Qingyuan – A peaceful outpost of Guangdong’s Mega-Cities

Looking for a nearby escape from the mega-metropolises of Shenzhen or Guangdong? Then this place is probably just for you. Fresh air, nature and simple laid back life make this small city a gem.

I shouldn’t say small, actually it’s quite large in size, being a prefecture-level city that has numerous other cities under it’s wing. The actual Qingyuan city is quaint and comfortable in many ways, it abounds with nature and features a beautiful river, the Beijiang, running through it’s center.

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Tourists will be attracted to the white water rafting that the city is famous for, hot spring resort and numerous smaller attractions. On my last visit to the city I checked out a few of these, such as Taihe, Feilai Si and more, this time I wanted to stay a little longer.

To be honest I missed the best weather that the city offers, for several months I was unfortunately bed bound and didn’t spring back to life until well into winter. And here’s an important point, It’s probably not a great winter city. Being well inland from the coast it suffers from winter haze and it’s much, much colder than Shenzhen. But come mid-spring and into summer, you will love this place, as Qingyuan remains a touch cooler than Shenzhen, Hong Kong or Guangzhou, while also offering plenty of even cooler nature escapes.

For a quick visit, the must see spots in the city itself as mentioned earlier, are the white-water rafting, Taihe Mountain, Baijia Mountain (be sure to visit the fantastic Pane Cafe there) and Feilai Temple.

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Living in the city is quite comfortable, you can get around by public bus to most everywhere on any bus for a flat rate of 2RMB, which makes things easy. Motorbike taxis are the mainstay of public transport, which if your new to China, this is something to see. Girls sitting side saddle, playing with their mobile phone (or a mirror or their hair), hanging onto nothing, while the motorbike taxi weaves it’s way in and out of cars, amazing. But, they probably grew up riding everywhere on bikes, sitting on dad’s lap, hanging onto the handle bars, with mom and grandma hanging on behind dad. Come here, you’ll see what I mean. If your’e not into bikes there’s also taxis, they charge by the meter or a flat fee, you may also want to check out Didi Dache, it can be quite useful in this city.

Most places are easy to walk to, and it’s quite interesting to do so. The place is full of character, and by walking around you can really get to mingle in with the daily lives of a city which is still quite traditional. I never felt worried wandering around, I never got anything but friendly smiles. But a small warning, some of that tradition may be eye-opening for some, such as dog meat restaurants and so on. It’s not a rich city either, so you’ll strike many things, don’t let it put you off, here you gain a real insight into the Chinese life, and in some way it’s like looking into a lens of the past giving a greater appreciation for the journey of many Chinese. I think this is especially true if all you have seen is Shenzhen, Hong Kong or Guangzhou.

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I spent a lot of time in this city by myself, between ill-health, my work life of being stuck on a laptop, and wandering and pondering. Actually I went on quite a journey in this city, reflecting on society and it’s relationship with the disadvantaged, and also studying different several philosophical texts, mostly Asian. To be honest, I think I grew a lot here, which makes Qingyuan a special place for me I guess. Perhaps just a combination of my age, time, nature and the traditional aspects of the city led me to becoming more aware, or at least wanting to be.

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You wont go hungry here, especially if you like cooking for yourself, which you probably should. It has an excellent supermarket, Darunfa, opposite Zhongshan park and just a short walk from the city square. You can get anything you want there, fresh and super clean. It also has a great deli, fresh roasted meats, Dian Xin, bakery etc etc. I would walk to there every third day or so, about a 4km round trip as it was a tad difficult to catch a taxi or bus near where I lived. There is a free supermarket bus, but I never really fathomed how that operated. The walking was probably good for me. If you go to the supermarket, be sure to go to the shop that sells the bean juice, they make the bean juice from dried ground beans, nuts, seeds and the like, healthy stuff. But also, the staff there at the time of writing are just so special, 4 girls who are like rays of sunshine, always laughing, always smiling and always welcoming, be sure to say hi, I will miss them.

