Explore a different side of China with Singapore Airlines and SilkAir
Despite its breathless march to super power status, Beijing, bordered by the Great Wall and with the Forbidden City at its heart, is a capital bound to its past. Beijing remains home to miles and miles of hutong alleyways, grid-like residential architecture with its origins in Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty. In recent years, these lanes have given rise to the city’s most exciting new restaurants, bars and boutique hotels, a process of gentrification that just might help ensure their survival.
Back in its 1930s “Pearl of the Orient” heyday, Shanghai’s decadent dance halls, rooftop restaurants, fine hotels and department stores were the envy of Asia. Today, its best pleasures reside at the intersection of past and present. Look beyond the modern skyscrapers, and you’ll find magnificent European mansions and traditional “lilong” laneways. For every restaurant run by a celebrity chef, there are also numerous streetside cafes serving delicious Shanghainese cuisine.
Locals will tell you Guangzhou has two passions: economics and eating. They are correct – but there is plenty more to discover in China’s third largest city, too. Guangzhou has a laidback character and locals love nothing more than to gather for yum cha – a tradition that originated in the city. Join them for a leisurely repast while sipping tea and watching one of China’s most intriguing cities go about its daily business.
Once a temporary capital of China during World War II, Chongqing (formerly known as Chungking) is one of the most prominent business hubs in the country, and is home to major producers of steel, aluminium, iron and motor cars. The city, tucked between mountains and at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers, has a staggering population of nearly 30 million people, though less than 10 million actually reside in the city's urban areas.
Chengdu has been rising in the ranks as one of China's commercial powerhouses with its ambition to become the world's next Silicon Valley, having attracted numerous tech start-ups in recent years, along with foreign investment estimated at over US$8 billion. But apart from its economic boom, the city is also a colourful hub for foodies – after all, Chengdu was the first Asian city to be named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2010, a nod to Sichuan cuisine being one of the most complex of Chinese cuisines.
Shenzhen is perhaps the perfect example of how China has risen so quickly as a world power. Before 1979 when it became a special economic zone to attract foreign investment, the city was nothing more than a fishing village called Baoan County. Today, Shenzhen is a bustling metropolis of 15 million people and a manufacturing and consumer electronics giant. Admittedly, the city has only a few historical attractions to offer, but it does have several interesting themed parks.
This Chinese city in Fujian Province has constantly been ranked as one of the most liveable cities in China primarily for its tropical climate, clean streets and excellent infrastructure. Xiamen – which was among the handful of Chinese cities that were selected to become Special Economic Zones in the 1980s – has the same sort of energy you would expect from the mega cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but it has the luxury of having cleaner air, more spacious roads, and friendlier residents.