Halfway along Guangdong’s 800km coastline, rivers from all over the province and beyond disgorge themselves into the South China Sea through the tropically fertile Pearl River Delta, one of China’s most densely cultivated and developed areas. Perched right at the delta’s northern apex and adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau, the frenetic provincial capital, Guangzhou, is not everyone’s favourite city, but its famous food merits a stop, as does an assortment of museums, parks, monuments and pretty colonial quarters. Outlying delta towns have some history to pick up in passing, but in truth the area is emphatically focused on industry and commerce – as demonstrated by the border city of Shenzhen (深圳, shēnzhèn) where China’s “economic miracle” took its first baby steps.
Farther afield, the rest of the province is more picturesque. Over in the east near Fujian, the ancient town of Chaozhou (潮州, cháozhōu) has well-preserved Ming architecture peppered among a warren of narrow streets, though the regional highlight lies to the east in the form of the fantastical towers around the town of Kaiping (开平, kāipíng).