Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Amazing Race 24, Episode 3

Guangzhou (China) - Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia)

This leg of The Amazing Race 24 began, as the previous leg had ended, on the tree-lined pedestrianized main street of Shamian Island in Guangzhou, flanked by what were once the banks, consulates, and similar edifices at the center of the European colonial and imperial presence.

In most other countries, such a quiet and park-like car-free low-rise enclave of well-preserved historic buildings at the heart of a mega-city city would be an exclusive district of embassies and mansions for rich people. That’s the case, for example, with much of Zamalek, on an island in the Nile River in the center of Cairo. But such is the fashion among China’s nouveau riche for modernity over tradition that boutique hotels in renovated buildings in Shamian are significantly cheaper than impersonal and characterless highrises elsewhere in the city center.

The only highrise on Shamian Island, the White Swan Hotel — the city’s most prestigious venue when it opened in 1983 — is currently closed for renovation, having been surpassed in ostentation by any number of newly-built monstrosities elsewhere in the city. There’ a private so-called “hostel” on Shamian, but I’d avoid it: It’s just across the street from the White Swan construction site, and you can get much better value for the same price at the Hostelling International hostel on the other side of the river.

Prices at the rest of the hotels on Shamian Island, even those that have undergone more modest renovations, are similar to what they were when I last wrote about Guangzhou five years ago. That means they are a better value than ever for foreign tourists, since prices in big Chinese cities, while still inexpensive by First World standards, have generally increased as business travel to China continues to boom.

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 9 March 2014, 23:59 (11:59 PM)
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