Fun in Foshan

After having traveled outside the province for the last few holidays, Jun and I decided to stay in Guangdong for the Dragon Boat Festival. After talking a bit about where we could go, we decided to visit Foshan. Located next to the western side of Guangzhou, Foshan is an old city that is known for its cultural and culinary contributions to Chinese heritage. Cantonese opera is regarded as originating in Foshan, as well as lion dancing and high-quality ceramics.

Day 1

Our trip started by leaving Futian Station in Shenzhen a little after noon. The train ride to Foshan West Station went smoothly. When we got to the station, we learned that we would have to endure a winding line of health code monitoring and COVID-19 testing. After about 40 minutes of waiting in multiple lines, we were finally able to leave the station. We first needed to figure out how to do that. It turned out that the ride-hailing pick-up area of the station was on the opposite side of the station from where the health checking was happening. After walking an additional 10 minutes across the station, we got in the car and went to our hotel in the Qiandeng Lake area of Foshan.

Checking in at the hotel went smoothly; they even upgraded our room. When we got up to our room, we decided to rest a bit and decide what we wanted to do that afternoon. After thinking about it, we chose to stay close to the hotel and explore the area around Qiandeng Lake.

We started our walk on the eastern bank of the lake next to the hotel and walked southward. A lot of people were there to enjoy the long holiday weekend. As we walked, we saw some interesting artworks and gardens around Qiandeng Lake and in the adjoining Leigang Park. Jun and I particularly like the more abstract and fantastical artwork.

After a while, Jun and I realized that we were ready for an early dinner since we only had brunch that day. We decided to go to a local restaurant—Shuihuo Zuoyong—that served food in clay pots. The food was amazing. We tried a variety of dishes including scallop fried rice, vegetables, and over-baked pork. We then topped it off with some ginger and sesame ice cream.

After having eaten a lot for dinner, Jun and I went for a walk around Leigang Park and visited the southern section so we could see the Kuixing Pavilion and then walk northward back to the hotel. The pavilion, unfortunately, was closed, but we could walk around it a bit. As we got closer to the hotel, we did see some nice murals under some of the bridges and on some of the buildings.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was getting late. Jun and I decided to relax for the rest of the evening and call it a day.

Day 2

Our second day started with us beginning the day in the Zumiao area of Foshan. Jun wanted to have a late breakfast at the Nanshan Snack Shop, which sold a variety of rice rolls and noodles. The meal was delicious and a great way to start a day of exploration. The street the restaurant was located on was also nice as the trees along the street were blooming.

From the restaurant, we next walked up towards Liang’s Garden. This garden is one of four famous Qing Dynasty gardens in Guangdong. I first visited here in 2013 when I first moved to Guangzhou. I found it interesting to see how much of it has changed, as there are more buildings open than I remembered from my last visit. Jun and I enjoyed walking around the garden and visiting some of the buildings. One thing I found particularly nice was that there were examples of contemporary arts and crafts by local artists and artisans that were displayed in the gardens.

From Liang’s Garden, Jun and I then walked along the historic streets toward the center of Zumiao. We both found some of the side streets more interesting than the main streets as they encapsulated the lived experience of the people and the changes in the city.

When we got to the Zumiao area, we decided to first visit Lingnan Tiandi, which is a city block of traditional buildings that have been renovated and repurposed into an arcade for restaurants and shops. While there we did some shopping and had a snack at one of the restaurants.

From Lingnan Tiandi, we then visited the Foshan Ancestral Temple. First built during the Song Dynasty (1078 – 1085 AD), the temple serves as a central node for the people in Foshan. Technically a Daoist temple, many people of different beliefs visit it for a variety of reasons. As it was a holiday when we visited, the temple staff had planned a few cultural activities and performances, such as a Cantonese Opera performance and lion dances.

Then we took the metro to Shiwan so we could visit Nanfeng Ancient Kiln and walk around Shiwan Park. Nanfeng Ancient Kiln is where the ceramic and pottery art of Foshan originated. Beginning around the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), it is the oldest known kiln in China and is still in operation. Nanfeng is a working historic site. Jun and I both found it fascinating as you could see people working, explore different parts of the history of the area, and enjoy just walking around the different alleys within the site.

Afterward, Jun and I walked around the surrounding area and did some shopping. We ended up buying two ceramic lions to remember our trip. Then we walked a bit around Shiwan Park before heading back to Zumiao for dinner.

