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Hong Kong Travel Diaries

Destination guide to… China

March 9, 2017

The Great Wall of China, image by Mat Gallagher

It’s been 20 years since Hong Kong was handed back to China by the British, yet many expats living and working here fail to take the opportunity to fully explore  the vast range of cities and regions that make up the Peoples Republic of China. From big bustling cities like Beijing and Shanghai, to the magical karst landscapes of Guilin and the ice sculptures of Harbin, there’s so much to see right on your doorstep. Here are just a few of its highlights.

 

Shenzhen Bay Bridge, image by JackSeeds

Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a a thriving up-and-coming Chinese metropolis and a popular shopping haven that’s just a short MTR trip from Hong Kong. This city should be on your list to visit if you are in the market for hand-tailored garments, affordable electronics or fashion goods! 

What to do 

Catch the MTR to Lo Wu station. From here you can walk across the border via the pedestrian bridge to Lo Wu commercial centre – a multi-story shopping mecca where some of China’s best tailors can be found. Order up big and arrange for your custom garments to be delivered to your home address once complete.

Where to stay

If you’re shopping trip lasts longer than expected, and you can’t quite bear the MTR trip back to Hong Kong with a handful shopping bags, then opt for a little luxury and stay at the JW Marriott Hotel, Shenzhen. Too tired to head out? Enjoy a cocktail and small bite in the contemporary lobby bar.

Lobby luxury found at the JW Marriott Hotel, Shenzhen

Where to eat and drink

Voted the best prawn dumplings in Shenzhen, head to Daoxiang Jiujia for traditional Cantonese delicacies! 

How to get there

In less than 1.5 hours the MTR East Rail line will have you disembarking at Lo Wu station – check out their website for departure times. Be sure to have your Chinese travel visa ready to pass through railway immigration, alternatively most EU and British passport holders can get a Shenzhen-only visa at the Lo Wu border.

 

Guangzhou’s Pearl River by night

Guangzhou

This sprawling port city is home to iconic architectural developments such as Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House, the Guangdong Museum and the iconic Canton TV skyscraper, which resembles a thin hourglass. Featuring an equal blend of traditional and modern accents, Guangzhou is best-viewed over a two-day stint. 

What to do 

Step on board a Pearl River Cruise, complete with your very own private tour guide, to soak up the best of what the Guangzhou city skyline has to offer by night. 

Where to stay 

Guangzhou has a full assortment of hotels from budget to five-star but if you fancy experiencing true luxury, opt for the Mandarin Oriental Guangzhou. This modern skyscraper offers 263 elegantly designed rooms guaranteed to leave you in awe. 

Wilbur’s restaurant exterior, Guangzhou.

Where to eat and drink 

Treat yourself to an evening at Wilbur’s for Guangzhou’s answer to Western cuisine. Why try Western food in Guangzhou, you ask? With the city’s French influence dating as far back as 1945, the colonial building and food maintain their original charm – a must try when in town!

How to get there

Cathay Dragon fly direct to Guangzhou from $3,300.00 return.

 

The Bird’s Nest Stadium, Beijing

Beijing

China’s capital has a lot going for it. If you’re interested in discovering more of China roots and are in the mood for some serious exploration then head to this city to visit iconic sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, or explore the maze of hutong streets.

What to do 

Beijing is a big city to get across, though the underground system is fast and extensive. To really pack in the sights, your best bet is to hire a private driver to get between locations – though make sure to request one that speaks English. A plethora of travel companies provide this service but if you’re an experienced traveller then source direct through your hotel reception. If you have time to spare you can even take a trip out to The Great Wall of China (around two hours by car), but avoid the crowds of Badaling and head to the slightly quieter Mutianyu – and go early before the coaches arrive.

Where to stay 

The Opposite House is the sister hotel to Hong Kong’s Upper House and is located close to Beijing’s main bar and restaurant area. It’s also in close reach of Tiananmen, the Olympic stadium and the 798 art zone. 

Mei Bar ©Rosewood Beijing

Where to eat & drink

For funky eclectic art, a buzzing atmosphere and delicious cocktails, swing by Mei Bar at the Rosewood Hotel. It doesn’t matter what night of the week it is, this venue is never starved of atmosphere. To try some of the city’s best Peking duck, head to Duck de Chine

How to get there

Air China has daily flights to Beijing from $1,168 return, and being the national carrier is (slightly) less prone to flight delays than most leaving the airport. 

 

Shanghai’s Bund, image by J. Patrick Fischer

Shanghai

It’s been said that much of Shanghai reflects parts of Hong Kong, and as China’s largest city and financial hub why would you expect any different? With large economies come a buzzing travel and tourism scene so expect a large variety of accommodation, dining and entertainment options when in town – most of which frame the waterfront promenade in colonial sophistication. 

What to do

To catch a glimpse of a jaw-dropping acrobatics, reserve seats at Shanghai Circus World. The performance focuses on martial arts yet has been choreographed to reflect China’s history. For a taste of old Shanghai, head to the city’s French quarter. 

Where to stay

With instagram-perfect views of the Pudong skyline, The Fairmont Peace Hotel is on luxurious art-deco building that dates back to 1926.  

Bar Rouge

Where to eat and drink

For more art-deco elegance, head to the Long Bar inside the Waldorf Astoria, the former home of the Shanghai Club, which opened in 1911. If you’re into terrace views, sleek and classy interiors and funky beats then head over to Shanghai’s best cocktail bar, Bar Rouge to mingle with local high society. 

How to get there

Hong Kong Airlines has daily flights to Shanghai from $1,200 return.

 

A giant panda in Chengdu Panda reserve, image by Mat Gallagher

Chengdu 

Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan province, but more importantly its the panda capital of the world! Not only is this southwestern city well-known for serving up some of the best Sichuan street food, it houses most of China’s giant pandas, including a large breeding and research centre where you can catch site of some baby pandas – too cute! 

What to do

This is an easy one – visit the giant pandas, of course! Schedule a private day tour with China Discovery to spend more one on one time with these beauties. 

Where to stay

For a little luxury, stay at The Temple House the latest addition to the stunning Swire Hotel Collective properties. 

Opulent luxury at The Temple House, Chengdu

Where to eat and drink

Take advantage of the world-class bar and dining options available at The Temple House. Alternatively, and if you’re in the mood for discovery… then put on a pair of comfy walking shoes and hit the markets for some local Sichuan street food! 

How to get there

Hong Kong Airlines has daily flights to Chengdu from $3,200 return.

 

Huangshan mountains

Huangshan

For a breath of fresh air and to absorb one of China’s most picturesque landscapes then be sure to include Huangshan in your itinerary. The area is known for beautiful scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped peaks, hot springs, snow – and views of the clouds from above. The areas natural beauty is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese art and literature, and once you experience it for yourself, you’ll see why. 

What to do

For a taste of some of the best hiking in the world, tackle Mount Huangshan (yellow mountain). There are cable cars to take you most of the journey to the main lookouts and then around a two-hour climb to the peak.

Where to stay

Veiled in mist and cloud and perched high up in the Huangshan mountain region is the Banyan Tree resort; a luxury oasis positioned smack bang in one of the most beautiful parts of this region. 

Banyan Tree, Huangshan

Where to eat and drink 

Huangshan is at its most beautiful in the winter months and luckily the Banyan Tree has an extensive wine list and some great in-house restaurants and in-villa dining to save leaving the warmth of your hotel – brrrr! 

How to get there

China Eastern Airlines travels daily (via Shanghai) from $5,400 return. 

 

By Noelle Walker

by HK Travel. Find out more about HK Travel here.

Categories: Travel