By Hillary Latos
As one of China’s largest cities, Guangzhou is also one of the most important cities in the world. Located in Guangdong province, this is the region where an astounding 70% of the world’s consumer goods are produced with a GDP of $250 billion. Though it hasn’t received the recognition as a tourist destination like Hong Kong, Shanghai or Beijing, it’s been long regarded as a major hub for business travelers and fashion designers who frequent the region’s multitude of factories and markets to build their collections, grow their business and amass great fortunes. Considered to be one of the wealthiest cities in China, Guangzhou represents the promised land where wealth sees no boundaries and a destination for workers to migrate from the countryside to fulfill their hopes and dreams for a better life. But far beneath the gleaming sky scrapers and business centers lies an ancient city steeped in history dating back thousands of years, which also served as a battleground and turning point to victory in overthrowing Imperialism and shaping what modern China is today. Now it’s never been easier to explore this fascinating city with China Southern Airlines’ direct flight from JFK to Guangzhou shaving off hours of travel time through alternate connections to Asia.
Bask in the hospitality of China’s most luxurious national airline, China Southern Airlines, which is the largest airline in China and third largest in the world. For business and first class passengers the moment you enter the lounge at JFK to the time you land every detail is attended to. Relax and rejuvenate in your own private oasis at the luxuriously appointed Sky Pearl VIP Lounge. The largest and most luxurious in China, the lounge spans over 15,000 square feet which offers comfortable loungers, massage rooms and showers to refresh before a flight, as well as an array of delicious Cantonese cuisine and delicacies.
The JFK to Guangzhou flight uses a brand new 777-300 ER Boeing jet with 4 classes of service. The 16 hour flight will literally fly by in the 4 luxurious skybeds in First Class designed in a cocoon shape offering the utmost in privacy and comfort. The 34 Business Class seats extend 180 degrees to a fully flat bed with plenty of room to catch some much needed rest. One of the exclusive offerings of China Southern Airlines is their popular premium economy class that offers an elevated experience from Economy with an enlarged seating pitch to 38” with 6 inches of additional legroom for a relaxing flight. All cabins are equipped with the world’s most advanced TopSeries AVANT fourth‐generation android touch screen entertainment system featuring audio and video‐on‐demand, games, 3D maps, books, transit information, in‐flight duty‐free sales and other services.
One of the areas China Southern Airlines prides itself in is its cuisine, working meticulously with Western and Cantonese Master chefs to produce exclusive seasonal dishes that change every three months and ensure an unparalleled dining experience. In First or Business Class the dishes are elegantly presented and are on par with some of Guangzhou’s finest restaurants. Select from delectable Cantonese specialties such as lobster with a ginger onion sauce, braised abalone and sea cucumber in oyster sauce, steamed cod with XO sauce or hot clay pot with black bean ribs or braised lotus root red date pork ribs soup all created without MSG. Western gourmet specialties range from a foie gras terrine with port wine jelly, pistachio crusted chicken breast with a mushroom risotto, seared lamb chops with lamb jus or beef filet medallions with a red wine sauce.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
There is a plethora of activities in Guangzhou, whether finding bargains in the bustling markets, strolling along the electrifying Pearl River, engaging in the vibrant nightlife or enjoying a traditional Cantonese feast at one of their fine dining establishments, this is truly a city that never sleeps. The Pearl River is to Guangzhou what the River Seine is to Paris, a beautiful waterway that cuts through the city connecting the historical sites with the modern with over 10 bridges spanning the length. The waterway comes to life at night with its vibrant neon lit buildings and is best viewed by an evening cruise. With the beautiful waterside views this is naturally the home to Guangzhou’s most luxurious hotels like the W and the Ritz Carlton as well as its thriving nightlife scene with exclusive nightclubs and lounges filled with wealthy factory owners, models and ex pats.
