Photo of the Week:Fishing on Shamian island:钓鱼在 沙面岛

Fishing on Shamian island: 钓鱼在 沙面岛

This photo shows a local Cantonese fishing in the part of the Pearl River 珠江 that separates Guangzhou City 广州 from Shamian Island 沙面岛。The back-drop is Shamian Island’s imposing colonial architecture. It could almost be Paris.

Fisherman on Shamian Island Canton

For more information on Shamian Island click here: Shamian Island

Zhaoqing 肇庆: The City with Everything

Zhaoqing 肇庆

The City with Everything

Seven Stars Crag Park Zhaoqing
Seven Stars Crag Park Zhaoqing

Within an hour from Guangzhou, Zhaoqing is a fantastic place to spend a few days exploring. It’s a lively city with its own miniature version of Guilin’s famous karst scenery smack- bang in the centre in the form of the Seven Star Crags Scenic Zone; a massive park and lake area.

Not bad for the city centre
Not bad for the city centre

Moreover, Zhaoqing still preserves some interesting, old downtown areas to wander around and explore the traditional shop-houses, the tiny dwellings built onto the city walls and the occasional riverside pagoda.

Zhaoqing River Scene
Zhaoqing River Scene

Nearby, China’s first Biosphere Reserve, Dinghushan 鼎湖山, lies on the outskirts of the city. Just an hour away by local bus are the time-forgotten, completely un-spoilt ancient Bagua Villages of Licha Cun and Xianggang Cun. Add to all this a great night market with restaurants spilling out into the street, serving excellent Cantonese food and you couldn’t really ask for more. Incidentally, though the city is popular with Chinese visitors, you are unlikely to see another foreigner during your stay.

Zhaoqing Street Scene
Zhaoqing Street Scene

Seven Star Crags Scenic Zone

In Zhaoqing city, the undisputed main attraction is the Continue reading “Zhaoqing 肇庆: The City with Everything”

Dinghushan 鼎湖山; a Tropical Paradise on the Edge of Urbanization

Dinghushan 鼎湖山

Zhaoqing / Guangdong Province

Dinghu Shan
Dinghushan 鼎湖山

Dinghushan 鼎湖山, just an hour away from the centre of Zhaoqing, was China’s first National Park, established in 1956. Nowadays it’s also a UNESCO “Man and Natural Biosphere Reserve” for the research of ecosystems in tropical and subtropical forests.

Another Waterfall in Dinghu Shan
鼎湖山

It’s a beautiful place of towering green hills, gushing waterfalls and clear streams, laced with a sprinkling of peaceful Buddhist temples and home to numerous plant and animal species. However, apart from the awe-inspiring, lush, tropical scenery, one memory will always stick in our minds: that of pigging out on tasty, deep- purple potatoes…

The Purple Potato
The Purple Potato

We got to the park by local bus, leaving from downtown Zhaoqing. Though the park’s only 18 km away, the ride took quite a while, as the bus meandered from one densely populated suburb to the next. Even when it finally dropped us off in a quiet, dead-end street, lined with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, we still found it hard to believe there could be an important natural reserve near here.

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Map of Dinghushan

Our first impressions of China’s “green gem on the Tropic of Cancer” weren’t Continue reading “Dinghushan 鼎湖山; a Tropical Paradise on the Edge of Urbanization”

Bagua Village 八卦村 of Licha Cun 黎槎村 Guangdong Province

Bagua Village of Licha Cun 黎槎村

Licha Cun Bagua Village
Licha Cun Bagua Village

One of Guangdong’s hidden gems is found only 200 meters from some of the drabbest scenery you are ever likely to see in China.

Licha Cun Bagua Village

The road between the attractive town of Zhaoqing and the fascinating Bagua village of Licha Cun 黎槎村 has got to be one of the ugliest in China. Dusty, dirty and lined, almost uninterruptedly, with small ceramic factories, many of them specialize in manufacturing toilet bowls of all shapes and sizes. These thrones, destined for backsides of China’s growing urbanized middle class, are haphazardly displayed along the side of the road making the traveler wonder if the world is just one big toilet.

Licha Cun Bagua Village
Licha Cun Bagua Village

Yet, the ugliness is deceptive. Turn 200 meters down any small road leading off the highway and you enter a rural world of bucolic charm that has hardly changed for centuries. The turn off to the Bagua Village of Licha Cun is just one such example.