When we got there, we found a restaurant located on the second floor—Shangyan Boutique Guangzhou Cuisine—and sat on the balcony. The view allowed us to look at the square around the bell tower. After dinner, we took a walk around Lingnan Tiandi and had dessert at Minxin Old Store before taking a car back to the hotel.

Day 3

On our last day in Foshan, we decided to have dim sum at Renshan Renhai Yueshi Dim Sum near our hotel. It was a nice walk in the mid-morning that helped us build our appetite. The dim sum was inexpensive and delicious.

From the restaurant, we next took a car southward towards the Shunde district of Foshan so we could visit Fengjian Village. The village is known for its water canals and has existed for over a thousand years. Many of the structures were originally constructed during the Song Dynasty. Nestled within the alleys and streets of the village are many temples and bridges that created a whimsical atmosphere. We enjoyed spending the early afternoon here.

Afterward, we decided to head northward to Beijiao and visit Lingnan He Garden. The garden first opened in 2018 and has a variety of architectural and garden styles from the Ming Dynasty to the present. It was interesting to visit the different sections and see how the styles both continued from one period to the next but maintained a unique character to them.

After our visit, we then had dinner at the restaurant within the gardens—Guoranju—that allowed us to sample Shunde cuisine. Most of the dishes were great, but there was an interesting dish of curdled milk with eggs that has a mix of savory and sweet flavors. This dish was a delicacy of this restaurant, but both Jun and I thought it was a bit too rich for us. The rest of the food, though, was great.

From the restaurant, we walked to the metro and took it to Guangzhou South Railway Station. Everything went smoothly at the station, and we were back in Shenzhen in a little over an hour. The trip to Foshan was a nice sojourn for us. We got to see some wonderful sites, as well as eat some amazing food.

Shunde

Having read about Shunde a few months back, I thought this New Year’s break would be a great opportunity to finally visit the place. The hardest part about getting to Shunde is navigating the public transport system to get to it. It’s about 50 minutes by Guangzhou metro to get to Guangzhou South Railway station, then a mere eight minutes on the train to get to Shunde, and finally a 20 minute bus to get to the central part of Shunde. Once traversing through that process it was worth it to see Shunde.

The first thing we did once we got there was to visit the commercial pedestrian street where we ate lunch at Minxin Laopu. Well, it was more like we ate dessert and had other snacks for lunch. Sunde is known for its double-skin milk desserts (双皮奶 shuangpinai); a Cantonese dessert originating from here. It tastes a lot like custard, and fruit can be added to give it a sweet flavor. We decided to try the mango one. That was genius!

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After having savored the shuangpinai, we ventured to see Qing Hui Garden. It is considered to be one of the Four Great Gardens of Guangdong. Qing Hui is really beautiful and does live up to its reputation. The garden is a series of smaller gardens that harmoniously coexist together to create a unique whole. As a result, each section, while unique, flows into the next garden seamlessly.

Walking around Qing Hui you notice the importance of water and aquatic life as central aspects to the garden. The fish here are some of the largest I’ve seen in mainland China. Each smaller garden also seems to have a water component to it as well.

The park was great, and we were ready to see the next wonder in Shunde. Walking north of the park we headed to Xi Shan Temple. It’s built next to a hilly park, so it is built vertically. The temple is dedicated to Guan Yu, a general from the Three Kingdoms Period. Unlike Qing Hui, the temple had less people and was more peaceful. It was a nice counterpoint to the garden.

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The last thing we wanted to see in Shunde was Shunfengshan Park. The park is quite large and surrounds a lake at the foot of Taiping Mountain. The park is known for its paifang, or Chinese architectural arch, as it is one of the largest in the world. Walking around the park was nice. We noticed that a lot of families brought tents to the park; they were not staying overnight but it appeared to be a thing for families to do. There were tents for adults and kids.

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As we walked around the park we noticed that there were a number of gardens just off the main path. As we walked towards one of them we noticed a number of vendors running away and hiding inside the gardens. Apparently they were not licensed to sell things inside the park and were running away from the security guards who were doing their rounds.

The park was really nice and it was a nice way to experience the late afternoon. But by early evening we were tired and ready to go back home. Not that we were excited about how we had to get back. Going back now required an additional bus. We decided before we went all the way back to Guangzhou, we would stop back at Minxin Laopu to get another shuangpinai. This time we would each get one and not share. It was a great idea and the trip back was uneventful.

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