Visiting Guangzhou: What to see and do

This year, there were many pictures on the internet of Guangzhou during Chinese New Year. As a major transport hub for China, the city was overrun with people trying to get home as a number of trains and planes were delayed due to snow and general bad weather. Luckily, we arrived in Guangzhou after spending Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. The city was much quieter and, thankfully, we had no transport issues. So, what did we do in Guangzhou?

Chinese Culture mixed with European.
Chinese Culture mixed with European.

The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Stepping into this courtyard is like stepping into a European city. Apart from all the Chinese tourists, you might think you were in Europe somewhere (Mitch showed his students a picture of the church and asked them where it was, none of them said Guangzhou). They allowed groups into the church, maybe 50-100 at a time, where you could look around and then hear someone talking. Our Chinese is limited but we presume the speaker was talking about the church and perhaps about Christianity. I’ve been to many lovely churches and this one didn’t disappoint either. Plus it is a refreshing contrast to the other architecture you see in China.

Mosque dedicated to the prophet

Unfortunately, we couldn’t go into the grounds of the mosque. It may have been due to the time of day, though we’re not sure. But we saw it from outside, and it looked impressive. You’ll know you’re in the right place because the whole street is lined with Muslim restaurants. From our experience, these restaurants are great. They’re full of flavours and they serve beef instead of pork. We went to one opposite the mosque with a barbecue on the go outside and wafting out the most wonderful smell. There was a buffet-style thing going on inside, so we grabbed a couple of plates, had some of the delicious smelling food and enjoyed the Arabic culture in China.

Strolling around Shamin Island
Wandering around Shamin Island

Shamian Island

Despite being called an island, it’s not really. It’s by the river and you cross a little bridge to get to it. Anyway, this is the real tourist hot spot of Guangzhou and once again, it feels like you’re stepping into a little part of Europe. There is a smaller church here, ‘Our Lady of Lordes’. I recited the best I could remember the story of St Bernadette and her seeing Mary from my catholic childhood to Mitch. It’s a lovely area to walk around as it lies next to the river. There was a band playing traditional Chinese music with people watching, children running around, and a few people sat having a drink in the sun.  Blissful.

Guangzhou is worth a short trip, if you’re travelling through then staying one night is worthwhile. We stayed in The Lazy Gaga hostel. The staff were friendly and helpful and there is a lovely chill out area, perfect if you need to do any work or blogging along the way.

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