With more and more direct flights to provincial capitals, it’s time to discover the beauty of China beyond Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
With a population of more than 12 million and a fast-growing economy, the capital of Guangdong province is the third largest city in China. Guangzhou is best known for its authentic Cantonese cuisine (similar to what you’d find in Hong Kong), and the dramatic, 600-meter-tall Canton Tower, the tallest structure in China and the fourth tallest in the world.
Why now: The city has just welcomed the 44th member of the fashionable W Hotels family, W Guangzhou (26 Xian Cun Rd., Pearl River New Town, Tianhe, Guangzhou, China, +8620-6628-6628, www.wguangzhou.com). The 317-room hotel is the first property on the Chinese mainland for the brand, which is known for its cutting-edge design, and it is housed in a modern, glass-facade building near the Pearl River. Apart from the usual Woobar and The Kitchen Table, W Guangzhou also has three more restaurants serving East-Asian cuisine.
China’s eighth largest city offers a plethora of sight-seeing opportunities. Tourists mainly visit to take photos at The Great Hall of People, which was built in 1951 and resembles the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, cruise down the Yangtze River to the Three Gorges Dam, walk along the river bank to see the beauty of the city at night, and take a day-trip to visit the stunning UNESCO World Heritage-listed Three Natural Bridges.
Why now: Previously only Thai AirAsia flew directly from Bangkok to Chongqing, deterring some with an aversion to low-cost carriers. But now THAI Airways will start operating flights to Chongqing from Oct 27 onwards.
The capital of Hunan province has a rich 3,000-year-old history dating back to the Qin dynasty. As such, many of the main attractions are historic, such as Kaifu, Lushan and Taogong temples, which showcase the beauty of ancient Chinese architecture. Changsha is also the closest metropolis to Zhangjiajie National Park, about four hours’ drive away, which is better known as “Avatar Park” thanks to its amazing mountainous landscape which inspired the looks of the Hollywood blockbuster.
Why now: From Oct 27, THAI Airways will operate direct flights to Changsha.
Huzhou City rests on the south bank of Taihu Lake, China’s third largest freshwater lake, and offers a picturesque setting for nature lovers. The main attraction is Nanxun Old Town (aka Nanxu Water Town), a trading quarter famous for its ancient architecture and canals spanned by old stone bridges.
Why now: The newly-opened Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort (www.sheraton.com) is the most exciting new arrival in this peaceful town. Sitting on the bank of Taihu Lake, what makes this 321-room hotel stand out is its 26-level O-shaped main building that pops up from the lake—leading some to nickname it the “donut hotel.” The building glows beautifully at night and has become the city’s newest architectural landmark.
This lesser known city was the hometown of the great philosopher Confucius, reflected in the many historical attractions relating to him found here. The most important are the so-called “Three Confucian Sites”: the Temple of Confucius, Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion, all of which have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites since 2004.
Why now: We hadn’t heard much about Qufu until Shangri-la announced the opening of the Shangri-La Qufu on the bank of the Yi River a few months back. The 211-room hotel is the city’s most luxurious hotel offering deals from RMB788 (B4,070), so you might want to plan your fancy trip before everyone else.
Direct flights are operated by Air China (www.airchina.com), China Southern Airlines (www.csair.com/en), Srilankan Airlines (cheapest; roundtrip from B9,590, www.srilankan.com), Air Asia (www.airasia.com), Air Madagascar (www.airmadagascar.com), Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com), Tiger Air (www.tigerair.com) and THAI Airways (www.thaiairways.com).
Direct flights are operated by AirAsia (roundtrip from B9,600) and THAI Airways (from Oct 27)
Direct flights are operated by China Southern Airlines (roundtrip from B10,800) and THAI Airways (from Oct 27)
The nearest airport is in Hangzhou but there’s no direct flight from Bangkok (you can fly on Cathay via Hong Kong, from B11,150), the second nearest is Shanghai and choices are China Eastern Airlines (cheapest; from B15,120, www.flychinaeastern.com), Srilankan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines (www.shanghai-air.com) and THAI Airways
The nearest airport is in Jinan but there’s no direct flight. You have to opt for either Air China (from B14,566 via Shenzhen) or China Southern Airlines (from B14,735 via Guangzhou