For a quiet respite in this bustling city, visit Yuexiu Park in the middle of downtown that occupies 212 acres landscaped with artificial lakes and seven rolling hills creating a peaceful and zen atmosphere. Experience traditional Chinese architecture and landscaping that features pagodas, sweeping trees, and pavilions as a backdrop to the historical relics of the city. The most culturally significant sculptures are housed here including the emblem of Guangzhou- the stone sculpture of the Five Rams, Zhenhai Tower, the site of the Ming Dynasty City Wall and Square Cannon Site as well as the historical and art museums.
Explore the historic Shamian Island in the Liwan district that resembles a European city with carefully preserved Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical mansions and buildings that are living testament of the strategic importance of Guangzhou in the colonial period. Now home to foreign consulates and expats, the best preserved example of this period is the White Swan Hotel originally erected in the 18th century.
If anything, Guangzhou is a shopper’s paradise. The colorful and lively Beijing Road is a favorite amongst locals and tourists. Similar to Times Square or Herald Square, it’s filled with neon lit stores and shopping centers selling everything from fast fashion to Asian antiques, along with an array of tasty yet inexpensive and fine dining eateries to experience true Cantonese cuisine. For those looking for bargains, Guangzhou can be quite overwhelming offering a number of massive wholesale and retail markets scattered throughout the city that spans several city blocks per category. Whether you are looking for electronics, cosmetics, watches, handbags/ leather goods, clothing, shoes, tea, lighting, eye glasses, jade, fabric, toys or something esoteric, there is a particular market for it with a mind boggling selection to choose from.
For most Westerners, the preferred area to stay is in the Tianhe district – the modern and futuristic commercial hub of the city. Home to the majority of new five-star luxury hotels such as the Westin, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Sheraton and Sofitel hotels- everything in this area embodies the dynamic pace and extreme wealth of the city with sleek skyscrapers, high end shopping malls, and a variety of upscale restaurants serving Cantonese and Western cuisines.
Whether travelling for business or pleasure Guangzhou offers a window to China’s modern culture and the China of tomorrow. Whether a destination or a stop to travelling to Asia, this dynamic metropolis has historic spots coexisting amongst modern development where ancient traditions meld with Western ideals, and the spirit of Guangzhou will always remain with you luring you back with plenty of reasons to return.
The direct flights between sister cities Guangzhou and New York offer a cultural bridge between the two fascinating cultures that have many similiarities. “By partnering with China Southern Airlines, I LOVE NEW YORK is taking a giant step forward to promote the best place in the world to travel– New York State,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “Collaborating with Asia’s largest airline will make everything that we have to offer more accessible to China’s bustling market, quite literally providing a gateway to the iconic Empire State. New York is experiencing record levels of tourism in both New York City and Upstate New York, and our administration will continue to foster this surge so that spending by visitors and investment by businesses can continue to grow local economies.” China Southern Airlines Chairman Si Xianmin said, “We are thrilled to launch our direct route to New York City and partner with the Governor in his initiative to promote Chinese tourism in New York, a state not only garnered in part with epic skyscrapers but also one endowed with natural beauty and resources and one that harbors a culturally diverse and friendly people.”
With the multitude of materials, creative energy, and production facilities, leading fashion and accessory designers have been travelling or living in Guangzhou to design and produce realize their collections. Here we speak to two designers about what they love about Guangzhou and where they find inspiration.
First up, Rem D. Koolhaas, Creative Director and Co-Founder United Nude
What are some of your favorite things about Guangzhou and what do you look forward to most?
Guangzhou is a very vibrant and a real 24 hour city. Because of the warm climate there is a busy street life even at night. People are not at home watching TV, but are out and about eating, drinking, playing games, etc. The city itself looks a bit messy, but getting from one place to another is highly efficient as many of the roads are stacked on top of each other so for instance going around by car at night feels like flying: very Blade Runner-ish.
What places do you visit to put together your collection and what is your process in designing a full collection?
Nowadays we bring in more people from outside to join us with our collections. At the beginning of the current (Fall 15) season we actually organized a 2-week workshop where we had 5 extra designers from all over the world brought in to work with us. I travel a lot too, so ideas can come from anywhere really.
