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South China - What to See

Sights, visas, transport and more

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Few regions are currently enjoying the boom that has gripped South China. While China might be in the spotlight, the engine for much of this growth is South China and its nickname as the workshop of the world is well deserved. Much of the world’s electronics, clothing and well, just about everything else, is turned out in factories here. This is China’s wealthiest region, centred on the city of Guangzhou and to a lesser extent Shenzhen, and attracts a phenomenal amount of immigrants.

Complimenting this is Hong Kong – one of the world’s truly great cities. This former colony is home to a meaningful mix of East meets West with manic markets sat under the shadow of skyscrapers and brokers checking the Financial Times and their horoscopes before taking the plunge on the markets. Nearby, sister SAR, Macau has also come into its own in recent years with a boom in both casinos and visitors.

Hong Kong vs South China

South China is effectively the Guangdong region unified by Cantonese language, cuisine, culture and history and distinct from Beijing and other parts of China. It’s worth noting that while Hong Kong is the capital of Cantonese culture, as a Special Administrative Region of China it is effectively a separate country and there is a full international border with separate passports and visa restrictions for visitors. The same separation applies to the Macau SAR.

How to get to South China?

It’s arguably easier to get to South China than it is to get around the region. Hong Kong and its first class airport is one of the world’s biggest and busiest hubs and flights to here from destinations around the world are frequent and often good value. Alternatively, Guangzhou and even Shenzhen have started a number of international routes that can offer better value, if aboard slightly less well known airlines.

If you’re already in China, internal domestic hops are frequent to Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Zhuhai and, Hong Kong aside, competitively priced. Given the price difference there is little reason to use the train service from Beijing or Shanghai to reach Guangzhou or Hong Kong ,unless you want to see whole lot of China from the window, in which case services are fast frequent and boast air conditioning.

How to travel around South China?

Connections inside the region as hit and miss. Between the cities of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou there is a fast and frequent train service taking just two hours to travel between the two and sometimes connecting Fo Shan.

Hong Kong is also the centre of ferry travel in Guangdong with regular ferry services connecting all of the major and mid-sized towns around the region, such as Zhuhai.

Beyond this travellers will need to rely on local bus and minibus services to travel around the countryside. Major cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai have buses connecting even the smallest villages although finding the right bus can a challenge.

What to see in South China?

The regions undoubted star attraction is Hong Kong but if you’re here to see the boom of China you’ll want to see the ever growing cluster of skyscrapers of Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Guangzhou

Better known abroad as Canton, Guangzhou is the region’s capital with a population of around 13 million – a number that swells to 40 million when including the metropolises that merge in Guangzhou. This is one of the world’s first Mega City’s in the making. The skyscrapers, modern metro and business suits are an insight into middle class, aspirational China. Aside from the handful of older sights, you’ll want to hit the shops, restaurants and some of China’s hippest bars.

Hong Kong

There’s simply not enough space to evangelise the wonders of Hong Kong; a city that has defied history, geography and common sense to become of the most vibrant cities in the world. With Chinese heritage and British breeding this is one of the few destinations in the world that has truly mastered multiculturalism; where you can enjoy digging into the best Cantonese noodles in the world or sip a pint at a 50 year old British pub. Come for the food, the skyscrapers and the manic markets.

Zhongshan

Another major city in the orbit of Guangzhou, Zhongshan’s claim to fame is as the birthplace of Dr Sun Yat Sen, China’s founding father. His birthplace is now maintained as a museum.

Mount Danxia

This UNESCO world heritage site hides several historical monasteries in its beautiful red, sandstone cliffs.
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  3. Hong Kong / Macau Travel
  4. Travel to China
  5. Guide to Guangdong and the Region
  6. South China - exploring Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau

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