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Home Tour Options Guangzhou Walking Tours Sai Kwan Walking Tour

Sai Kwan Walking Tour with Unique Food Tasting

Historical Background

Guangzhou (which Europeans called Canton), an ancient city and one of the largest in South China, had flourished as an administrative and trading center for over 1000 years before the Westerners arrived. Arab and Persian traders had lived in its foreign quarters under the Tang dynasty since the 8th century. Like most traditional Chinese cities, Canton had a large wall surrounding the central districts, major avenues within the wall, extensive market districts outside the wall, and constant contact by riverboats with the surrounding countryside and distant ports.

View of Canton c. 1800 China

View of Canon c. 1800 © Peabody Essex Museum 2006 Photo Sexton-Dykes

Canton was the final destination for Western merchants, who could only live there during the four-month trading season. We call the trading system that lasted from 1700 to 1842 on China’s south coast the “Canton system”. This view shows some of the foreign quarters, called factories or hongs, which included living quarters, warehouses, and offices for trade. (These factories did not manufacture anything; the name comes from “factor,” an older English word for “commercial agent.”) The Chinese called them “hongs,” or merchant shops. The factory buildings lined up along the waterfront, each with its distinctive national flag. The British were the first to arrive, but soon after the Austrians, Danish, Dutch, French, Spanish, Swedish, and Americans followed them. The entire quarter acquired the name “Thirteen Factories.” Fires frequently struck the foreign hongs and the city in general. The foreign quarter burned down in fires in 1822, 1841, but in 1856 another fire destroyed them completely, just as the Chinese and foreigners began mobilizing for a second Opium War. After their loss in this war, China had to open more treaty ports and allow foreigners access to the interior, but the foreign enclave in Canton still attracted a majority of the foreign traders. The entire trade area first moved to temporary quarters on Honam Island across the Pearl River, and then to a man-made island further up the river named Shamian Island. Shamian Island was entirely cut off from the local population, accessible only over two guarded bridges.

Guangzhou Shamien Island

Site of foreign distict on Shameen Island, Canton, 1850s, lithograph based on photo by John Thomson

Each hong merchant had to take responsibility for a particular foreigner, and the hong merchants faced constant scrutiny by officials to make sure the foreigners remained under control. Many of the hong merchants were not native Cantonese but rather immigrants from Fujian. Like their English and American counterparts, they had left their homes to make a fortune in commerce. The hong merchants and the high-ranking officials, or mandarins, lived in opulent style.


On this Guangzhou tour, leave modern Guangzhou behind and dive deep into the heart of Old Canton. A short walk takes us to Shamian Island, which was the concession of Britain and France in 19th century with European style and features.

Shamian Island

Moving on, your Guangzhou walking tour explores one of the city's Sai Kwan districts, the old residential granite streets and lanes of the city. This style of housing blends Western and Chinese architecture, and is unique to Guangzhou. Hundred years of history has been preserved in the Sai Kwan civil house, elaborate decorations, the grey brick and pebble doorsteps in the Fengyuan Community, it's a fascinating neighborhood to visit. You'll also have the chance to see inside one ancient building, with a visit to the former residence of Dr. Jeme Tien Yow - known as the "Father of China's Railroad". You'll also wander through a typical Chinese Medicine open air market and pet street to give you a true dose of local Guangzhou culture.

Guangzhou Shangxiajiu Pedestrian StreetGuangzhou small alley
Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street                                            Guangzhou Backstreet

In spite of the residence, another attraction in Sai Kwan for tourists is the traditional food in this area. The most authentic Cantonese food and snacks can be found in Sai Kwan, you'll stop off at a popular street restaurant to sample some of Guangzhou's famous snacks before hitting up Lychee Bay, where you'll see some magnificently restored mansions dating back to the early 1900s. The areas around the Litchi Bay are typical of Lingnan water towns, enriched by a great culture that spans thousands of years. Further along the road you'll have the chance to step inside the Southern Chinese Garden and watch the Cantonese Opera (depending on availability). Before finish the Sai Kwan tour, we will visit the Taoist temple, getting you to know our traditional religion and belief.

Guangzhou Cantonese Opera Performance

If you're lucky enough to be here, you will see the traditional Cantonese opera performance.

At the end of your tour we give you a list of our favourite places, shopping areas, local restaurants and food stores to enjoy during the rest of your time in the city.

