the grand tour in kaiping

Come with China Tea Leaves to Kaiping (开平), for a weekend getaway to a place with stunning architecture and pleasant villages, not far from Shenzhen. Kaiping is part of the five counties known as the top hometown of overseas Chinese. One in ten people with Chinese heritage living overseas have roots from this region.

It is also the hometown of diaolou (碉楼), a unique building type that acted as a fortress, watchtower, and clan house. Whereas palace and courtyard architecture throughout China expands out as it grows, the diaolou goes up. Thousands of diaolou are sprinkled throughout Kaiping’s districts, often rising seven, eight, or nine stories from low-lying villages. Those that emigrated sent back money they earned abroad, and sometimes brought back Western designs and furnishings adding to the distinction of their diaolou. This building phenomenon put Kaiping on the map as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, and makes it a must-see in Guangdong province today.

On our two day trip to Kaiping, we will see the best of the region. Our private shuttle will take us from Shenzhen to Kaiping, taking about three hours. There, we’ll check into our hotel, the Helen Bergh hotel, one of the best in Kaiping, with a great swimming pool and grand fortress-like design. Then we’ll have lunch at the nearby mall which has lots of options to choose from, including sushi, Western, Cantonese, etc. (just this lunch is not included). After lunch we’ll set out to see the diaolou.

First we’ll visit the Zili village (自力村). Several diaolou are set amongst the rice paddies, including two maintaining their original furnishings. Go inside and climb to the top for classic views of your surroundings. From Zili village, we can go by foot (about 45 minutes walk) to Li Garden (立园). Along the way we’ll see village life, women farming the rice paddies, and other diaolou dotting the greenway. Li Yuan is a masterpiece of Qing dynasty design, but it also incorporates western and middle eastern elements into its myriad gardens. Later we’ll have dinner back in town and have a relaxed evening at the hotel.

The following day, we will head back to the rice fields, which with all the watchtowers and arcades might be starting to look like someplace between King’s Landing and Winterfell. First we’ll visit Jinjiangli (锦江里) village and its fine dialou cluster. Their turrets, arches and colorful frescoes will make you feel like you’ve been transported to medieval Italy. From here, we’ll move on to Majianglong (马降龙) Village, which is known as the most beautiful village in diaolou country. Towers peek out like Roman villas from primordial forests, and from the roof your view dances across the tops of swaying bamboo branches. We’ll make a stop by Chikan (赤坎) town, whose many western buildings have been used as movie sets for historic Chinese films. A late afternoon departure brings you back to Shenzhen by evening.

Without traveling far from Shenzhen, you can see a world of architecture and revive yourself in the slower-paced villages of Guangdong province.

Saturday, September 16: 8:30am pickup in Shekou, travel, visit diaolou
Sunday, September 17: visit diaolou, travel, 7:30pm return to Shekou

Price: Adult: 1600RMB per person (double occupancy), Kids 1.2m+ 1180RMB

Plus – If you book 2 or more people together, receive 50RMB off per person in your group!
For example – book 2 together, 100RMB off for you and your friend. Book 4 together, 200RMB off for each person! Maximum 200RMB off the original price. Ask about kids’ discount.

Price includes: Private shuttle from Shenzhen and ground transportation in Kaiping, 1 night (double occupancy) at Helen Bergh Hotel, meals (except Saturday lunch), entrance tickets, travel insurance, and full service guide by Greta of China Tea Leaves.

Payment: by cash, payment to be made by September 10

Minimum 6 people, maximum 12

Contact Greta on WeChat (lilies-of-the-valley) or by email (chinatealeaves@yahoo.com) to book your spot.

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