Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, may not be the cultural hotspot that capital city, Beijing is; nor is it a cosmopolitan hub like its sister city, Shanghai, two of the Chinese cities I worked in before coming here. But for a Singaporean, it is a great place to live in because it is so much like home.
Compared to the other two cities, Guangzhou enjoys warmer weather even during the winter months. This, combined with the better air quality, is a bonus for an avid jogger like myself. What is more, it is the cradle of some of China’s best cuisines and a well-known food paradise so foodies need never despair.
Having lived here for the past three years, I have also had the opportunity to see the city blossom into an international nexus as it took on the role of host to the ASEAN Games in 2010.
Picture Perfect Beauty
In the spirit of more adventurous and artistic wedding photographs that are popular with couples these days, I recommend Guangzhou as the destination of choice. One of the places that has become increasingly popular with brides and grooms is Shamian (沙面) in Liwan District at north bank of the Pearl River. As its Chinese name, which literally means “sandy surface”, suggests, Shamian is a sandbank island. It is about a half-hour drive from our properties in Guangzhou: Ascott Guangzhou, Ascott IFC Guangzhou and Springdale Serviced Residence Guangzhou.
Although the area is not large – just 900 metres long from East to West and 300 metres from South to North - it has great historical significance. It was once the enclave of the British and the French; and, being surrounded by water, used to be an important port of call for foreign trade. Because of its past, Shamian has many remnants of colonial architecture showcasing different styles. Its buildings, set in the midst of tree-lined, cobble stone streets, have been lovingly preserved and lend the place a European charm.
Another reason why Shamian makes a wonderful backdrop is the fact that it is littered with bronze statues depicting life on the island in its earlier days. The juxtaposition of old art and a new life ahead for the bridal pair makes for an interesting contrast. I would certainly pick Shamian when it is my turn to pose for my wedding pictures.
Few things are more romantic than flowers. And if a dozen or so makes for an meaningful prop, imagine one million of them. That is what you will get at the Million Sunflower Garden (百万葵园) in Panyu District a little further away from Guangzhou. At 66.7 hectares, it is the largest garden of its kind with one million sunflowers of various species in bloom all year long. To keep things interesting and provide variety to your pictures, you can take pictures with the nearly 1,000 baby squirrels and collection of birds in the park as well.
In the later part of the year, The Ascott Limited will be managing two serviced residences, firmly securing the brand’s leadership position as the biggest international serviced residence owner-operator in China. With Somerset Riviera Guangzhou and Citadines LiZhiWan Guangzhou, it will have more than 8,000 apartment units in 46 properties across 17 locations nationwide. Staying at Citadines LiZhiWan Guangzhou will place you right at the heart of Lizhiwan Chong (which literally means “Litchi Bay Creek”), the historic part of Guangzhou district.
It is China’s answer to Venice, with boats navigating the 743-meter-long waterway. A cruise on your very own love bumboat will create yet another great photo opportunity. Here, colonial-style buildings sit side by side with Cantonese-style architecture like the Wen Tower, a hexagonal pagoda. This mix of East and West will give your wedding pictures an interesting dimension.
Shopping for Two
For a bit of Guangzhou street culture, take a break from your photographer and join the throng at Yi De Lu (一德路). This 100-year-old stretch of road in the city centre is the place for toys, souvenirs, bric-a-brac and dried sea food.
You can also take a trip down Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street (上下九), the city’s first pedestrian mall. Running some 1.2 kilometres through the old town of Xiguan in Liwan District, it has more than 300 shops and will certainly satisfy even the most hardcore shopaholic. Shoes, clothes, accessories, fabric and pre-owned items can be bought at a steal. But remember to bargain. That is what the locals do.
North of Jiangan Avenue is a street that may interest marrying couples. It is Guangdong Province’s largest wedding products market, devoted entirely to wedding gowns, shoes, accessories and other wedding related products. Brides can even rent wedding gowns from the range of styles which include both traditional Chinese and Western.
Appetite for Love
Being the food haven that it is, almost every major attraction and all the shopping streets have plenty of cafes, restaurants and little eateries offering both the best of Guangzhou specialities and Western delights.
Do not leave without sampling some local delicacies. All the exquisite offerings of Cantonese cooking long associated with Guangdong and Hong Kong has its origins here. My favourites are roasted pigeons, dim sum which the locals call morning or evening tea (早茶/夜茶), boiled soups and porridge-based steamboat (无米粥). To give your loved ones a taste of Guangzhou, you can bring home snacks like chicken floss biscuits (鸡仔饼), flaky pastries filled with almond paste with winter melon bit flavoured with five spice powder (老婆饼), Chinese sausages (腊肠，腊味), and walnut cakes (核桃酥).
Historic sites full of character, flowering gardens awash with colour, romantic waterways set in ancient towns – Guangzhou has all the right elements to make your wedding shots picture perfect. So, come and make a date with this southern city of China.
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Ascott IFC Guangzhou
Springdale Serviced Residence Guangzhou