Chimelong Ocean Kingdom (Panyu, five kilometers south of Guangzhou) is China’s most popular amusement parks, welcoming 7.5 million visitors in 2015. Andrew Chin wrote in That’s Shanghai: “The Thea award winner has been a standard bearer since opening in 2014. Home to the Parrot Coaster (Asia’s first Wing Coaster with an added splashdown thrown in) and formerly the world’s largest aquarium, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom is only growing. Ground was broken in January for four extensions to convert Hengqin Bay into the Orlando of China: a 300-hectare animal kingdom, a 5,000-seat circus, an indoor amusement park and a science and technology theme park. Chimelong’s original park, Chimelong Paradise, in Panyu, Guangzhou remains popular: drawing over 3.6 million visitors. Website: zh.chimelong.com/oceankingdom/en [Source: Andrew Chin, That’s Shanghai, July 28, 2016]
Foshan (just south of Guangzhou) in an industrial city of 5.8 million people with a large migrant worker population, many of whom work in factories that produce toys, ceramics, and household appliances sold in by Wall-mart, K-Mart and Home Depot and elsewhere. Foshan is also where the first case of SARS was reported and is a source of some of the worst pollution in the Pearl River Delta area. Foshan boasts the world’s largest Bruce Lee statue, a bronze work that took 3½ years to make. Foshan was known for its porcelain and now is a source of much of the world's tiles and bathroom fixtures.Gunzhen in Zhangshan (on the way to Foshan) is known as the City of Lights, because of it high number of lighting shops and light manufacturers, selling and producing everything from chandeliers to LED flashlights.
Sanshui Lotus World is Foshan biggest tourist attraction. One traveler posted on Tripadvisor in 2019: “Was not very impressed, the place is not looked after and there were not much flowers to see. We went middle July which is suppose to be the season for Lotus flowers. The sight seeing ticket is over priced and most of the little shops inside the park is closed. Maybe if you are a teenager you will enjoy the amusement park with the rides it is worth a visit but for a visiting adult it is a waste of time.”
Shunde: Home of Bruce Lee’s Father
Bruce Lee Shunde (15 kilometers south of Guangzhou and two-hour boat ride from Hong Kong) is ancestral home of Bruce Lee, the popular action movie star. Shunde was the hometown of Lee's father and grandfather. Lee was born in San Francisco and only visited the town once when he was a kid.
In 2006, it was announced that a Bruce Lee-themed park would be built to honor Lee with a statue of Bruce Lee, memorial hall, martial arts academy and conference center and a rollercoaster that let out a Bruce Lee howl. The park was expected to cost US$25.5 million and was hoped to be completed in time for the Olympics in 2008 but didn't make that deadline. The actress Betty Ting Pei donated a pair numchucks that Lee once used. A statue was raised but the theme park never came to fruition. There is a small amusement park in the town.
Bruce Lee Museum (in Shunde) was a tea house filled Bruce Lee memorabilia that opened in 2002. As of 2006, 300,000 people had paid the US$1 admission to see the collection of Bruce lee letters, posters and other stuff that was supposed be placed in the theme park when it opened. The museum was ultimately closed it seems.
Zhuhai (60 kilometers south of Guangzhou and across the Pearl River Estuary from Hong Kong) is a coastal city with 1.6 million people known for its pleasant climate. There are beaches. Cruises are offered. Hengqing New Area is an island known as a center of corporate tourism. It boasts exhibition and convention centers and five-star hotels.
Zhuhai is a model city that looks like a resort. Flowers bloom around the picturesque harbor. The mayor told National Geographic, "We don't allow uncontrolled growth." Zhuhai is known for sex, seafood and golf and is filled with karaokes, nightclubs and prostitutes. Many Japanese and South Korean sex tourists come here. A center of activity is Lover's Road, which has several large hotels including the Guangdong Regency Hotel.
