Kaiping (开平: Kāipíng; Cantonese Yale "Hoi1 Ping4") is a county-level city of about 700,000 under the administration of Jiangmen prefecture in the Pearl River Delta region of Guangdong Province in China. It is the ancestral home of many overseas Chinese and is famous for its castle-like watchtowers and dwellings built by overseas Chinese in a mixure of western and eastern style.
From Guangzhou it is easiest to take a bus from Fangcun Bus Station (芳村汽车站) at Kengkou Metro Station (坑口站) direct to Kaiping Yici Station. The ride takes about 2 hours and should cost ¥57.
From Hong Kong, you can take a 'limousine' bus from Portland street (on your left when you exit Prince Edward metro station on exit C2). As of January 2010, these comfy buses leave at 8:30, 14:00, 15:30 and 19:00. You will pass through Shenzhen boarder station, where you need to get off the bus and walk across customs with you luggage (save time by asking the bus attendant for the silly health form you have to submit there, so you can fill it out in advance). Total journey to Yicizhan should take about 4 hours and cost ¥130.
From Shenzhen bus terminal (next to the train station), take the direct bus to/from Kaiping. Very frequent and it costs RMB100 each way as at 2014. The trip takes 3 hours if the traffic is light. You can also take a bus from Shenzhen Bao'an Station to Kaiping (3.5h).
From Macau, take the border crossing to Zhuhai and then find a bus station around 100m to the right along the main road after you exit the border control building. The ride to Kaiping should take a little more than 2 hours and cost ¥70.
From Hong Kong Island, you can take a bus to Kaiping (2 stops: Shuikou or Yici). The border crossing is at Shenzhen Bay, you need to get out and change buses.
The ticket office is in Shun Tak Centre (HK Macau Ferry Terminal building), MTR Sheung Wan Exit D
Link for fares and schedule (currently HKD 170 one-way, or 280 return)
Trans Island Limousine
Kaiping has two long distance bus stations, Kaiping Yicizhan (义祠站) and Lechongzongzhan (勒冲总站). Former one is more modern and is most likely the starting point for your journey into the surrounding villages of Kaiping town. Do note that the buses do go around the downtown area of the city before heading out to the villages, this adds a lot to the travel time due to congestion. After you leave the city area (after stops Dongshengli on the 613 and Donghuicheng on the 617), you'll notice the bus covers much more ground in much less time.
There are a few major buses to note from Kaiping Yici to visit the diaolou. Have single yuan notes ready as the bus is up to 2-6 yuan per person depending on distance. Buses can be full, but locals are great at making room. Bus 613 goes from Kaiping Yici to Sanmenli (三门里), Chikan (赤坎) and Majianglong (马降龙). Leaving Kaiping, this bus will go very fast after Dongshengli (东盛里), entering Kaiping, it will be slow after this stop. Bus 617 goes from Kaiping Yici to Sanmenli, Li Gardens/Li Yuan (立园) and Zili Village/Zilicun (自力村). Similarly, this bus will only go quickly after Donghuicheng （东汇城) if the traffic is bad leaving Kaiping city. Buses come in intervals of 15-20 min up until about 6pm.
There is also a complimentary tourist shuttle which goes runs the route Zili Village > Li Gardens > Majianglong about 5x daily (also runs in the opposite direction). If you get to Zili Village or Majianglong early, you can easily see all three. The shuttle always runs, even if you don't see anyone waiting, stand by the shuttle vehicle during the times specified at the ticket counter and a driver will come over to do the route.
You can also hire a taxi for the day to take you around.
An alternative is to bicycle. Bicycling is a great way to see the countryside and diaolous surrounding Kaiping. The area is flat and there are many small roads criss-crossing the farms. Unfortunately, there aren't many bike rental shops in Kaiping, but you can rent bikes across the road from the south-most end of People's Park (they typically rent by the hour, but can probably quote you a price by the day if you ask). Bike shops open around 8 a.m. Alternatively you can take a bus to Chikan village and rent a bike there. There's a bike rental shop a few doors down from the Tribe or Diaomin hostel on Henan Road in Chikan.
If you're navigating by a map app, you'll find its guidance quite indispensable, but be warned: a small road on the map can mean anything from a wide, two lane paved road to paved walking paths crossing fields. The maps don't seem to differentiate. Note that Google-maps requires a VPN solution to work in mainland China. Although rarely unpaved (all roads marked between the Diaolou villages and Kaiping on Apple Maps as of 2017), mountain bikes are probably best to rent so you can go everywhere and not get stuck. That said, with your navigation app, you'll be able to find several alternative routes through the increasingly rural countryside between Kaiping and the above mentioned Diaolou villages.
It's hot and muggy in the summer, so spring and fall are probably the best times for biking, though not all the summer tourism infrastructure and services will be in place.
