Guangzhou, China, provides a nice bridge to the outside world. It is located 80 mi/130 km northwest of Hong Kong and 1,200 mi/1,900 km south of Beijing.

Guangzhou hosted the 16th Asian Games in November 2010, and like Beijing in 2008, it used the major sporting event to reinvigorate its image. An entire minicity, the New Pearl River City, was created east of downtown and features scores of hotels, tourism sites and cultural venues linked by an enhanced subway system to the purpose-built Asian Games stadiums in the south.

Some new attractions have already taken shape. Designed like a twisting candelabra, the Canton TV Tower dominates the skyline. On the opposite bank of the broad Pearl River is Zaha Hadid's dazzlingly futuristic Guangzhou Opera House. A vast provincial museum opened in 2010, and Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie is designing a 27-hole golf course and club, Imperial Springs, in the hills fringing the city.

Guangzhou's massive urban revamp is also driving the hotel scene, with a number of new hotels already open and others in the works. Avoid travel to Guangzhou in the second half of both April and October, when all hotels are booked for the Chinese Import and Export Commodities Fair, China's largest international trade show, also known as the Canton Fair.

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