Thursday, March 21

Vibrant first-tier cities despite typhoon havoc


Tourists snapping a busy scene at Up Down 9th Pedestrian Street.

ON Sept 16, Typhoon Mangkhut swept through southern China with winds up to 162 kmh, disrupting the daily lives of millions in the first-tier cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

The deadly windstorm hit six days before our second final stop in Guangzhou. We were worried our itinerary in the sprawling capital of Guangdong Province might have been blown out of kilter with the expected messy aftermath.

However, when we arrived on Sept 22, to our surprise, it wasn’t as bad as we had thought.

We were told this could be due to the government’s green development and implementation initiative. Developing Guangzhou into a green city could have contributed to keeping the devastation to a minimum.

Over the past decade, urbanisation and heavy industrialisation have grown so quickly in Guangzhou that it has now become the third busiest commercial city in China — after Shanghai and Beijing.

As a first-tier city with a 20-million population, Guangzhou is now considered the most-populous built-up metropolitan area in the southern China.

For 2,000 years since the Qi Dynasty, Guangzhou, also known as the Ram City, has been the centre of political, military, financial, cultural and scientific research development.

Cable-car ride at Chimelong Safari Park.

Travelling through the city’s streets, lined with a colossus of skyscrapers, we were impressed by the woodlots of trees, planted along street sides and surrounding high-rise buildings – the result of the government’s green development.

The city’s green development programme under the Bureau of Forestry and Landscaping of Guangzhou Municipality, started in 2010 with afforestation carried out on pedestrian bridges and overpasses. Seven years later, the length of the greenway has reached 300m and beyond.

The Municipality’s effort has won numerous awards from the Central Government such as for National Model City for Forestry Ecology Construction, National Major Tourist City, National Garden City and Land Greening Contribution Unit.

There are also international accolades, including the Dubai International Award for the Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment, the International Best Practices (Strategic Planning) (Kenya), the UN 2011 International Liveable Communities (Gold Medal Award) and the UN Environment Programme Award for Outstanding Environmental Planning (2011).

During our two-day stay, we’ve visited Li Zhi Wan Riverside, Guangzhou Tower, Yuexiu Park’s famous Five-Ram Sculpture, Shamian Island, Sun Yat-Sun’s Memorial Hall and Up Down 9th Pedestrian Street (ShangXiaJiu Pedestrian Street) which are among some of the most significant places in Guangzhou.

A lot of damaged trees in the city were cut down in the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut.

Key historical relic

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall is a key historical relic, protected by the local government. The octagon-shaped building, construction of which started in 1929 and completed in 1931, was designed by Lu Yan Zhi, a Chinese architect, and built with funds raised by local and overseas Chinese in memory of Sun Yat-sen.

Up Down 9th Pedestrian Street is a famous and busy business street in Liwan District of Guangzhou. The area is named as such because it combines two major roads – Upper 9th Road (Shangjiu Lu) and Down 9th Road (Xia Jiu Lu) and traverses two other roads – Baohua Lu and Wenchang Lu.

The combined roads are about 1,200m long with more than 300 shops, selling fashion items, food and beverages. During the peak season, tens of thousands of city revellers are observed to throng the city at any one time.

We wrapped up our visit with a half-day exploration of Chimelong Safari Park, consisting of two parts – Safari on Wheels and Walk-through Animal Exhibits.

Some of the Park’s highlights are the giant pandas, the white tigers, feeding the giraffes, and a nursery where new-born animals are cared for.

We initially thought having to spend six hours at the Park was a bit too long, especially with the very warm weather. But once inside, it was seemingly impossible not to want to move from one area to the next – despite the heat — with hundreds of sight-seeing spots and recreational games available for both young and old.

However, those who wish to spend time at the Park are advised to physically and mentally prepare for a hectic, yet exciting, experience. For me, despite the toll from a long walk-about – sore feet, sweat and exhaustion — plus happily, plenty of laughs — it was worth it.


Still vibrant

Our final stop was Shenzhen, two hours from Guangzhou. The day we arrived, it was already a week since Typhoon Mangkhut struck, leaving behind a lot of damage around the city.

A smaller replica of Eiffel Tower at Shenzhen’s Windows of the World.

Rows upon rows of trees had to be cut down after being forcefully uprooted the strong winds. There was plenty of cleaning up to do but this major city in Guangdong Province with estimated 20-million population remained vibrant.

Shenzhen, the fourth busiest business city (after Guangzhou Shanghai and Beijing) is an important financial and economic centre of China as well as a principal port for global maritime trade.

In 1980, Shenzhen was designated as the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) by the late Deng Xiao Ping, the chief architect of China’s Reform.

Over the past 40 years, Shenzhen has seen immense economic growth and social development. Every bit of it reflects the historic course of China’s Reform and Opening-Up to the world. We got to learn about Shenzhen and its history during our visit to the Shenzhen Museum.

Since elevation from ordinary city to SEZ status, Shenzhen has become the largest migrant city in China. Not only has it witnessed major immigration from other China provinces, but also from foreign countries like Indonesia, making Shenzhen a colourful and diverse city.

We visited several places in Shenzhen, representing considerable diversity such Windows of the World, Dutch Floral Town, Hakka Town, and Splendid China – Folk Cultural Village.

The world’s largest and most comprehensive miniature park — Splendid China – Folk Culture Village — boasts nearly 100 famous tourist attractions such as historical relics, natural landscapes, folk houses and other significant landmarks.

Hytera is China’s biggest multi-purpose supplier and its innovative scope covers public security, utility, transportation, enterprise and businesses.

Visit to Hytera

Our visit ended with a courtesy visit to Hytera Communication Corp Ltd, a China-based leading global professional mobile radio (PMR) solutions provider, dedicated to supplying customised and complete professional communications solutions.

Set up in 1993, its innovations cover public security, utility, transportation, enterprise and businesses with goals to improve organisational efficiency and make the world safer.

Hytera responds to market requirements through its research and development (R&D) centres within and outside China, including Shenzhen, Harbin, Nanjing, Hebi and Dongguan Songshan Lake, as well as Bart Meade (Germany), Cambridge (UK), Zaragoza (Spain), Vancouver (Canada) and Toronto (Canada).

As the biggest supplier of PMR products in China, Hytera specialises in Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA), Digital mobile radio (DMR), Police Digital Trunking (PDT) and Long Term Evolution (LTE) technologies.

Its deputy general manager, Wilson Hu shared that the company strove to create a safer and smarter city with its innovative products to provide effective communication.

“The PMR community has a long history of providing secure and reliable services. The Chinese government is taking safety issues very seriously, thus, we’re striving to provide only the best products and reliable network to protect both the government and the people,” he said.

Guangzhou and Shenzhen, both in Guangdong Province, are first-tier cities with public transportation and well-planned infrastructures that provide conveniences for tourists to explore at their own pace.

Backpackers can take their time, planning routes to places of interests. The weather may be warmer than the other provinces all year long but rest assured, these cities are worth visiting.

The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.