A few years ago an acquaintance of mine brought to my attention a city in eastern Guangdong—Chaozhou—he thought I would find interesting. The city is full of history and culture that has had a global impact. Many of the overseas Chinese who emigrated from China prior to the twentieth century came from this region.
Jun and I had planned several times to visit Chaozhou, but due to weather and schedule conflicts we were unable to go in the past. Recently, we found that we had a free weekend and decided it would be an ideal time to go.
We left Shenzhen in the morning and got into Chaozhou a little after noon. When we had finished checking into the hotel we decided to go to the old part of the city. We started our exploration of the city on Paifang Street. The street is neat. For about two kilometers the street has numerous paifangs—entry gates—interspersed every few meters. Chaozhou is the first place I had seen a street with so many paifangs placed in this way.
The first thing we wanted to do was find lunch. Jun had researched a number of things that he thought we should try. We found a street restaurant and ordered sweet taro and an oyster omelet. Simply delicious.
After we had finished lunch we went to Kaiyuan Temple. The temple is fairly large with a number of prayer halls on the grounds. The buildings at the temple were a mix of old and new. We enjoyed seeing that mix at the temple.
After the temple we walked to Guangji Bridge. The bridge was built in 1170 AD during the Song Dynasty. Originally the builders constructed the bridge out of a number of boats connected with a walking platform, but over time many of the boats were replaced with stone structures. The builders of the stone structures, however, left a section of the bridge with the boats to ensure passing boats could traverse the river. The bridge was really neat and a fun experience.
On the other side of the bridge we went to Han Wen Gong Temple. This temple was built in memory of an important administrator of the city. The temple grounds are built on the side of a hill and has a number of nice courtyards. Jun and I liked the cool breeze that came from the river as we went around the temple.
When we were done seeing the temple, we walked along the river and enjoyed the sunny afternoon. We eventually walked back to the old city. We walked through some of the alleyways and lanes of the city to see what the atmosphere of that area was like. From there we stopped at a museum dedicated to a local artist near the main gate tower. While the artwork was nice, we both enjoyed the air conditioning more.
From there we walked up Paifang Street towards the Buddha Lamp Temple. We were lucky we got there when we did; the temple was preparing to close. They were kind and they let us in. The significance of this temple is the lantern it had, which sailors had used to navigate the river.
By that time Jun and I were hungry; we went to have beef hotpot at one of the more known places in the city. Dinner was great and it was a wonderful way to end the day. From the old city we went back to the hotel to enjoy a quiet evening.
The next day we went to West Lake. When we got there we had breakfast at a soup noodle place. It was a hole-in-the-wall place, but the noodles were nicely prepared. From there we went into the park. We walked around the lake and the forested area and saw some interesting remnants of the old city. Parts of the old city wall, temples, and gate towers were some of the structures hidden inside the park. It was an interesting mix.
We spent a few hours at the park. From there we walked through a different part of the city. We stumbled upon a Song Dynasty house and a temple dedicated to Confucius. They were interesting, but nothing spectacular. As we were going to the Confucius Temple Jun spotted a place that sold Chaozhou rice rolls. Jun wanted to try this dish, so we decided to have some. They were quite good and had a nice peanut sauce.
When we finished with the rice rolls, we decided to take a stroll on Paifang Street before we left for the train station. We walked to the end of the street and stopped at a juice bar, a café, and had a few last Chaozhou snacks before catching the bus to the train station.
Jun and I had a wonderful time in Chaozhou. The food was great, and the culture fascinating.