Guangzhou, known for centuries as Canton, is the capital of Guangdong Province and one of China's most prosperous cities. At first glance it may look not unlike an Asian Los Angeles, with kilometer after kilometer of ring roads and flyovers, skyscrapers and one shopping mall leading into the next. While it's true that the city is not overly endowed with essential sights, there is a surfeit of peaceful parks and a couple of world class museums. What's more, wandering the busy streets filled with the newly rich shopping and gawping peasants up from the countryside offers an up-close look at the dichotomy that is modern China.
Those in search of the past should head for Shamian Island, a former foreign concession in the southwestern part of the city, where bits of ‘old Canton' survive
Central Guangzhou is bounded by semi-circular Huanshi Lu, literally ‘circle-city road', to the north and Pearl River to the south. A larger ring road-the Huancheng Expressway-defines the roughly oval-shaped greater metropolitan area.
Guangzhou's longest street is usually divided into numbered sctors. Alternatively they are labeled by the points of the compass: bei (north), dong (east), nan (south) and xi (west)-as in Huanshi Donglu, which is sometimes written in English as Huangshi East Road.