(An artist’s drug-fueled fantasy rendering of Tianhe District, central Guangzhou)
Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) is located along the Pearl River in central Guangdong Province. It has been a trading post for hundreds of years and still continues today as one of the main drivers of China’s economy. Guangdong is often called “The Sweatshop to the World” because so many items in everyday use worldwide originate from Guangzhou/Guangdong factories.
Interestingly enough, despite its distance from Beijing, Guangzhou is one of the important homes to modern day revolutionary China with such sites as the Huangpu Military Academy and Peasant Movement Institute. The “Father of Modern China”, Sun Yat-sen, was also Cantonese from nearby Zhongshan, and had spent a considerable amount of time in Guangzhou.
Though Cantonese is the commonly used language by most local people in Guangzhou, Mandarin is also widely in use as well. English is definitely not widespread, though everyone knows “hello” or “massagee”.
Guangzhou is well known for its food culture and virtually every kind of restaurant can be found in Guangzhou; most at quite reasonable prices. The range extends from Cantonese (naturally) and all other parts of China to Western, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, and even some South American. The usual fast food options like Subway, McD’s, KFC and Pizza Hut are also common in addition to Starbucks.
Guangzhou is a vibrant city that seemingly goes on 24/7 and has a very well connected infrastructure of trains, planes, buses, taxis and subways. Unless you’re here to specifically participate in business, it’s usually best to avoid the city in October and April due to the Canton Trade Fair. Hotel prices skyrocket at this time and hookers, hucksters, and hustlers descend on the city in droves to milk visiting business people out of their cash!
Another big plus about Guangzhou is its close proximity to places like Hong Kong and Macau. These serve as ready connections to the rest of the world as well as easy visa fix-it options.