Way down in southern Guangxi, fairly close to China’s open border with Vietnam, NANNING was just a medium-sized market town when European traders opened a river route from neighbouring Guangdong in the early twentieth century, starting a period of rapid growth that saw the city supplanting Guilin as the provincial capital. The city has capitalized on recent trade agreements with Vietnam, and today Nanning is a bright, easy-going place with a mild boom-town atmosphere and a mix of leafy boulevards, modern architecture and a handful of narrow, colonial-era streets. There’s good shopping, decent food, a museum strong on regional archeology, and both international and domestic transport connections.

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