The language of Kaiping is a variant of Cantonese known as Kaipingnese (99% similar to the local language of Taishan so the outside world categorizes it as Taishanese), which is only marginally mutually intelligible with standard Cantonese. However, as Cantonese is the lingua franca of Guangdong province, most locals will be able to speak and understand standard Cantonese. Mandarin is the primary language of instruction in all schools so most younger individuals would also be reasonably fluent in it.
Kaiping Diaolou watchtowers
- Chikan (赤坎). An inhabited village with many mansions build in the mixed western and eastern style of that period. The town has recently been bought out to become a movie set and attraction, note that most of it is closed to the public to visit. edit
- Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (广东开平碉楼旅游), . Very close to the town of Kaiping there are a number of small villages and small houses that have been built by oversea Chinese during the beginning of the 20th century. Most buildings resemble the style of western or middle eastern culture mixed with traditional Chinese elements. Often there were designed to defend against bandits. The buildings have not been taken care of since, but the government started to restore and preserve them recently. The style of these buildings is often cheaply copied by many "modern" buildings throughout Guangdong. It is also the setting for China's highest grossing domestic film "Let the Bullets Fly" (让子弹飞) with Chow Yun-Fat. The villages listed below all contain diaolou which you can see. edit
- Liyuan (立园), (about an hour away from Kaiping Town), . The best preserved and renovated of all the villages and hosts a museum about overseas Chinese culture. It was constructed by Kaiping overseas Chinese Mr. Xie Weili and the Li Garden was named after him. The whole garden covers a land area of 19,600 square meters. This garden is famous for its perfect mixed complex of the western and the oriental. Li Garden is one of the major attractions in Kaiping. This whole complex is constructed to get the charm of Chinese garden, also applies the styles of the western. It displays the beauty of traditional Chinese architecture, and delicately matches the current popular European and American villa architecture features at its building time to achieve the perfect mixture. This group is much more touristy than the others in the area. The former owner also has mythical stories of himself written all around the garden which are entertaining to read. Tickets for Li Gardens can be bought in a package with Zilicun and Majianglong for 180 yuan. There is a free shuttle which runs the route Zilicun to Liyuan to Majianglong (also runs in the opposite direction) 5x a daily. Just wait by the shuttle at the times specified at the signs at the ticket counter and a driver will come. Bus 617 also goes to/from Kaiping from here, note you have to walk to the main road. edit
- Majianglong (马降龙), (about 14km from Liyuan). This village has quite a few diolou, a bamboo forest and is further off from Kaiping so a lot quieter. Due to the trees it's hard to get similar shots like the watchtower in Zilicun but it's still an awesome sight. There is a free shuttle which runs the route Zilicun to Liyuan to Majianglong (also runs in the opposite direction) 5x a daily. Just wait by the shuttle at the times specified at the signs at the ticket counter and a driver will come. Bus 613 also goes to/from Kaiping from the stop Majianglong Lukou (马降龙路口), it is a 15min walk to the town from there after crossing the bridge. edit
- Samenli (三门里). This is a very cute town which is free to enter and also very close to Kaiping. The locals are really nice here. This is also where the oldest standing diaolou is located. edit
- Zilicun (自力村), (about 3km from Liyuan). Hosts the ruins of a former village with a giant watch tower. If you've seen the famous images of diaolou from what appears to be a drone, it is likely from Zilicun. It's definitely a must-see in the area. Tickets for Zilicun can be bought in a package with Li Garden and Majianglong for 180 yuan. There is a free shuttle which runs the route Zilicun to Liyuan to Majianglong (also runs in the opposite direction) 5x a daily. Just wait by the shuttle at the times specified at the signs at the ticket counter and a driver will come. Bus 617 also goes to/from Kaiping from here, note you have to walk to the main road. edit
The four designated UNESCO heritage sites with diaolou architecture are Zilicun village (自力村) of Tangkou township (塘口镇), Sanmenli village (三门里村) of Chikan township (赤坎镇), Majianlong village (马降龙村) of Baihe township (百合镇) and Jinjiangli village (锦江里村) of Xiangang township (蚬冈镇). Also of interest are Liyuan (立园) mentioned above (a group of neoclassical and baroque buildings with Chinese ornamental roofs in an elegant garden), the riverside promenade in Chikan (赤坎古镇影视城) and the leaning diaolou in Nanxing village (南兴村) of Xiangang township (蚬冈镇). All are located withing roughly 20km of Kaiping city center.
For those interested in diaolou architecture, it may be a good idea to look for accommodations in one of the small townships surrounding Kaiping. (Kaiping itself is a fairly standard modern Chinese town.) Xiangang (蚬冈镇), for example, has entire small streets fitted with baroque-like facades cast in concrete.
