With so much local culture to explore in Guangdong province, I decided to take a day’s trip down to Panyu, the oldest part of Guangzhou located in the south part of the metropolis. This town was the original capital city of Guangdong province. I decided to check out the tiny village of Shawan, the part of the city that formed the epicentre of that original capital city. Located around 6 kilometres from the nearest metro station at Shiqiao, Shawan village is neatly hidden away in the outskirts of the city.
Though the village is trying to attract tourists, it still resembles somewhat of a ghost town as there is hardly a whisker in sight on any given day of the week (except of course during the holiday season). On any average hot summer’s day it is normal to walk through the quite narrow lanes of the village and perhaps come across shop keepers lazily taking an afternoon siesta in the shade away from the blazing midday sun. The village does not possess the charm that may be found in more well known ancient preserved villages such as for example Suzhou or Hangzhou.
What is amazing is that people live in Shawan in a similar style and in a similar style of environment as they used to do hundreds of years ago. The only difference may be that nowadays people have electricity, proper sanitation, internet, and most important of all, air-conditioning to take respite away from the hot and humid weather.
However, other ways of living are similar to traditional style of living like milking the cows by hand, hens, and rabbits freely flocking the grounds, butchers having their meat being sold on ice-carts, and bread rolls, and seeds being dried using the baking sun’s heat. And in between these people’s homes, large former mansions belonging to Emperors and former ancient government ministers have been converted into museums for all to see. It just goes to show the lavish life they had in those days.
Try indulging your taste buds into the local delicacy, sweet milk curd (known locally as ‘Shuang Pi Nai’). Every morning cows are milked in the farms nearby. The ridiculously delicious milk is then blended in with sugar, and served either hot or cold. It tastes a bit like lemon curd, or fresh Greek style yogurt, but not as thick in texture. The temptation to have more than one cupful is difficult to resist. Each cupful costs RMB 5 (around GBP 50 pence).
Allow a good 1 hour to explore the place. It may feel isolated at first, but I tell you, looks can be deceptive. Shawan has more jewels to offer than the eye meets at first glance. Just make sure you take your camera with you, and be ready to capture the unusual.
How I got to Shawan:
If you are coming from downtown Guangzhou, then take metro line 3 to Shiqiao station and then take exit C. As you come out of the metro station exit C, turn left in front of Seven 11. After Seven 11, turn right, and you will come across a branch of Pizza Hut. Right in front of Pizza Hut is a bus stop from where you can take bus number 12 straight to Shawan. The cost is RMB 2 one way, and takes around 20 minutes. After you get off the bus stop at Shawan then walk straight ahead for around 30 feet until you come across a large cinema complex, and then turn right. Shawan Ancient Town is straight ahead of you!
How much does it cost?
Visitors can purchase a RMB55 that allows you entrance to all the 10 preserved mansions and small museums, or there is a separate RMB10 charge for each attraction (i.e. it makes sense to purchase the RMB 55 collective ticket as you get more for low price).
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