“Shenzhen’s Little Sister,” or “The Gateway to Macau.” Whichever way you look at it the smaller of the original Special Economic Zones is struggling to be defined on its own terms. Which is a shame because Zhuhai packs-in a lot more than its size would initially indicate. Many travellers have found themselves staying longer than planned to explore the stunning scenery and hot springs in rural Doumen or to enjoy some beach time on one of the islands that dot Zhuhai’s shore – there are 146 in total with Wai Ling Ding and Dong’ao most developed for tourism.
The city proper – principally the districts of Xiangzhou, Gonbei and Jida – is far more laidback than most delta towns. Zhuhaiers enjoy a gentle way of life, strolling along the coastal path known as Lover’s Road or enjoying one of Zhuhai’s many green spaces – the city has some great parks like Haibing Park leading to the beach and mountainous Bailiandong Park cutting right through the middle of town. Zhuhai’s government has steered clear of the heavy industry that has made certain Guangdong towns rich but blighted their environment, perhaps explaining why Zhuhai’s air quality is the best in the delta.
In an effort to cultivate culture, the authorities and local entrepreneurs are investing heavily in art. Beishan, a refurbished Qing dynasty art village, is already home to the annual jazz and world music festivals as well as a prestigious gallery. The surrounding area will be redeveloped into a cultural zone in the coming years.
Zhuhai is also a popular place for foodies. Being a seaside town, seafood specialities abound and can be enjoyed fresh from the market at Wan Zai Seafood Street or Doumen Seafood Street. If you’re in need of liquid refreshment, partyers typically head to the tawdry Bar Street in Gongbei. But a selection of international watering holes have popped-up in recent years to cater to those who don’t wish to play dice and down shots of beer. The London Lounge and Conneely’s Irish Bar are popular expat haunts and secluded lounges like the two branches of Hill Cocktail are inexpensive and unpretentious when compared with their equivalents in Guangzhou and Shenzhen.