-minutes.
2) Shamian Island retains many colonial buildings and parkland.

Liwan Square, Guangzhou, China3) Pedestrian street in Li Wan & Li Wan Park – great at night.
4) White Cloud Mountain – take the cable car.
5) Guangzhou museum in Yuexiu Park – take the subway there.
6) Six Banyan Tree Temple & Flower Pagoda – over 1,000-years old along Liurong Lu.

Getting There
High Speed Chinese TrainIf you’re from Hong Kong, the easiest transport is the Through Train from Hung Hom, a 2-hour trip. Or MTR to the Lo Wo border, cross into China, and ride a 120-mph train – five-an-hour and takes about 70-minutes. Guangzhou’s new international airport is only an hour from the city centre by underground train or taxi.

If you arrive by air and have a connecting flight out of China, you can stay visa-free for 48-hours. Otherwise most foreigners need an expensive visa. Easily arranged in Hong Kong, or with much form-filling from your home country.

Guangzhou TempleSo if you’re doing South East Asia, don’t miss China, or at least nip into Guangzhou. A couple of nights there and a couple in Hong Kong are the minimum. And if you have longer, I’d highly recommend a few days at Yangshou, near Guilin – Either fly or take the night train from Guangzhou.

I’ve had a place in Guangzhou for over 15-years, so if you have any questions, I’d be pleased to help – Leave a reply.

SGuangzhouee My Personal site at NigelHayMckay.com
My Yangshou Blog

Six-Days on the Norfolk Broads

Windpump on Norfolk BroadsThe Norfolk Broads is a National Park of waterways, lakes, marshes, old mills, thatched cottages, ancient churches and rare wildlife – almost-hidden in the East of England.  Since Victorian times it’s been popular for tranquil holidays, boating, fishing and rambling.

Sailing Boat on River Bure, Norfolk BroadsIt used to be a mystery how the Broads were formed. An agricultural society 900-year ago made Norfolk the most populated area in Britain. For two-centuries peat was dug for fuel, leaving quarries that filled with water from rising sea levels. Further flooding of the flat farmland created useful transportation throughout the 16th-century. Boosting commerce to make Norwich the second largest city after London – with wool, weaving and agriculture exported globally from the port of Great Yarmouth.

Lads on Boat - Norfolk BroadsI really appreciate cruising on the Broads after being sardined in Chinese cities where every inch is a premium. The wide blue skies and late spring evenings couldn’t be more different to the urban grey.

Last week we took Rosey further than ever before. From Wroxham to Norwich – 15-minutes by car: 10-hours by boat!  First night’s mooring on the River Bure was by St Benets Abbey near Ludham – ruins of a 9th-century Benedictine monastery. The BBQ was a problem because of the cold.

Reeds at Reedham, Norfolk BoadsFrom there we pasted Yarmouth and along Braydon Water to Reedham.  Everyone loves this village with its three old pubs, swing railway-bridge and ferry. Tall reeds both sides of the river, marshes to the left. Then further along the Yare to the Ferry House Inn, Surlingham – a farmhouse pub with lawned garden and Adnams Ale, beautiful mooring for the night.

The Ferry House, Surlingham, Norfolk BroadsFrom there it’s a little over an hour to Norwich – where disappointingly we couldn’t go further than Thorpe St Andrew because of 6-foot clearance on the bridges. For Dentist’s birthday we took the frighteningly-narrow nearby River Chet to Loddon.  Five borings pubs!  Our last night was at Acle, after waiting for the tide and a cup of tea outside the Lord Nelson at Reedham.

For anyone considering a river trip to the Southern Broads, it’s best to cross Braydon Water an hour after low tide at Yarmouth. This gives good bridge clearances and the least current. Distances are about 10-miles Wroxham to St Benets; 11-miles Acle to Yarmouth; 10-miles Yarmouth to Reedham, and 17-miles Reedham to Norwich. Diesel was about £80. Boat hire is readily available at Wroxham, Stalham or Horning.

Take a break at my riverside cottage in Wroxham: click here
Videos & map of the Broads here
More detailed maps & photos here
See my personal sit at NigelHayMckay.com

Travelling to Paradise – Yangshou & the Li River

YangshouWe’ve just returned from one of my favourite places in the world – a wonderland of peaks, winding rivers and “pre-historic” bamboo groves that inspired 19-centry paintings of China.  A gem of a place I used to enjoy 6-times a year for a quick charge from the city and to balance with nature. 


View drom Moon HillYangshou is a little town near Guilin, in Guangxi Province, China. About an hour flight north-west of Hong Kong, famous for its karst peak landscape. Around 200-million years ago an eruption under the sea forced limestone up creating an unusual effect of over 70,000 karst peaks in this area alone – and gradually running down the east of Thailand to Northern Vietnam into Halong Bay.

Over twenty-years ago, so many foreigners visited it was the only place in China where even the beggars spoke English.  Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter loved the solitude. However, since 2005, growing affluence has made it overrun with Chinese tourists. The cormorant fisherman with faces like bark, make more posing for pictures than catching fish. Nevertheless, nothing can spoil the natural surroundings.

Lads at Monkey Janes, YangshouYears ago it was 28-hours boat up the Pearl River from Guangzhou, then 12-hours bus. Now my favorite way there is sleeper train from Guangzhou, taking just 12-hours.  It’s fun, easy to sleep – and when you wake up, you’re in Guilin, just 1 ½-hours to Yangshou.  Some take a sleeper bus, but although faster and cheaper than the train, it’s very uncomfortable. Flying is out for me, what with an apartment in Guangzhou and the distance to airports with harsh Chinese security.  However, if you’re coming from Hong Kong you can fly direct to Guilin, or cross the border and use Shenzhen Airport.  If you arrive early, take a boat along the Li River to Yangshou for about US$15.

Yangshou - Rafting on the Li RiverThere’s a lot to do in the area: boating, climbing, caving, cycling, swimming and walking.  Although I’m happy just eating and drinking at the many open-air roof-top cafes and a bamboo boat ride to the next village. It’s great for foreigners looking for home cuisine – I love Chinese food, but it’s nice to eat homemade shepherd’s pie, chocolate cake & ice-cream occasionally.

Old ChinamanTo hire of a bamboo raft with an outboard and driver for four, for 4-hours along the river including waiting in Fuli for the return, costs around US$24. Hotels from US$8 a room/night. Sleeper train from Guangzhou is around US$32.

See the video of this trip here
See my unusual Chinese collectables at OnlineOriental.com

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com