Once in your lifetime, you will encounter a place that perfectly embodies who you are, a place as vibrant and diverse as you. This is your #happyplace, and for me, my #happyplace is located in the beautiful city of Guangzhou, China. Perhaps I’m biased, since Guangzhou is also my hometown and the place where I lived until I was four, but the reasons why I love this city so much have very little to do with nostalgia and much to do with the unforgettable cultural experiences I’ve been lucky enough to take part in. If you’ve never heard of Guangzhou, that’s perfectly natural; although it’s the third-largest city in China, it’s mostly eschewed the overseas fame that cities like Beijing and Shanghai have embraced. For that reason, I find Guangzhou to be the perfect blend of east and west, a city rooted in tradition but on the cusp of the future. Let me introduce you to my #happyplace.
There’s a phrase in Chinese that literally translates into “eat in Guangzhou”. It’s a succinct and concise way of summarizing the thing that the city is best known for, which is its food. The food from this province of China (Guangdong province) is called Cantonese cuisine, and thanks to chefs from Guangdong as well as neighboring Hong Kong who’ve gone abroad, it’s world-famous. If you’ve eaten Chinese food, chances are the dishes you ate may have had its roots in Cantonese cuisine. As the birthplace of this form of cuisine, naturally there are innumerable places in Guangzhou to try it out. Cantonese cuisine is probably best known for its ritual of dim sum, similar to tapas in its presentation of small dishes of food served in little plates or steam baskets. Every street in Guangzhou has a place to “yum cha”, as going to eat dim sum is known colloquially, so pick one near where you’re living that looks popular with the locals and try it out. Eat whatever the people around you are eating if you’re indecisive. For travelers on a budget, my favorite budget dim sum restaurant in Guangzhou is Shuishecun, which is very close to the Cultural Garden and the touristy Shamian Island, and offers pretty good food in a gorgeous setting. A more expensive but more delicious choice can be found at Made in Kitchen, which is located at the head of Guangzhou’s busiest pedestrian shopping street and offers dim sum as well as specialities from all across Asia. Keep in mind, however, that dim sum is almost always a breakfast or brunch meal; nobody in Guangzhou goes for yum cha after eleven in the morning, usually. A dinner in Guangzhou will be the best way to experience everything Cantonese cuisine has to offer. A budget option for dinner is at the Cui Yuan Seafood Restaurant, which has a wide variety of delicious Cantonese dishes.