South Gate Ascent
Move over Beijing and Shanghai. Today Guangzhou is the Chinese metropolis set to soar.
Freight piers have been transformed into an up-and-coming nightlife district with a plethora of stylish restaurants and bars.
As China’s third largest and fastest growing economic city, Guangzhou has been integral to the nation’s development as a hub for trade and cultural exchange. While previously overshadowed by better-known cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the capital of Guangdong province served as the backdrop for revolutions that shaped the country’s fate. Moving quietly ahead, Guangzhou has come into its own, showcasing the evolution of modern China with its intriguing blend of old and new.
Boasting some of the country’s oldest temples, parks and historical sites, Guangzhou captures China’s rich past. One of the loveliest ways to catch a glimpse of the local lifestyle is to visit the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, an ancient Buddhist temple built in 537 during the Liang Dynasty. Still active today, it continues to be frequented by families stopping by for blessings in front of the Kuan Yin or to burn incense during Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival.
One of Guangzhou’s most symbolic developments, the majestic Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall is a sight to behold and a popular venue for meetings and performances. Built to commemorate Chinese revolutionary Sun Zhongshan, the cultural relic was designed by renowned architect Lu Yanzhi in 1931, comprising an octagonal pavilion embellished with magnificent scenes of trees and cloud pillars adorned with cranes.
In stark contrast, the Guangzhou Opera House designed by Zaha Hahid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, provided the catalyst for the development of many cultural facilities in the city. The 1,800-seat auditorium houses the latest acoustic technology within a unique twin-boulder design, turning heads with its intergalactic aesthetic, an interplay between architecture and nature based on principles of erosion, geology and topography.
Situated in the Tianhe District, Guangzhou’s new CBD, the Guangdong Museum is a cultural landmark designed to replicate an antique lacquer box with alcoves and layered spaces. The five-storey building features a traditional Chinese courtyard motif showcasing a treasure box pattern, comprising more than 130,000 exhibits, the design of which echoes the historical cultural artefacts displayed inside.
Art lovers should check out Redtory an art village in an abandoned can factory, brimming with galleries and artsy cafes. Guangzhou’s answer to Beijing’s famous 798 District is a great introduction to the city’s creative subcultures. Also reminiscent of the early days of New York’s SoHo, the art district has flourished at warp speed with boutiques and eateries cropping up all over the up and coming area.
Once the sun goes down, Guangzhou’s revellers head to the Zhujiang Party Pier, adjacent to the iconic Liede Bridge and overlooking the famous landmark of Canton Tower, the tallest TV tower in Asia. Freight piers have been transformed into an up-and-coming nightlife district with a plethora of stylish restaurants and bars. Locals recommend the People’s Café for its lively ambience and impressive line-up of DJs.
For a luxe spin on creature comforts, Shangri-La Hotel, Guangzhou offers the ultimate urban oasis, nestled among tranquil gardens overlooking the Pearl River. A gourmand’s dream, there are eight restaurants showcasing Thai, Japanese and regional Chinese cuisine, with the appointment of Chef Antonio Tardi at the Italian il Forno a recent highlight. There is ample opportunity to revitalise with a world-class health club complete with swimming pools, full-size tennis courts and a backyard putting green; while the signature CHI, The Spa ensures that your Guangdong adventure ends on an indulgent note.
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