Many of the traditions that the Chinese community share in Singapore came from Cantonese practice and beliefs. An estimated 15% of Chinese in Singapore are Cantonese, whose forefathers came from the Guangdong province as craftsmen and artisans in the early 1800s. The Cantonese women who came to Singapore worked as Samsui women who are remembered today as labourers in Singapore’s construction industry. The term ‘Samsui women’ was derived from where they came from — Sanshui in Guangdong.
For the Cantonese in Singapore, visiting Guangzhou and the other Cantonese communities like Hong Kong and Macau will be a deeply meaningful experience. Beyond the cultural heritage, the region has many sights to offer to its visitors. It’s also easy to travel from one place to another by plane as they are all located close to each other.
Best time to visit:
The best time to visit Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong would be in the autumn season, between October to early December, when the weather not too warm and the climate is dry.
Start your trip by flying to Hong Kong. From there you can travel to Macau and Guangzhou easily via ferry or train.
Where to stay:
These are some recommended hotels to stay, which have high ratings and some heritage features.
Macau – Rocks Hotel
Located in Macau’s Fisherman’s Wharf shopping area, the boutique hotel is styled in Victorian-era elegance. Enjoy a stay in one of their rooms, overlooking the harbour and dine at the hotel’s restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese cuisine.
Hong Kong – Hullet House
If you want to fully immerse yourself in traditional culture while in Hong Kong, stay at the Hullet House in Kowloon district. The heritage hotel is housed within the 1881 Heritage complex — one of the four oldest government buildings in Hong Kong.
Guangzhou – Guangdong Victory Hotel
One of the most affordable heritage hotels to stay in, the Guangdong Victory hotel is decked out in colonial architecture and oozes classic elegance.
Cultural Treasures to Look Out For
CC3.0 by User: Cantonese opera (朝暉粵劇團)
Cantonese Opera is much like the Chinese opera that we’ve come across in Singapore. Catch a show at the Yau Ma Tei Theatre in Hong Kong where the art form really flourished amongst the community.
Classic Lingnan Architecture
Classic Lingnan architecture is signature to the Cantonese in Guangzhou. This style of architecture avoids circular structures and has many open structures like balconies. They were designed to be resistant to mould, and moisture as the climate of the region is hot and humid.
Like Singapore, there are colonial relics all around town in Macau and Hong Kong. Macau was the very first European settlement in China and was under the Portuguese administration until 1999.
The Cantonese have their own annual festivals just like the Chinese. While you’re in town, keep an eye out for festivals and ceremonies happening. Some notable festivals for visitors to enjoy are Canton Lotus Festival, Spring and Autumn Festival, Ancestral Worship of Clans.
Cantonese Places to Visit
1) Kowloon Walled City Park, Hong Kong
A wild mix: Kowloon is packed with towering skyscrapers on one side and neon lights on the other side. But overall, it still retains its old-skool vibes along the streets.
Previously known as the Kowloon Walled City, it was the site of rampant gang activity and crime. The Hong Kong government demolished the city and replaced it with a park. Some traces of the original town was preserved, like the famous Yamen building.
Address: Tung Tau Tsuen, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
Opening Hours: Daily, 6:30 am – 11 pm
Getting there: Take the MTR to Lok Fu Station and walk along Junction Road towards the park.
2) 1881 Heritage Hotel, Hong Kong
CC2.0 by Daniel Lee
Once the Marine Police Headquarters, the building is one of the oldest government buildings in Hong Kong and has been preserved as a national monument. A majority of the compound has been redeveloped as a heritage hotel and houses some food and beverage outlets. Step into Hong Kong’s colonial past during your stay at 1881 Heritage.
Address: No. 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Getting there: Take the MTR and alight at Tsim Sha Tsui station. Cut through the commercial buildings, walking towards the harbour. It’ll be hard to miss the 1881 Heritage complex.
3) Tai Fu Tai Mansion, San Tin, Hong Kong
For old souls: San Tin, in contrast, has the unassuming ‘kampung’ vibe through the crawls of night markets and old-school roadside food stalls.
CC2.0 by Can Pac Swire
This historic mansion dated back to the Qing dynasty and belonged to a scholar who was bestowed the title of Tai Fu Tai. Though centuries old, the opulent residence is well-maintained and is one of the most beautifully decorated traditional buildings in Hong Kong.
Address: San Tin, The New Territories, Hong Kong
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Monday, 9 am – 1 pm, 2 pm – 5 pm | Closed on Tuesdays
Getting there: Located in Hong Kong’s New Territories, the mansion is a little further away from the city centre. However, it’s still easily accessible via the MTR. Alight at Sheung Shui station.
4) Ping Shan Heritage Trail, Hong Kong
For comfort-seeker: A modern town with a trail of heritage for you to explore.
CC3.0 by Quality of life HK
The Ping Shan Heritage trail will bring you on a journey to some of the oldest parts of Hong Kong, with residence settling there since the 13th century. Along the path, you’ll be able to see centuries-old villages, temples and ancestral halls, revealing another side of the metropolitan city of Hong Kong.