Tour Highlights

  • Intriguing history, the rise and fall Thirteen-Trades Monopoly;
  • Explore the backstreets and Old Canton, A truly important part of Guangzhou life;
  • Visit the old bund of Canton;
  • Slurp on some Traditional Guangzhou snacks;
  • Experience an authentic Chinese tradition tea ceremony in Guangzhou;
  • Explore a street markets, park and architectures along the tour;
  • Explore one of our traditional religions: Taoism;

Tour Information

Type of Tour: Private Tour -- Just for you and your travel mates

Tour Departure Date: Available year round on request

Duration: Approx. 3 hours OR 5 hours;

Price of 3-Hour Itinerary

1 Guest 2  Guests 3~4 Guests 5 Guests & above
USD $60 USD $80 USD $100 Price available upon request
  • ★ The price is the total amount for your group and not per-person charge;
  • ★ Tour will be finished at metro line 1 Changshou Lu station;
    This 3-hour itinerary can be blended with the Rural Hakka Village Tour with Local Family Visit, please email us to get a favorable quotation.

Price of 5-Hour Itinerary

1 Guest 2  Guests 3~4 Guests 5 Guests & above
USD $90 USD $110 USD $130 Price available upon request
  • ● The price is the total amount for your group and not per-person charge;
  • ● Tour will be finished at metro line 5 Zhongshanba station;


Tour Starting Time: The best time is at 11:30 am (5-hour tour) OR 1.30 pm (3-hour tour)

Walking Distance
3-hour walking tour: Approx. 3 km (1.74 mi)
5-hour walking tour: Approx. 6 km (3.73 mi)

What's Included:
1. Meet and greet at downtown hotel;
2. Unique souvenir produced by us;
3. Professional guide;

What's NOT Included:
1. Additional costs for food and personal expenses;
2. Transportation to and from the tour starting point;

Who May Attend
Highly recommend this tour to anybody visiting Guangzhou for the first time. This experience is not recommended for young children or people who find it difficult to walk for long periods of time.

Private Tour
This tour can be mixed with a variety of local food. We will have chance to try the Yum Cha & Dim Sum, bamboo-pressed noodles, Double Layer Steamed Milk and other Cantonese style desserts, Cantonese style salty pancake and multi-layer Chinese pancake along the journey. To keep your tour cost low, we have not included entrance fees, food, drink and transport in your tour price, they are usually very reasonable, so that you have more option according to your needs and budget. Please cover our expenditure in the tour (tickets, meals, transports, etc). However, these will be minimal. Based on our experience, except for the transportation fee between hotel and tour starting point. Usually the additional costs as follows:

  1. Dim Sum at local tea house, it costs around CNY¥35 per head;
  2. Bamboo-pressed Noodle, it costs around CNY¥10~16 per head;
  3. Cold Crispy Fish Skin, it costs CNY¥24;
  4. Double Layer Steamed Milk, it costs CNY¥14 for a bow;
  5. Multi-layer Chinese pancake, it costs CNY¥2;

Booking Process
To complete your Guangzhou Private Tour booking, a 30%~50% deposit is required via Paypal or telegraphic transfer after we set the tour date and tour duration with you. We will send you a PayPal invoice, you will have the option to use your credit cards or deposit card to complete the payment process (even if you are not a PayPal account holder). Note: A 4.7%~5.79% Paypal transaction fees will be charged on the total amount of the transaction when deposit is made by Paypal. Once payment is made, the booking of your Guangzhou Private Tour is confirmed. The remaining balance is payable in cash only on tour day with us, you can pay in either U.S. Dollar or Chinese Yuan, whatever is convenient for you. We prefer U.S. Dollars without any damage and stain, otherwise please provide Chinese Yuan.

Covered Areas For Meeting Up and Greeting
Please note that hotels located in the area longer than 40 minutes by public transport from Beijing Road metro station (Subject to the Google map) will incur USD$20 extra for meeting up charge; No extra charge if meet at tour starting point (Beijing Lu metro station); No meet up service if hotel located in Nansha District, Conghua District and Zengcheng District. We would recommend that you book your hotel at the downtown areas (Yuexiu district, Liwan district, Haizhu district and Tianhe district). Meet up service only goes with the tour without stoppage time. We don't provide return service, but we will help you call a taxi and ask the driver send you back to your hotel.