Visit Foshan! The Best Vacation Destination in China
September 3, 2018
by Landis Stewart
Greetings from the Middle Kingdom! I chose to make Foshan my home nearly 5 months ago and it has quickly risen in the ranks to become one of my favorite places! (And trust me, there is some stiff competition).
Though the flight is long and you actually need to secure a visa BEFORE touching down (it’s not too difficult, I promise), Foshan certainly deserves to be on your list of must-visit travel destinations.
No one has come to visit me yet, but I’ve been planning the perfect trip for whoever pulls the trigger on a plane ticket first. Here you’ll find part of the itinerary for that trip: everything from what to eat to where to book a hotel for and what sites you can’t miss!
Let’s start with the basics.
where to stay in foshan
The bad news for cheap travelers and backpackers is that hostels aren’t really so much a thing in China, outside of some of the largest cities or hottest tourist destinations. The good news is that favorable exchange rates mean that staying in a luxurious hotel or renting out an entire apartment will probably only cost you ~25-35 USD per night. Put on your fancy pants honey, we’re LIVING now!
As for location, I’d suggest you stick within Chancheng district (or Nanhai, its neighbor). This is the district where you’ll find the best of what Foshan has to offer: amazing restaurants, cultural experiences, beautiful parks, shopping, and the adorable Lingnan Tiandi! (we’ll come back to that later).
where to go and what to eat while you’re there
No trip to the southern province and ancient dominion of the Canton people (yes Canton as in Cantonese) would be complete without sampling some of the local cuisines. If you want to get some shopping, sightseeing or casual drinking done in the same trip head over to CRW FASHION CITY.
shopping for souvenirs
Be aware: this name is a bit misleading. You won’t find much high fashion but you will find some excellent Chinese knockoffs. If it’s souvenirs of your trip that you’re after I’d suggest the small stands of hats and t-shirts with misspelled or just downright bizarre uses of English. I’ve found these to be by far the most popular gifts among friends and family.
Once you’re done perusing head up to the mall’s second floor. Turn right when you reach the large painting of Garfield on the wall (he’s saying yummy in Mandarin Chinese) and look for a restaurant simply labeled “Cantonese Restaurant.” Here you eat the traditional way: chopsticks only and you wash your dishes in tea before the food is served!
If you want a bit more control over what you eat, pop next door. This restaurant’s menu is foreigner friendly as all items are accompanied by a picture. My favorites here are the vegetable dumplings and garlic soaked cucumber; my go-to meal before a Friday night at the bar!
This may be because the best expat bar in Foshan, Aloha tiki bar, is just a short walk away. A gathering place for English speakers from all over Foshan it has everything to keep you occupied for an enjoyable night out. Buy by the drink or embrace the Chinese way and order an entire bottle! Play pool, foosball, bar dice, or just enjoy the familiar atmosphere and make some new friends!
If you’re a little more into the club scene Mojo’s is a great place to dance and drink with friends. As its another hot spot for expats, you won’t have trouble ordering your drink or making some friends. And it’s located right across the street from one of LEE SOO KEE’s Foshan locations. A chain throughout Guangdong they serve some of the most popular dishes of the region.
There are all sorts of ways to see and experience Cantonese culture in and around Foshan, but, assuming you are following my advice so far and spending much of your time in Chancheng district, there is one destination that is the most easy, exciting, and accessible: a visit to Foshan’s Ancestral Temple.
foshan’s ancestral temple
The Ancestral Temple is not just one building but an entire complex of both indoor and outdoor areas, although enough of it is exposed to the elements that you’ll want to choose some nice weather to see it in. Here you can take in the beauty of Shiwan or the traditional art form of sculpting and painting intricate ceramic ridge tiles. Wander through the beautiful gardens, light some incense for luck or a loved one’s health or just stand in awe beneath the massive wishing tree.
Surrounded by depictions of the heroes and villains of Cantonese opera, the smells of traditional incense, and the sounds of gurgling fountains filled with brightly colored coy fish you can see some of the best and most beautiful that Cantonese culture has to offer in a single afternoon!
lingnan tiandi: a little something of everything
Finally, when planning your trip to Foshan make sure to carve out plenty of time to spend in Chancheng district’s preserved old city: Lingnan Tiandi. Here you can find Cantonese culture, a diverse selection of restaurants and some of the cities best nightlife along the narrow stone streets. The area is only suitable for walking but it’s not too big so it should be no problem to explore in a day.
You can spend your time here shopping in the boutiques, sampling different styles of milk tea (Taiwanese is my personal recommendation) or just soaking in the pure vibrancy of the area. Once your hungry stop in at any one of the fantastic restaurants and if you’re craving an after dinner drink try Paddy’s Pub or Summer House for a full bar and an English speaking staff.
Alright, I think that’s quite enough to keep you busy for a while in this city I am so proud to call my home! Bon Voyage and let me know how it goes!