5) University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Colonial Kampung: Pok Fu Lam has an indigenous village surrounded by residential areas, so you can’t get more nostalgic than this!
CC3.0 by Tksteven
The Hong Kong University is home to many of the historical monuments in Hong Kong that have been declared monuments and slated for preservation. This includes the University Hall, Eliot Hall, May Hall and the Hung Hing Ying building. The University Hall was once the private residence of a Scottish trader, Douglas Lapraik. It was later acquired by the University to be used as its main hall and a male student dormitory.
Address: The University Of Hong Kong University Hall, 144 Pok Fu Lam Rd, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong
Getting there: Take the MTR and alight at HKU Station. Follow the signs towards the University Hall or stop by the Visitor Centre to get a guided tour of the heritage buildings within the campus.
6) A-ma Temple, Macau
Tourists Everywhere: Macau has two faces, if not more – the glitzy gambling enclave, the buzzing avenues and the nostalgic Portuguese colonial buildings. The constant stream of tourists will keep you company.
Many have thought that Macau was named after the A-ma Temple that was built to the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu. The temple offers serenity and spectacular views to its visitors. For those who are to read Chinese inscriptions, the temple is also filled with poems carved into the stone along the cliff.
Address: Barra Square, Rua de Sao Tiago de Barra and Calcada da Barra, Macau
Opening Hours: Daily, 7 am – 6 pm
Getting there: From the city, take any local bus towards Barra and alight at A-Ma Temple.
7) Ruins of St. Paul’s, Macau
One of Macau’s most famous landmark, the Ruins of St. Paul’s, was once the largest church in Asia. The original wooden structure was burned down in a fire in 1835. What’s left of it today is the beautiful granite facade and the staircase leading up to it. Visitors can climb up to the top of the facade to get a better look at the carvings and to get a panoramic view of the city.
Address: Rua de Sao Paulo, Macau
Opening Hours: Daily, 9 am – 6 pm
Getting there: Take bus 3 from the Taipa Ferry Terminal, alighting at Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro.
8) Dr Sun Yat-sen’s Memorial Hall, Guangzhou, Guangdong
Guangzhou has transformed into a sleek concrete jungle with traces of heritage around the corner of the streets.
CC BY 4.0 by Zhou Manying
Many monuments across China pay homage to the late Dr Sun Yat-sen, but very few are as grand and magnificent as the one in Guangzhou. The memorial hall standing on the Guangzhou Presidential Palace was later used as a base for Sun Yat-sen. The compound was heavily refurbished to its current state today.
Admission Fee: 10 RMB
Address: No.259 Dongfeng Middle Road, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou 510030
Opening Hours: Daily, 8 am – 6 pm
Getting there: Take the metro line 2 and get off at Memorial Hall station.
9) Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, Guangzhou, Guangdong
Built in 1894 as an academic temple for the Chen clan, the building is now the Guangdong Folk Art Museum. The structure and existing artworks give visitors a glimpse into Cantonese architectural styles and art forms.
Address: No.34 Enlong Li, Zhongshan 7th Road, Guangzhou 510150
Opening Hours: Daily, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm
Getting there: Take the Metro Line 1 to Chen Clan Academy Station.
10) Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, Guangzhou, Guangdong
CC BY-SA 3.0 by zengsx
The temple of the Six Banyan Trees is a historic temple with towering pagoda structures and cultural artefacts. The beautiful exterior of the temple gave rise to its nickname, “Flower Pagoda”. It is also deemed to be an engineering feat as the pagoda stands at 57-meters tall considering that it was built in the 6th century.
Address: No.87 Liurong Road, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou 510180
Opening Hours: Daily, 8 am – 5 pm
Getting there: Take the Metro to either Ximenkou or Guanyuanqian Station. The temple is a short walk from both stations.
Flavours of Canton: Must-try food in Cantonese Cities
Cantonese food may seem like the “healthy food” in Chinese cuisine. The dishes are generally not greasy and use fewer spices – except for coriander. You can find plenty of steamed dishes in Cantonese cuisine.
Mui Kee century egg congee | Credit: Irene Arieputri
Congee is Hong Kongers’ staple food, especially for supper.
Best in Mui Kee Congee, Hong Kong. Mui Kee Congee is well-known for its silky smooth congee made a la minute. Each spoon comes with the unmistakable wok hei from the cooking technique and big fire. They are also popular for their fish belly and sliced beef congee.
Suan la fen
Suan la fen is sweet potato noodle soaked in sour spicy soup topped with minced meat and coriander.
Best in 旦王, located at 旺角 弼街72號地舖, Hong Kong.
Suan La Fen | Credit: Wei Zhi Chiang
A hybrid of Cantonese and Portuguese cuisines. Grilled chicken in light coconut curry.
Best in Henri’s Galley, Macau.
Claypot frog legs cooked in Sichuan sauce. There are other variations too.
Best in Jiu Zi Tiao Tiao Wa along Bao Yeh Lu, Guangzhou.