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There’s endless fresh food markets where you can get a swag of vegetables for 3oRMB or so. You’ll notice something interesting with the meat, which is all pork and chicken, in that it’s never refrigerated. Cantonese really don’t seem to like refrigeration. A culled pig will arrive to the market early in the morning on the back of a bike, and be butchered throughout the day, all day, in Guangdong weather. Goes against everything we are taught in the west about meat and food safety, but they’ve have been dong things this way for longer that we have been around. Regardless, I always purchased meat from the supermarket and vegetables from the farmers markets.

You’ll also want try the Cantonese roast meats, you’ll see the stalls, it’s delicious! I would often buy from one particular stall and this was hilarious, she could only speak a little Mandarin, so, when I went there, while chopping up my order of roast pork, she would teach me a word in Guangdonghua and I would share a word in Mandarin, crazy right? I will miss that roast meat stall 🙂

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The cafe scene in Qingyuan is booming with options, in this area the city is quite progressive. Here’s the places you must check out, for fantastic coffee (nearly Australian standard!) try Pane Cafe at Darunfa or Roccoco Cafe on Shangkuo St. For Hong Kong style milk tea go to Lao Jie Fang on Nanmen St, they also do a great pork bun and other HK style dishes. Nearby on Nanmen St is 1881 Movie, they also have a great value milk tea, there own version of a HK style milk tea and it’s a very comfortable place to relax. Also near the corner of Nanmen and Shangkuo St is Tealand, Taiwan style milk tea and snacks but in a comfortable cafe style environment. On that same street corner but towards the river you’ll find a Chaukee restaurant, it’s a chain store with several branches in the city, delicious, clean and simple. My other favorite cafe was Orange Cat Coffee, this was a regular for me, great milk tea and almost perfect french toast.

While talking about food, not to miss the local delicacies such as the quite famous Qingyuan chicken and of course the local Cantonese cuisine, a simple favorite for me is the chang fen from the alleyway off Shuguang 2nd Road, opposite the hospital.

There is one other type of cafe in Qingyuan that I could not believe how many there was, cat cafes. There is Alley Cat, Honey Cat, Mr Cat, some other cat I cant remember, and there are probably others. Yes, these ones have a whole bunch of luxury breed cats you pat while you slurp away on your milk tea.

Time to relax? I will save you the biggest treat for last. The newly constructed ‘Oriental Charm Spa’, which features swimming, sauna, khan steam room, 3D movie theater, 2 different Virtual Reality attractions, a pinball arcade, pool tables, ping-pong, playground for kids, personal sofa chairs, and free food. Free, surprisingly healthy and very delicious food from the buffet, or fresh by order at four times a day. Amazing right? Well, you can go there for just 88RMB. That’s unbelievable value. But not only that, the staff are terrific people, be sure to say hi.

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I think my favorite part of this city has to be Taihe, it’s easy to get to, and swimming in the pure mountain water rock pools is the one most refreshing things, second would be the walk to Feilai Temple along the river and the temple itself.

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One thing to note about the region is the language, Qingyuanhua, slightly different from Guandonghua and almost completely different from Mandarin, most speak Qingyuanhua and some don’t understand Mandarin. You will find a few English speakers, but certainly not as common as in Guangzhou or Shenzhen.

Hotels are moderately priced, as are rental properties, in Shenzhen you may pay between 4000-6000 for a clean modern one or two bedroom apartment, in Qingyuan it ranges from 1000-3000. Big difference. For property purchase, at the time of writing there were advertisements for new apartments starting from 3500RMB per SQM, in comparison to Shenzhen which would be 20,000RMB per SQM and up.

It’s easy to get to Qingyuan, simply take the fast train, Goatie, from Shenzhen North or Guangzhou South. There are also buses from Shenzhen, but I think the train is better, and also buses from Guangzhou and Guangzhou airport, a bus from Guangzhou is convenient as the cities are quite close. From Qingyuan station there is an orange bus, number 9, which runs into the central area costing 2RMB, a taxi will cost around 30-40 RMB.

Map (I will add a map in the near future!)