You're Going to Love Shantou
Authentic and bustling, the seaside city of Shantou boasts a thriving metropolitan culture, friendly and inquisitive inhabitants, and - unfortunately - a disappearing historic center.
Those wanting to see a major Chinese city unadulterated by Westernization and hordes of visitors would do well to visit this destination. Here, you can get a feeling for the rapid change that has transformed China's urban areas in recent decades. From local specialties like Beef Balls to historic monuments like the Palace-Temple of the Old Mother, there's something for everyone in Shantou.
Top 5 Reasons to Visit Shantou
1. The Old Town Is Disappearing
Those interested in Shantou's history should note that much of the old town is not being preserved for posterity - the clock is running.
2. Famous Local Delicacies
Shantou's cuisine is well known throughout China. Be sure to try baked oyster cakes and seafood while in town.
3. It's Not Touristy
In many rural areas of Shantou, locals are not used to seeing visitors, making it an attractive destination for those looking spend time off the beaten path.
4. Stunning Islands
Nan'ao Island sits just off the coast, and it offers beautiful vistas of the sea and the continent.
5. Historic Museums
Shantou is known for its history museums, which include the Cultural Revolution Museum, a fascinating look at the Cultural Revolution.
What to do in Shantou
1. Blissed-Out Beaches And Exotic Birdlife
Shantou's premier attraction probably lies offshore, in the form of the gorgeous Nan Ao islands. Made up of 23 islets, this archipelago can be reached by ferry from Shantou port, and you won't want to leave. Beaches like Qing Ao are idyllic spots to recline, soak up some rays, and allow the world to pass by. Huanghua Mountain is a scenic gem, with hiking trails and views across to Shantou itself, while there are excellent bird-watching stations to get to know the island's abundant migratory visitors.
2. How To Turn Rice Into Sheer Luxury
Shantou honors its businessmen like few other cities, and none more so than Chen Cihong, a local entrepreneur who made it big in the 19th century selling rice in Siam and Hong Kong. With his riches, Chen constructed this sumptuous mansion, which acts like a portal straight into the life of a 19th century merchant. It's also huge, with more than 500 rooms, and built in an interesting fusion of European and Chinese styles - as was the custom among the south coast's commercial elite. And as a bonus, there's also a folk theater on site which shows puppetry and Cantonese Opera.
3. Entertainment And Scenery Rolled Into One
Picture everything you'd want from an urban park, and Zhongshan probably has it. This relaxing spot just southwest of central Shantou was laid out in the 1920s across 50 acres, and it's a great example of Chinese landscape artistry. After crossing an elaborate entry bridge, and passing under a 30 meter tall gateway, you can choose between the tranquil eastern section, and the more lively western part, which has rides, stalls, and plenty of entertainment. Shantou's main zoo rounds off a pretty spectacular city park.
4. Candid Commemoration Of A Chinese Cataclysm
Although Shantou Museum is larger, this museum is more intriguing. It commemorates a dark period in Chinese history, when at Mao's urging, party cadres turned on each other, trying to purge backsliders from revolutionary ranks. Most of the time, it's glossed over or celebrated in Communist China, but this museum in Tashan is much more nuanced. It also includes a powerful memorial to those who died (and many thousands perished), where you'll find flowers and mourners paying their respects.
5. A Vision Across The Water
Rising over southern Shantou elegantly, Queshi is a forested expanse of semi-wilderness within walking distance of the town center. To get there, you'll have to cross the harbor bridge, which takes you into a zone of around 40 climbable hills, subtropical beaches, and exotic pavilions. If you fancy a burrow, head to Chuihong Cave in Tashan, which is 1,200 meters long, or have a clamber over the dramatic rocky terrain of Yanfeng. A little south, Su'an Village also offers a vision of traditional China, strangely close to the factories of Guangdong.
When to Visit Shantou
Shantou enjoys temperate weather throughout the year, with average daily highs peaking at just under 90 during July and only dipping to 65 in January.
How to Get to Shantou
The Jieyang Chaoshan International Airport (SWA) has international flights to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo, and other major Asian cities. Domestic connections abound. The airport express bus takes passengers to Shantou Railway Station, the Golden Gulf Hotel, and the Overseas Chinese Hotel.
A bullet train connects to Xiamen and Shenzhen, and from there to most of China's major cities. The ticket from Xiamen costs ¥119.
Many highways link Shantou to other Chinese cities. The G78 travels northwest towards Meizhou, the G15 travels southwest along the coast to Shanwei and Hong Kong, and the G324 travels northeast along the coast to Xiamen.
A bus service operates between the city and Hong Kong and takes about 5.5 hours.
Airports near Shantou
Airlines serving Shantou
Where to Stay in Shantou
The full range of hotels can be found in Shantou, with budget options such as Yijia International Hotel, mid-range choices like the Shantou International Hotel, and luxury establishments such as the Sheraton Shantou Hotel.
Popular Neighborhoods in Shantou
Shantou Free Trade Zone - this is an experimental zone that houses the city's trade and finance centers along with some great restaurants.
Queshi Scenic Area - this quiet, green space is a tranquil spot offering good views across the city.
Nan'ao - this island is relatively underdeveloped and is home to quaint fishing villages.
Where to stay in popular areas of Shantou
Most booked hotels in Shantou
How to Get Around Shantou
A number of buses serve the city, but routes and schedules vary depending on the operators. Stops are announced in both Mandarin and Teochew. Tickets are about ¥6 to get from one side of the city to another.
Metered taxis serve the city but drivers prefer to negotiate with foreigners. The meter charge is ¥10 for the first 1.6 miles, and ¥2.40 for each additional 0.6 miles.
Traffic is hectic within the city, and a Chinese driver's license is required, so visitors are not advised to drive.
The Cost of Living in Shantou
A number of major stores are located on the Jinsha E Road in the Longhu District. Jeans cost about ¥150 in the city.
Groceries and Other
There is a Walmart on Jinsha E Road and other grocers can be found throughout the city. A pound of potatoes is about ¥2, and a large bottle of water costs about ¥2.
Where to Eat in Shantou
Recommended restaurants include the Lianhua Vegetarian Restaurant and LaoMa Gong Zong Qiu (Xin Guan Jie). Low-key meals cost about ¥20, while more expensive ones run up to ¥60 for a main course.