Where do you find inspiration for your collection?
This time we designed the collection more than before with the thought of what we would like to wear ourselves, also because we had more people involved than before. We also had new full-time designers join and some others leave, so it was a very fresh and positive moment for us. We ended up making a more focused collection than before. If there were doubts about a product, for instance about if it was cool enough, it simply wouldn’t make it.
Do you prefer to fly into Guangzhou or Hong Kong?
The easiest thing to say here would be Hong Kong, but this wouldn’t be fair toGuangzhou. Guangzhou is rough and dirty, but at the same time it is many time more affordable so for space, opportunity and creativity Guangzhou beats Hong Kong easily. Guangzhou is also much bigger than Hong Kong and has twice as many people.
We then spoke with Kara Lusardi, Creative Director for Bobi
What do you like about travelling on China Southern Airlines?
I love their premium economy class, because business is so expensive, but the premium economy is really in between the 2 classes and is only $500 extra each way and I wish they would expand this section. It makes such a big difference and it’s easier on me.
What are the benefits of flying directly into Guangzhou vs. Hong Kong?
The direct Guangzhou flight is why I always fly on China Southern Airlines, it literally shaves off 10-12 hours from my trip. If I took Cathay Pacific, I would have to fly into Hong Kong then take Dragon Air to Guangzhou, so coming back I would have to check in 3 hours before, and because it’s a short flight it’s always delayed, and the last time they had a 2 hour delay and then an 8 hour layover in Hong Kong, and in that time I could’ve nearly been home already if I took China Southern. It takes double the time to go through Hong Kong. Also the pilots on China Southern Airlines are some of the best in the world and very educated. My family members are pilots and when I fly with them I feel well taken care of and it’s just so much more convenient to fly direct. Also the Guangzhou airport is very chic and built up.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Guangzhou?
A lot of Chinese women don’t go out to bars or clubs, it’s really a man’s town. I do have very lengthy dinners with my coworkers. I usually only eat Cantonese food when I’m there as a vegetarian I can find plenty of options. The hotel restaurants usually serve the best food. I’ve been going for so many years and I actually crave some of the dishes there that I can’t find in the States. Also they have an incredible variety of beautiful fresh fruits that I can only find there from street vendors, in the same way NY has pretzel vendors.
What do you look forward to the most in Guangzhou?
As a designer the main reason besides visiting the factory, I love the fabric market in Guangzhou, it’s humongous. It’s better than the fabric market in Hong Kong or Shanghai. I find everything there, and it’s what I look forward to most because that’s how I develop my line. I usually first go to NY to shop for the best heavyweight garments that I feel will still be relevant next fall. Then I bring all of these fabrics with me with a plan to source one fabric at a time by showing it to different vendors in the market. You have to go in with a reference to find something comparable.
Are there any misconceptions about Guangzhou?
I don’t think most Americans even know Guangzhou exists. They think of China being Shanghai, Macau or Hong Kong. You’d be amazed about the size of the population yet it’s not a household name. Every building is the height of the World Trade Center. The amount of wealth in Guangzhou is also shocking, because China is still a poor country. I’ve never seen so many Maseratis, Porsches, Bentleys and I live in Beverly Hills.
What do you like most about working in China?
I’ve been working with Chinese companies for over 20 years and I’ve seen so much change over the years. Guangzhou’s economy has increased and grown so much over the last 2 years and even their minimum wage has gone up, China is definitely rising and everyone is making more money there.
Where do you find inspiration?
Being a fashion designer is a very stressful career. The hours and competitiveness make it difficult. When I go to Guangzhou I can get a month’s worth of work done in a week because I’m working directly with the factory and can make corrections and then design all night in my hotel room. I love Chinese people and love working there. I find the people to be so peaceful and such good people that it restores my balance. Every time I’m there I have a rebirth. They are humble, they may be poor but they are happy. I calm down a lot there and can restore my sense of love for my job and can create and focus.
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