In September 2003, Japan got a lot of bad press when reports emerged that 380 Japanese businessmen with a construction company were running around with 400 Chinese prostitutes in hotel in Zhuhai. One of the prostitutes told the Washington Post she was with three of four Japanese men. “They had a big party. On my floor, at least, they had girls in every room."
The Japanese businessmen arranged to meet prostitutes through a staff member in the hotel's Japanese marketing department, paying $145 to each woman, according to the Beijing Youth Daily. The incident drew more publicity than it otherwise might of because it occurred on the anniversary of the beginning of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1931. The hotel was closed temporarily. Several hotel workers were arrested and forced to take “emergency study sessions." And the Japanese government said it was going to investigate.
Tourist Office: Zhuhai Tourism Bureau, 519015 Zhuhai China, tel. (0)-756-336-6901, fax: (0)- 756-336-6902 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org," Web Sites: Wikipedia wikipedia.org ; Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com; Maps of Zhuhai: chinamaps.org ; Getting There: Zhuhai is accessible by expressway from Macau and by ferry from Hong Kong and Shenzhen.Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide Zhuhai Tram Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net
Xiangzhou (just over the border from Macau) is a good place to shop for antiques.
Foraminifera Sculpture Park
Foraminifera Sculpture Park (in Zhonhshan, north of Macao) is an unusual sight that honors Foraminifera, prehistoric sea creatures whose exquisite outer shells, normally too small for the naked eye, to see, provide scientists with an invaluable fossil record.. Karen Larkins wrote in Smithsonian magazine: scientist Zheng Shouyi “persuaded the Institute of Oceanology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the city government of Zhongshan (Zheng’s ancestral home) to establish a sculpture park devoted to foraminifera, or forams. Local artisans and stoneworkers created the sculptures under Zheng’s supervision. The 2.5-acre park, featuring 114 granite, marble and sandstone sculptures of foraminifera, opened to the public in December 2009. Since then, nearly a million visitors have strolled the hillside grounds, across the bay from Hong Kong. [Source: Karen Larkins, Smithsonian magazine, January 2012]
“A tribute to foraminifera was long overdue. The tiny organisms have lived on the planet for 330 million years. Plus, they’re the artisans of the single-celled community — creating their own custom-made skeletons by extracting calcium carbonate from seawater and cementing the particles together with glue secreted by their bodies. Their shells vary from simple tubes and spheres to elaborate, multi-chambered spirals and long, striated pods. Forams “grow based on the same mathematics that the Greeks used in their sculpture and their vases and their architecture,” says Tony Arnold, a paleontologist at Florida State University, “and therefore are pleasing to the eye.”
“Numbering more than 4,000 species (and over 40,000 in the fossil record), forams inhabit every ocean, subsisting on microscopic algae, bacteria and detritus, and providing food for snails, crustaceans and small fish. When they die, their shells form layers on the seafloor. Geologists use the deposits to measure the age of surrounding rock and sediment. Other scientists gather the tiny skeletons to study the history of earth’s climate. “They preserve the original carbon and oxygen isotopes of that time, which are a proxy for past temperature.”
“Moreover, paleontologists recognized these tiny skeletons could provide crucial evidence that had eluded Charles Darwin, who argued that organisms go through intermediate stages on their way to becoming a new species. But Darwin was frustrated that he couldn’t find any examples of these stages in the fossil record; he concluded that nature and time had obliterated them.
“But in the 1990s, says Arnold, “several people at once, myself being one of them, realized that the foraminifera, because they live in the deep sea, did have a continuous fossil record, and we could sample layers of them every few centimeters if we wanted to measure the change from one species to another.” In 1997, Arnold and paleontologist Bill Parker, also at Florida State, produced one of the most complete fossil records ever assembled, illustrating the evolution of forams over the past 66 million years.
“For display at the sculpture park, Zheng chose both living specimens and those that represent various eras in earth’s history, as far back as the Carboniferous period (about 330 million years ago) and the Jurassic period (beginning 200 million years ago). Her favorite sculptures are based on six specimens from the Holocene epoch (beginning 10,000 years ago) that she herself found in core samples around Zhongshan. They stand near the entrance to the park and remind visitors that, ten millennia earlier, this area was a shallow sea.
Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge: World's Longest Sea Bridge
The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge and Tunnel — a 55-kilometer-long bridge linking Hong Kong Island to mainland China via Macau — opened in 2018, years after it was supposed to. Stretching more than 55 kilometers (34 miles), series of bridges and undersea tunnels links Hong Kong and Macau with Zhuhai, a city on the southern coast of Guangdong province in mainland China located in the Pearl River Delta.
The sixth longest bridge in the world and world’s longest sea bridge, it now links Hong Kong’s New Territories, Lantau Island and Hong Kong International Airport with Macau to the west and its and sister city Zhuhai, which sits just over the border in mainland China. The Pearl River Delta is a huge area and spanning it and the open water around it is an unparalleled engineering feat. [Source: Megan Eaves, Lonely Planet, October 23, 2018]
Megan Eaves of Lonely Planet wrote:“Traffic on the bridge has been restricted to vehicles with special permits, meaning that regular drivers from Hong Kong and Macau cannot make the crossing in their own private cars. However, a shuttle bus service connects to Hong Kong port, meaning travellers can now avail of regular bus crossings between the two cities. Travellers will continue to have to pass border control and have their passports stamped or visas checked between Macau and Hong Kong. Travellers planning to visit Zhuhai can obtain 24hr visas at the border, but anyone wishing to stay longer or travel further afield in mainland China will need to apply for a visa in advance from the Chinese embassy in their home country, or through a service in Hong Kong.”
Guangdong Maritime Silk Road Museum
Guangdong Maritime Silk Road Museum (in Yangjiang, 150 kilometers west of Hong Kong) houses the Nanhai No. 1 wreck and is also called the Nanhai No. 1 Museum. According to UNESCO: “The wreck of the Nanhai No 1 was found in the western part of the mouth of the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang), the starting point of China’s “Marine Silk Road”. It did once connect China with the Middle East and Europe. It takes its name from 'Nanhai' - the South China Sea. The wreck is in exceptional condition. It is thought to contain 60,000 to 80,000 precious pieces of cargo, especially ceramics.
“The wreck is currently still entirely covered by silt so that its location and shape had to be verified by sub-bottom profiler. It was recovered in an exceptional exploit – a bottomless steel container was placed over the wreck site. The lower part of the container was sharpened and it was driven into the seabed by placing heavy concrete weights on the container. The surrounding area was then dug out, the container closed from below with steel sheets and the whole raised.
“The Nanhai No. 1 is exhibited at Hailing Island close to Yangjiang, a three-hour drive from Guangdong. The museum features an aquarium with the same water quality, temperature and environment as the spot in which the wreck was discovered. Archaeologists will now excavate the vessel inside the aquarium, thereby enabling visitors to observe underwater archaeological work in a museum environment. The remains of the ancient vessel are expected to yield critical information on ancient Chinese ship building and navigation technologies. Its significance has been compared to the famous Chinese terracotta warriors discovered in Xian. Location: ten miles silver beach, Hailing Island, Yangjiang City, Guangdong Province. Hours Open: 9:30am – 5:00pm
Site of Nanhai I Shipwreck
Site of Nanhai I Shipwreck(in Yangjiang, 150 kilometers west of Hong Kong) is the wreck of a Song Dynasty boat that sailed well before the dismantling of China's fleet during the Ming Dynasty. The Song Dynasty was a time when China's sailing fleet was well developed. Chinese boats were making it all the way to India and Africa. The boat was discovered by accident in 1987 by a team of English and Chinese researchers who were searching for an English boat thought to have gone down in the area. The Chinese archaeologists, however, weren't prepared to take on the large and complicated excavation. [Source: Lauren Hilgers, Archaeology, September/October 2011]
The Nanhai was in shallow water but the visibility was terrible. An archaeologist said: "We would have had to conduct excavations by feeling our way along the bottom of the sea floor." In 2001, archaeologists revisited the wreck with a bigger budget---$20.3 million — which was used to build a custom saltwater tank on Hailing Island in Guangdong, part of a new Maritime Silk Road Museum, which opened in 2009. Archaeologists actually lifted the boat — along with the silt in which it was buried — out of the ocean and into the tank for study. The spectacle of a 3,000-ton steel cage being pulled out of the water earned shipwrecks a place in China's popular consciousness.
