The lights of a hundred rainbows shimmer on the water, as boats cruise by. When the Pearl River flows into central Guangzhou, it is transformed into a neon spectacle, thanks to the illuminated buildings and bridges of downtown. Colour is splashed liberally throughout the city, particularly in the shopping districts. Head to the Shangxiajiu pedestrian street, where shoppers throng beneath red and yellow paper lanterns, haggling over cartoon-inspired accessories. Slip off into the side streets and you will find a mouth-watering selection of Cantonese food stalls. There are familiar noodle and dim sum dishes, but if you are feeling brave, try braised snake or pig’s lung.
Guangzhou was once the capital of China, and is still its wealthiest city, thanks to strong trade routes.
When the urban chaos gets too much, seek retreat on Shamian Island, a tranquil district of colonial European buildings and green parks. There is no better introduction to China than a visit to Guangzhou.