I might not be a huge fan of living in China. I’m not even trying to hide it. That is not to say that I don’t appreciate what China has to offer. I am not blind and one would have to be either that or extremely negative and/or depressed not to see the beauty of the country. We don’t manage it every weekend but every few weeks my OH and I will make an effort to visit an area we haven’t been to before. We do this out of pure curiosity and to avoid boredom but also because we’ve found that there are still plenty of hidden jems that can bring extra joy to our lives in this chaotic place.A couple of weeks ago we went to an area in Haizhu district of Guangzhou, called Huangpu (黄埔) Village. I have never heard of the place and neither has my husband. I found out about it through a book about the local attractions. The weather was supposed to be nice, we had a whole day off with no plans so a decision was made very quickly to explore that interesting-sounding part of the city.
After checking the directions online (having a Chinese partner/friend comes very useful when it comes to traveling in China), we jumped on a bus, that stopped near our house and terminated its route outside the village. How lucky?!
The journey through the city, down to Haizhu, took about an hour but we were pleased that we opted to take the bus rather than the metro (it can only take you so far) as it gave us the opportunity to observe parts of the city we haven’t been to before. I wouldn’t say the journey was exciting but interesting nevertheless.
Upon departing bus no.3, you find yourself at the entry of what looks like a street market.The stalls on the main streets offered everything from livestock, to marinated pigs’ feet, to fresh vegetables and hand-made candy. I was too timid to try the more exotic local specialties but did cave in at the sight of freshly-baked ‘wife cakes’ (lou po beng). I have eaten them many times before, you can buy them at many bakeries and supermarkets, but I have never seen them made and served still hot! We paid 15 yuan for 0,5kg, which I found to be a very good deal. They were delicious though did not contain the traditional winter melon filling.
Once you pass through the street market, you reach a canal (pictured above) and this is where the ancient village proper starts. Once you cross the bridge, you’re faced with, some more authentic than others, ornamental gates, ponds, wealthy families’ villas and a multitude of houses dating back to Qing dynasty.
Walking around I was impressed to see signs and information boards in English-definitely not a given in China. I found out that at one time Huangpu village was the only harbour in China allowed to accept foreign ships! This of course turned this small fishing village into a major player on the international trade scene and this is where the famous Chinese porcelain (and the infamous opium) was delivered to and then exported from. Quite an astounding discovery! I most definitely did not expect this unassuming area to have played such an important role.
The ancestral homes, in typical Lingnan style, were eerily quiet, even on a weekend. Now that in itself is a reason to visit this place. It is an oasis,truly.The narrow alleys reminded me of nearby Foshan’s reconstructed old town but on a smaller scale. The area also offers some original snacks and dishes, mostly sweet ones like sweet potatoe dumplings and steamed milk curd. There are souvenir shops and tucked away cafes. The feeling of the place is much commercialized, much quieter and more peaceful than many other historical attractions in China and that’s where its appeal and charm lay.
All in all, we spent 4 hours there, including two short breaks for lunch and drinks. I highly recommend visiting this hidden jem, which similarly to Xiaozhou (I’ll write another post about that amazing place) deserves to be recognized and appreciated more.
We took no.3 bus from Baiyun, traveling through the city centre and then Haizhu but you can also take the metro. You can find more details Here .