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Twin Towers, Xiamen
Twin Towers, Xiamen

5 fun-filled getaways in Mainland China

These incredible destinations are just a train ride away with the High Speed Rail

Time Out Hong Kong in partnership with MTR
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The recent launch of the High Speed Rail has opened up a whole new world of travelling opportunities. Now connecting Hong Kong with 44 exciting and vibrant destinations in Mainland China, the High Speed Rail makes it easier than ever for you to achieve a perfect weekend getaway, whether its to short-haul destinations such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou, or with mid-haul journeys to places like Xiamen and Guilin. So for all your travel junkies out there who are looking to take advantage of this new convenience, why not make a trip to these five fun-filled cities below – all of which are just a train ride away.

Shenzhen: For art lovers
OCT Harbour, Shenzhen

Shenzhen: For art lovers

Our neighbouring city of Shenzhen has been reinventing itself into a vibrant destination that’s home to some of the most exciting art and culture spaces in the region. Make Dafen Village at the top of your agenda and explore this unique suburb made up entirely of art galleries, painting studios and oil painting workshops. The village is filled to the brim with Chinese oil paintings and you’ll find plenty of artists working on their masterpieces alongside the street.

Art lovers will also be charmed by Shenzhen’s largest art and cultural district OCT Loft, which sees industrial buildings revamped into a number of art studios, coffee shops, bookstores and small art shops. Expect art exhibitions and live performances while you’re there. Just a 30-minute metro ride away is OCT Harbour, a scenic stretch of restaurants along the riverside. Aside from two reinvented houses from the Ming and Qing dynasties, a water show theatre, aquarium and exhibitions spaces, there’s also a mangrove wetland in the northern part that boast spectacular sunsets. 

Finally, for a different kind of art, head to MixC World, a monster of a shopping mall that houses 300 retail stores where shoppers are greeted by the giant elephant art installation that sits atop and sprays water out from its trunk. Once you step inside, you’ll be spoilt for choice by the dizzying variety of shops and themed cafés, including the world’s first Heytea Pink concept store, where you can sample its renowned pink bubble tea.

Guangzhou: For a little bit of everything
Canton Tower, Guangzhou

Guangzhou: For a little bit of everything

The worlds of old and new coexist in harmony in the bustling metropolis that is Guangzhou. History buffs will be delighted in visiting Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, an incredibly well-preserved traditional Lingnan ancestral building that boasts plenty of folk art and architectural feats. Other important historic landmarks to add to your itinerary are Xiguan Mansion – a traditional folk house that dates back to the late Qing Dynasty – and Liwan Lake Park, a scenic destination surrounded by restaurants and tea houses, including the renowned Panxi Restaurant that serves up world-class Cantonese cuisine. Speaking of food, for an authentic taste of Guangzhou, make a beeline for Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street and sample an assortment of local eats along the 1,237m-long shopping street. Must-try dishes include Wenchang chicken, double-boiled milk curd, wonton noodles and Yinji steamed rice rolls. Still hungry for more? Dayang Stewed Soup on Beijing Road is a great spot to savour some delicious soups, including ones served in a hollow coconut. Last but definitely not least, hop on a boat for a romantic cruise down Pearl River, which offers postcard-worthy evening views of the city skyline.

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Shantou: For foodies
Beef ball noodles, Shantou

Shantou: For foodies

Food lovers should definitely visit Shantou, which is known for authentic Cantonese dishes such as handmade beef ball noodles, Chaoshan cheong fun (rice rolls) and the famed Chaoshan goose, known for being incredibly flavourful and tender. Also be sure to check out Shantou’s late-night dining scene and try local dishes like casserole porridge, marinated crab and Longjiang trotters. We also recommend trying hotpot here, as you can sample every cut of beef there is, including shin, leg, brisket, flank, rump and more.

Another spot to add to your checklist is 1860 Creative Park, a former school repurposed as an arts complex that now houses a collection of artworks. The park is also home to a lot of traditional shops and restaurants, making it a great spot for souvenir shopping, as well as for snacking on delicious dishes such as oyster omelettes and Chaozhou dumplings.

Finally, if you’re in need of some retail therapy, there’s no better place for it than F16 Shopping Centre. This mall houses everything from retail department stores and boutiques to themed theatres and the occasional 3D art exhibitions.

Xiamen: For a hip yet relaxing trip
Gulangyu, Xiamen

Xiamen: For a hip yet relaxing trip

This sophisticated seaside city has become a slick hipster haven. Must-visits include Zengcuo’an – a former fishing village that’s transformed into a cultural town where visitors can explore unique boutiques and food stalls – as well as the quaint neighbourhood of Shapowei’s Art Zone, where you can immerse yourself among literature book shops and boutique cafés. Similarly, Ding’aozai Cat Street is a popular hotspot known for its Instagram-worthy feline-themed murals and sculptures. But the perennial port of call in Xiamen is Gulangyu, otherwise known as one of the most beautiful towns in China. The pedestrian-only Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site offers stunning panoramic views once you climb up Sunlight Rock. It’s also home to the world’s only organ museum and the county’s only piano museum, the latter of which houses hundreds of pianos, including some that date back to the 1700s. Other highlights include Shuzhuang Garden, which features dozens of bridges and hidden sculptures, and Longtou Road for its handicraft shops and traditional eateries.

For a picturesque stroll, head to Xiamen University, which was named the most beautiful university in China thanks to its Nanyang-style architecture that circles around Furong Lake. Finally, no trip to Xiamen is complete without a visit to the Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Zone. This bustling area boasts colonial-style buildings that have been repurposed as shopping centres lining both sides of the avenue. There’s no shortage of snack stalls and souvenir shops either, making this a great spot to spend a fun-filled afternoon or evening.

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Guilin: For a scenic tour
Elephant Trunk Hill, Guilin

Guilin: For a scenic tour

China’s answer to Venice, Two Rivers and Four Lakes are undoubtedly among the most famous attractions in Guilin. Join a night tour to witness the famous hills, including Elephant Trunk Hill – named for its resemblance to an elephant drinking from the banks of Li River – Fubo Hill and Diecai Hill, as well historical sites and pavilions set against atmospheric lanterns. You’ll find countless more impressive attractions around Li River, including The Seven Star Scenic Area, which is made up of natural sites such as Camel Hill and Seven Star Crags. There are also the Sun and Moon Towers that sit by Shan Lake, where the two striking pagodas are connected via a 10m-long lake tunnel. And it doesn’t end there – Solitary Beauty Peak and Jingjiang Palace City offer some jaw-dropping landscape scenes with clusters of heritage structures set against a magnificent mountainous backdrop. 

Finally, while you’re here, don’t forget to get a taste of traditional Guilin cuisine. From stir-fried Li River shrimps and traditional braised pork with taro, to pig stomach with chicken soup and the famous beer fish made with fresh carp from Li River braised in beer produced in Guilin, it’s impossible to go hungry when you’re in this city.

Visit these fun destinations

Visit these fun destinations

With their many scenic spots and fun attractions, these five destinations are perfect for weekend getaways or quick excursions. Best of all, they’re easier and faster than ever to reach, thanks to the new High Speed Rail. So the next time you’re planning a holiday, hop on the train and be sure to check out all the fun things to eat, see and do in these vibrant cities.

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