Mainland China Travel Guide | Where to Go & What to Eat
See the up & coming cities mainland China has to offer!
This holiday season, I had such an amazing time traveling to Asia with my family. On the evening of Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, I hopped on a plane straight to Hong Kong. Over the course of the next few weeks, we went to go visit my extended family (cousins, uncles, aunts) and Grandma, then went to visit more family in mainland China, and then finished our Asia trip in Japan (it was my 1st time there!).
In this blog post, I’m going to show you all the newly-developing cities I visited in mainland China. In fact, the cities below are actually a part of the 9 cities of The Greater Bay Area – an area of designated cities that the Chinese President has focused on to increasing their GDP. To do this, each city has been specialized to develop in certain industries such as technology or architecture.
In the past, everyone has always talked about the big cities of Beijing and Shanghai, but now I’m here to give some love to China’s up and coming cities. Are you ready!?
Developing Cities to Visit in Mainland China
Only 10 miles away from Hong Kong, Shenzen is a major city located on the east bank of the Pearl River estuary on the central coast of the southern Guangdong province. It’s one of the most up-and-coming cities of China and it is known for its technology, home improvements, and tailored clothing.
We actually visited the biggest electronics market in the world, the Shenzen Technology Market a.k.a. “Huaqiangbei”, which housed many floors of shops that offered a wide range of electronics from computer building parts to LED displays, to phone accessories, cables and parts, to even microscope parts!
Then, if you walk next door, you’d be met with an equally large building with many floors that offered a ton of home improvement goods to help build and decorate your home from lighting fixtures to kitchen remodeling to bedroom decor. On the upper levels, every other shop in this building was a tailor or sold tailored clothing.
Shenzen was a city that took me by surprise. I never thought there would be an entire city solely focused on servicing those who love to build computers, customize their clothing, and their homes!
Transportation is also super easy to get around as it’s like the Hong Kong metro – it’s just a bit bigger and has more stops.
Guǎngzhōu, once known as Canton, has been China’s busiest trading center for centuries. It is the capital and most populous city of the province of Guangdong in southern China. The city is located right on the Pearl River and is about 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong.
To get to Guangzhou from Hong Kong, I took the super-fast Guangzhou-Hong Kong high-speed train that goes up to 197 miles per hour! It was so crazy to be on such a fast, but super smooth ride.
When we landed in Guangzhou, we actually decided to live our first night in luxury and stayed at the most amazing 5-star hotel called the Chateau Star River Hotel in Panyu. During our one day and night there, we decided to make the most of it and visit the gorgeous Yuntai Garden and Canton Tower.
The Yuntai Garden
The Yuntai Garden is one of the most extensive gardens in China and a prominent attraction in Guangzhou. The whole garden is so beautiful and covers an area of over 120,000 square meters. This was one of my favorite places as I love flowers and lots of color – it’s definitely is a must-see if you are in the area. I wish I had brought my DSLR so I could take some stunning shots, but I had to make-do with my iPhone (Seriously, I need to upgrade to the iPhone 11 ASAP!).
One of the coolest experiences of my trip was going up the Canton Tower. The Canton Tower is a 1,982 foot tall observation tower in Guangzhou. It is currently the second tallest tower and the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the world. My family and I went all the way up to the 107th floor, and I couldn’t believe how colorful and gorgeous the view was. My partner, Jay, is afraid of heights, so he was a bit uneasy the whole time, but I was just soaking in all the awesome views! I even got to walk on the glass floor that sticks out of the building (which was a little nerve-wracking, but I got over it once I stopped looking down)!
After a day-stop of visiting the rural villages of mainland China to pay respect to my ancestors, my family and I visited Zhongshan. Zhongshan is a city in the south of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province, China, with a population of over 3 million. In this city, we had a fun day of eating traditional Chinese food and looking at some awesome real estate (because apparently that’s what people do in China). Then, we went to dinner, and got to try all sorts of adventurous Chinese food such as corn juice (very interesting) and the delicious dessert, Tau foo fah (soybean pudding). After an exhausting day, we ended our night at the Royal Bay Hotel. I was seriously so pooped by the end of the night that I couldn’t wait to sleep!
Zhuhai is located on the west bank of Pearl River estuary on the central coast of southern Guangdong province. It is also one of China’s premier tourist destinations, also know as the coast area of Chinese Riviera. When we got to Zhuhai, we stopped by the oldest section of city which is now preserved for tourism. Tourism is huge for China, and since the Chinese government is focusing on increasing the Greater Bay Area’s GDP as much as possible, this section was never touched or developed.
The other parts of Zhuhai are, however, much more developed. We then went to a huge mall, and I was able to visit the amazing MiniSo store to get my plushie fix, and I came back with the cutest little Winnie the Pooh Mochi Plush! To finish off our trip here, we ate at an amazing all Beef Hot Pot Restaurant, called Chenluk. An upcoming trend in China, this hot pot restaurant serves EVERY part of the cow, ranging from the various sections of the body, intestinal organs, and even the cow penis (whoa!). (No, I did not eat the cow penis, ick).
What to Eat in Mainland China
Now for my favorite part…FOOOOOD! China has some of the most amazing food in the world with traditional brunch like Dim Sum or Hot Pot restaurants! Even though most of it is delicious, China’s food can also be quite strange and unknown to Americans as well. Some of the best and least strange food include: Chinese Roast Pork Bun, Fried Wet Beef Noodles, Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), Portuguese Egg Tarts, Yao Zha Guai (fried dough/bread), and Tau Foo Fah (soybean pudding)!
All Beef Hot Pot
As I briefly mentioned before, China’s up-and-coming trend is Beef-Only Hot Pot restaurants. At these Hot Pot restaurants, the menu shows that you can order ANY PART of an entire cow! You can order up to eight different cuts of beef, including the…COW PENIS :-(! I know – how disgusting LOL!! It actually happens to be the most expensive cut on the menu, because I guess there’s only one per cow. We went to one of these restaurants in Zhuhai – I obviously did not order it, but I did enjoy other normal beefs parts.
All in all, everything from the food to the sightseeing in mainland China was absolutely incredible! The only thing I wish I would have done differently would be to wear a mask for the majority of my trip. The pollution, dust, and dirt was a little much for my immune system, and I got super sick with a bad cold halfway through my journey. Other than that, I had a spectacular trip, and I cannot wait to visit again!
And don’t forget to check out my China Vlog on my YouTube channel where I take you behind-the-scenes through the cities mentioned above. Make sure to check it out!
Subscribe to my YouTube channel for new content every week!
Like this post? Pin for later!