Kaiping (160 kilometers west of Guangzhou) is a place famous for it buildings that mix Eastern and Western styles of architecture in very idiosyncratic ways. The towns boast more than 2,000 fortified towers that were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s by Chinese immigrants who went to the United States, South Asia and Australia to build railroads and prospect for gold and brought back western ideas about architecture along with money to build them.
The 2,000 towers, or daiolou, boast Greek columns, Baroque curves and Romanesque domes, The structures are built as fortifications because their owners were relatively rich and needed protection from bandits warlords and local militias. The buildings look odd because they were mainly built by designers and workers who had never seen Western buildings and were inspired by the descriptions and pictures supplied by the owners. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site
Web Sites: Travel China Guide (click attractions) Travel China Guide ; government site; ICM.com ; Wikipedia Wikipedia Hours Open: 8:30am-5:30pm - Admission: 180 yuan per person;Getting There: Kaiping is about two hours from Guangzhou by bus. Take a bus from Guangdong Provincial Bus Station to Kaiping; Take a bus from Zhongshan Balu Bus Station to Kaiping; Self-driving: driving through Kaiyang Highway and State way 325, the travel time is over one hour. Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet
Kaiping Diaolou: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Kaiping Diaolou and Villages were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2007. Diaolou are fortified multi-storey towers mainly located in Kaiping City of Guangdong Province. They feature a unique architectural style, which combines an elegant Western style with the earthy countryside in southern China. The number of Diaolou is more than 3,000. Now there are 1,800 units scattered over 15 counties. They were first built in late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and were booming in early 1920s with the development of overseas Chinese. Diaolou served as the filming site of the famous movie "Let the Bullets Fly."
According to UNESCO: “ ”Kaiping Diaolou and Villages feature the Diaolou, multi-storeyed defensive village houses in Kaiping, which display a complex and flamboyant fusion of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. They reflect the significant role of émigré Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are four groups of Diaolou and twenty of the most symbolic ones are inscribed on the List. These buildings take three forms: communal towers built by several families and used as temporary refuge, residential towers built by individual rich families and used as fortified residences, and watch towers. Built of stone, pise, brick or concrete, these buildings represent a complex and confident fusion between Chinese and Western architectural styles. Retaining a harmonious relationship with the surrounding landscape, the Diaolou testify to the final flowering of local building traditions that started in the Ming period in response to local banditry.
The site is important because: 1) “The Diaolou and their surrounding villages demonstrate Outstanding Universal Value for their complex and confident fusion between Chinese and western architectural styles, for their final flowering of local tower building traditions, for their completeness and unaltered state resulting from their short life span as fortified dwellings and their comparative abandonment and for harmonious relationship with their agricultural landscape. 2) The Diaolou represent in dramatic physical terms an important interchange of human values-architectural styles brought back from North America by returning Chinese and fused with local rural traditions-within a particular cultural area of the world. 3) The building of defensive towers was a local tradition in the Kaiping area since Ming times in response to local banditry. The nominated Diaolou represent the final flourishing of this tradition, in which the conspicuous wealth of the returning Chinese contributed to the spread of banditry and their towers were an extreme response. 4) The main towers, with their settings and through their flamboyant display of wealth, are a type of building that reflects the significant role played by émigré Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia, and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the continuing links between the Kaiping community and Chinese communities in these parts of the world.
Image Sources: Province maps from the Nolls China Web site. Photographs of places from 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4) Beifan.com; 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6) Mongabey.com; 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia; 10) Julie Chao photo site
Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in May 2020