Bagua 八卦 The Octagonal Shape of Licha Cun

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“The bagua: 八卦; literally: “eight symbols”) are eight trigrams used in Taoist Cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts. Each consists of three lines, each line either “broken” or “unbroken,” representing Yin or Yang, respectively. Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as “trigrams” in English.” WikiPedia

Entrance to Licha Cun Bagua Village
Entrance to Licha Cun Bagua Village

With a history tracing back more than 700 years, the Village of Continue reading “Bagua Village 八卦村 of Licha Cun 黎槎村 Guangdong Province”

Fei Lai 飞来 & Fei Xia 飞霞

Fei Lai 飞来 & Fei Xia 飞霞

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Fei Lai 飞来 & Fei Xia 飞霞

It just shows how much things have changed in China: according to our rather dated guidebook, the train from Guangzhou to Qingyuan 清远 should have taken around two hours to cover the 80 kilometers between the two cities. Not anymore! It now takes about twenty minutes to whizz you from one place to the other on one of China’s new high- speed trains. And they even feed you breakfast – of sorts – in that time!

Fei Xia
Fei Xia

It actually takes longer to do the 15- kilometer ride on the underground from Central Guangzhou to the new Guangzhou South station 广州南站, than it does to travel to Qingyuan.

Beijiang River
Beijiang River

Why does one go to Qingyuan?

The answer is Continue reading “Fei Lai 飞来 & Fei Xia 飞霞”

Chikan 赤坎 Home to the Grandmaster and Qilou Buildings

Chikan

Kaiping, Guangdong Province

 Home to the Grandmaster and Qilou Buildings

Rows of historic Qilou buildings and old world charm await the traveler in the Guangdong Village of Chikan

Chikan 赤坎 River Front  Qilou Buildings
Chikan 赤坎 River Front Qilou Buildings

Arrival in Chikan 赤坎 is quite spectacular. The town’s unique riverine setting, and it’s unbroken line of Qilou style buildings strung out along the entire Tanjiang River front, is one of Southern China’s most impressive sights.

Qilou Buildings Chikan
Qilou Buildings Chikan

The town invites exploration, but at the same time there are the small, appealing restaurants under the Qilou arcades. This poses a dilemma for the traveler; exploration first, or a cold beer; we chose the latter, but both options are great. Chikan is a place to linger.

Qilou Buildings Chikan
Qilou Buildings Chikan

Qilou buildings are a construction style that developed in the late 19th and early 20th Century in Guangdong Province. As city streets were widened, Qilou buildings began to spring up. They combined 18th Century Western architectural styles with traditional Cantonese styles.

Qilou Buildings with Wooden Shutters and Coloured Glass
Qilou Buildings with Wooden Shutters and Coloured Glass

The most prominent features are the pillared columns that provide shoppers and shopkeepers’ alike with shelter from the merciless sun and the torrential downpours. The upper floors, usually three or four, are characterized by their European influenced wooden shutters or stained glass windows.

Chikan Backstreets
Chikan Backstreets

While some of the river front houses have been turned into Continue reading “Chikan 赤坎 Home to the Grandmaster and Qilou Buildings”

Jinjiangli 锦江里: Home to the Majestic Ruishilou 瑞石楼: The most beautiful Diaolou building

Jinjiangli 锦江里

Home to the Majestic Ruishilou 瑞石楼

The most beautiful Diaolou building

Ruishilou / 瑞石楼 in Jinjiangli 锦江里
Ruishilou / 瑞石楼 in Jinjiangli 锦江里

See all previous Diaolou articles

  1. Kaiping and the Diaolou / 开平雕楼
  2. Sanmenli Diaolou / 三门里
  3. Liyuan Diaolou / 立园
  4.  Zili / 自立
  5.  Majianglong / 马降龙
  6.  Jinjiangli / 锦江里

Last but not least, JinJiangli 锦江里. The village of Jinjiangli is the furthest Diaolou Cluster from Kaiping and is home to what many believe to be the most spectacular Diaolou building: the Ruishilou 瑞石楼.

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Ruishilou 瑞石楼 in Jinjiangli 锦江里

With its unmistakable Indian Raj design, pillars and colourful decorations, the Ruishilou seems from the distance to be a part of Mughal India dumped in the middle of a classical southern Chinese landcsape; it really is an extraordinary sight as you approach the village and this imperial looking building comes into view, looming over the rice paddies.

