Although lauded as the ‘City of Flowers’, Guangzhou is a kingdom of plants, too, and the harvesting of local fruit gives cause for excitement – lychee, with its sweet white flesh, is the locals’ favourite. In summer, however, Lotus Mountain is transformed into a ‘World of Lotus’. The lotus symbolises purity in Buddhism, and the Lotus Flower Festival, held in July and August annually, celebrates the thousands of different colours that blossom in the pond. Climb to the top of the mountain, where people pray in front of the Buddhist statues, for a view of the Pearl River estuary. And don’t miss the chance to taste the delicious and artistic lotus dishes and lotus tea, served specially in this mountain holiday resort.
Escape Guangzhou at its southernmost gateway, the Nansha Wetland Park, which also has an intriguing name, the ‘Kidney of Guangzhou’. The reason comes from its functions: climate balance, clean-air provider, wildlife habitat and biodiversity. It also has another nickname, ‘Paradise of Birds’, as the wetland hosts thousands of migratory birds in winter, including rare species. At this time of year, you can spot the birds among the mangroves and reeds. Take one of the cruises in a wooden boat along the winding and idyllic waterways and you’ll also see the lotus in full bloom. Just remember your long-focus camera lens.
Although Guangzhou has no seafront or beaches (unless you travel to the remote districts), the city does have Asia’s largest world-class amusement area, including safari, water and theme parks and a circus. It is located some way from the city centre, but the metro and shuttle buses only take half an hour to get there. Chimelong Water Park boasts 25 thrilling and scream-inducing rides, while in August it has a carnival atmosphere and is open until 10pm.
If the daytime heat does keeps you indoors, you can venture out for the nightlife. Guangzhou’s Party Pier is home to a great choice of bars and restaurants. And it’s the perfect place to appreciate the night river scene with a cool beer. Or if you still prefer to be inside, hit the shops at TaiKoo Hui mall in the bustling Tianhe district. From luxury brands to lifestyle bookstore Fangsuo Commune to the numerous restaurants and cafés, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained for the day. The building also houses Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou, so there are even more tempting places to linger – try afternoon tea at The Taikoo Lounge or taste sweet treats at The Mandarin Cake Shop.
A traditional Chinese folk festival falls in August. The Double Seventh or Qi Qiao Festival has its origins in a romantic but sad Chinese tale. It gradually became a celebration for young ladies to showcase their handicraft skills in order to attract the boys. Nowadays, Guangzhou’s Zhucun village still upholds the ceremonies and traditions, displaying exquisite dolls and crafts during the summer.
The summer months, according to traditional Chinese medicine, should be about lowering the body temperature and preventing heatstroke. So why not treat yourself to a massage or acupuncture? Book your treatment at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou, and you can also soothe your mind and body with a relaxing session of Tian Quan, a Chinese bathing therapy.
Jessie Huang edits
an English language city guide