Shamian Island

Guangzhou, China

Located near Guangzhou, Shamian Island has been a key foreign trade port since imperial times, dating as far back as the Song Dynasty. As the port prospered, British and French traders built magnificent buildings, cementing their positions in the land. These constructions saw a period of misuse and ruin, when the western powers were expelled but since the late 1900’s these structures have been restored to their original glory and are now an excellent example of Western Europe architecture.

The island itself is quite close to downtown Guangzhou, with only a distance of a few kms between the two and thus getting there is quick and convenient. The most scenic is obviously via ferry at a cost of RMB0.5 sans bike and RMB1 with a bike. These go every 10 minutes from Huangsha Pier. There are no metro stops on the island but taking the metro line 1 or 6 to the Huangsha stop will mean the island is only an overpass and bridge away. Buses, regular and dedicated sightseeing ones, and taxis will take you directly to the picturesque isle. There is no fee and no timing restrictions for visitors.

Main lure to the island is the peaceful atmosphere that it affords after a rather bustling Guangzhou downtown. There is a partial restriction on vehicles, so smog and noise pollution is hardly present. The river views, the well-maintained lawns, the old-era buildings and the statues with their individual significance, all add to the charm. Evening times are better for the weather and because of the photo ops for sun set views.

While roaming (or cycling) around the compact island, you can stop in front of the old buildings and check out the plaques for details on their construction and history these structures have witnessed in their days of peace and unrest. The architectural character is based on neoclassical, gothic and baroque styles and you can have fun comparing all these side by side. Till the 1900s most of the buildings were embassies of countries like France, Norway, UK, Russia, Japan, etc out of which the only one still un-relocated is the Polish Consulate.

The 20th century has seen the island becoming important for the adoption tourism that comes in mostly from the US. The embassy is close to the island, so US citizen stay at hotels on the island to pace up the documentation process and red tape associated with adopting Chinese orphans in to their families.

After one has had their fill of this cute antiquated island and strolling along the boulevards lined with towering trees and bronze statues, they may indulge in some quiet shopping for unique embroidery, curios and antiques and cloth at the market that is set up at night. After which the quaint restaurants, bars and cafes will provide a welcome relief to just prop up near the Pearl river and wine and dine in a relaxing environment with the faint whispers of the old trees above and the calm river flowing in front.

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