 Jinjiangli 锦江里
Jinjiangli 锦江里

However, Jinjiangli is more than just one Diaolou. There are several other splendid Continue reading “Jinjiangli 锦江里: Home to the Majestic Ruishilou 瑞石楼: The most beautiful Diaolou building”

Majianglong 马降龙: The most beautiful village in China???

Majianglong 马降龙

Kaiping / Guangdong Province

Majianglong 马降龙

Majianglong 马降龙  is a must when exploring the Diaolou in the Kaiping region. The local tourist propaganda calls it the most beautiful village in China and one of the 50 places that can’t be missed. Heard that one before? Actually, while I’d take some of the hype with a pinch of salt, Majianglong is undoubtedly very pretty and makes for a fascinating visit.

Majianglong 马降龙

Majianglong is not one village, but a collection of 5 small hamlets: Yong’an永安, Nan’an 南安, Qinglin庆临, Hedong河东 and Longjiang龙江,linked together by bamboo- shaded stone paths along the shores of the Tanjiang River 潭江.

Majianglong 马降龙

The buildings in Majianglong are sturdy, grey- brick constructions with beautiful roofs and lovely paintings above and around the doorways, showing scenes from classical China: beautiful maidens, song birds, flower arrangements, etc. The vernacular buildings mostly date from the Qing dynasty, while the Diaolou are early Chinese Republic edifices.

Majianglong 马降龙

Obviously, the number one activity around here is ‘spot the Diaolou’ (Click here for a definition of a Diaolou). Given that these are rather tall buildings, you’d be surprised how challenging this can be. Many are hidden by the dense vegetation and the tall, swaying bamboo trees, or concealed down blind alleys.

Majianglong 马降龙

The best way to get your bearings is to climb to the Continue reading “Majianglong 马降龙: The most beautiful village in China???”

Zili Village Kaiping 自力村碉楼群 开平: Where Peasant Food is Cool

Zili Village 自力村碉楼群

Guangdong Province 广东省 Kaiping 开平

 

Zili Village 自力村碉楼群

Zili Village 自力村碉楼群: The setting of Zili’s Diaolou (Click here for a Diaolou definition) is the embodiment of bucolic China. They appear amidst shimmering green rice fields, dotted with hoe- carrying peasants, dressed as they were when the Diaolou were built a century ago, with the odd water buffalo to put the icing on the pastoral cake.

Zili Village 自力村碉楼群

Zili village is more than just its Diaolou. The village boasts a peculiar mixture of sturdy peasant houses with beautiful eave roofs and delightful alleys.

Zili Village 自力村碉楼群

A couple of those houses on the square near Zili Village 自力村碉楼群 entrance have been converted into an interesting folk museum, showing traditional furniture, farming implements, as well as photos and historical records.

Zili Village 自力村碉楼群 Old Alleys

Most of its startling Diaolou lie on the outskirts of the village, as if sprouting out of the rice paddies. To reach them you have to Continue reading “Zili Village Kaiping 自力村碉楼群 开平: Where Peasant Food is Cool”

Li Yuan 立园 / Li Gardens: The Posh Diaolou

Li Yuan 立园  / Li Gardens

Kaiping 开平 Guangdong Province 广东省

Diaolou in the Li Garden

Li Yuan or Li Gardens:   Heading on past Sanmenli from Kaiping, the next important group of Diaolou buildings is in the Li Yuan, or Li Gardens, a further 10 kms down the road. These are the posh Diaolou Click here to see what is a Diaolou

Li Yuan / Li Gardens / 立园

The huge buildings are set in lovely gardens which mix European and Southern Chinese Lingnan style garden designs. (http://www.chinaplanner.com/gardens/privategardens/pri_lian.htm).

Diaolou in the Li Yuan

The Diaolou in the Li Gardens are the most European in the Kaiping region. Many resemble French Villas with only the eave roofs giving away their Chinese essence. They exude wealth and power and wouldn’t be too out of place on the Champs-Élysées (maybe the cheaper end). The interiors of the Li Garden’s Diaolou are luxuriously furnished and gorgeously decorated.

Beautiful Lingnan Gardens

The contrast between the amazing Continue reading “Li Yuan 立园 / Li Gardens: The Posh Diaolou”