- Bu Xing Jie (步行街). There are 2 floors of this street ; First floor having 262 shops and second floor having 275 shops. This street features fashion clothing, footwear, stationary, accessories, electronic appliances, etc. Beside the stores are many little stalls selling snacks from drinks to noodles. The second floors features many shops where you can take photos of yourself which is like a sticker(sticker photos).
- Yi Hua Plaza (益华广场). At commercial golden mile of Kaiping, Mu Sha Rd. Built by Hong Kong Capital Groups and Sino Groups' investment. As a multi-functional commercial square, it has an area of 68,000 square metres, 8-storey (a layer in the basement), and includes department stores, supermarkets, brand-name shops, restaurants, snack street, Western-style fast food, movie theaters, kids playground, Internet cafe, karaoke, sauna, fitness, foot, Steppenwolf, rooms, meetings, car park, etc. It is the largest commercial centre at present.
- Jin Qiao Cheng (金桥城). A shopping mall in Kaiping that was completed in November 1993. It is a shopping and entertainment mall. Inside you can find fashion shops, gift shops, cosmetic shops, and DVD stores. With a construction area of 1.3 million square meters, there are a total of eight floors. There escaltors, elevators, central air conditioning, closed-circuit television monitoring system, automatic fire control system, parking and other service facilities. A total of hundreds of city shopping shops, First to fourth floors are commercial space, business is very rich in species, of which the first floor is main selling household appliances, audio-visual products and daily necessities, etc. Second and third floors mainly sell apparel and leather products and so on. Fourth floor is mainly beauty centers. Level five and above is a large-scale entertainment venues.
- Kaiping Tourist Shopping street (步行街). Kaiping tourist shopping street is a two-storey large-scale special building, 800 metres long, south from Cangjiang river, north to 325 national highway, and east with Dong Xing road. This building is a highlights of European style, and is similar with many famous building such as The White House, the Arc de Triomphe in France, Germany Castle, London Bridge, the Netherlands windmill, etc.. There are 262 shops on the first floor, 275 shops on the second floor, and a large space garden on the roof which includes fountains, pavilions, porticos and a large quantity of white marble sculptures. Tourist shopping street include many kinds of products, such as clothing, footwear, stationery, electrical appliances.
- Ganbasha Coffee House (甘巴莎咖啡馆), 255 Xiangyuan Xincun (祥苑新村255号), ☎ +86 750 220 2626. Serves western and Chinese food at a reasonable price. edit
- Diaomin Tribe Boutique Hostel, 55 Tangkou Street, Tangkou Town, Kaiping, Guangdong Province, ☎ +86 750 261 6229. The Tribe of Doamin Hostel doesn't have a great english internet presence, but is a great base of operations for seeing the diaolous. They're friendly, close to local shops and restaurants, and provide bike parking in their garage. Call ahead, or just take your chances, but they seem to be set up for large group bike tours, so they may be fully booked when you arrive. edit
- Pan Tower International Hotel, 2 Zhongyin Rd, Kaiping, Jiangmen, Guangdong Province, ☎ +86 750 233 3333. edit
- Xiangyuan Binguan (祥苑宾馆), 261 Xiangyuan Xincun (祥苑新村261号) (Next to the shopping and tourist center), ☎ 2201928. "Rooms. edit
- Xiangman Inn (开平祥满宾馆), 开平市长沙区冲澄路北二区二排七号一栋, ☎ 07502333678. This is an extremely simple but clean hotel 2 minutes walking from Kaiping Yici Station. It is behind the main road. From here you can easily walk 20 minutes to the bus stops just outside the city to catch bus 617 at Donghuicheng (东汇城, stop is in front of a mall called Xindaxinbaihuo 新大新百货) to head to Li Gardens. Buses come every 15-20 min, the journey takes 30min or so. From there you can take the free shuttle to Majianglong then after to Zilicun to finish the day. To get back to Kaiping, walk to the main road from Zilicun (10min) and you can catch bus 617 in the opposite direction and get off at Central Hospital West Entrance/Zhongxin Yiyuan Ximen (中心医院西門, total ride time 30min or so) and walk 15 min back to the hotel. Last bus is shortly after 6pm. edit
- Xingdu Hotel (星都大酒店), 10 Changshaguangming Street (长沙光明路10号), ☎ 2287838. edit
- A 15 minute bus ride south will bring you to the neighboring town of Taishan.
- # hours to ShenZhen LuoHu station (110 Yuans), one bus every 40-50 min from KaiPing ChangSha station (in the city center, southern bench of the river).
- 30 minutes west are the numerous hot springs of Enping.
- Further west (2 hours) is Yangjiang, the knife manufacturing capital of China.
- 45 minutes north on the way to Guangzhou is Heshan with its temples in the mountains overlooking the highway.
- The closest major city (1M+ population) is Jiangmen -- 30 minutes to the west with an Intercity Rail station. There you can catch fast trains to either Zhuhai or Guangzhou and the cities in between.
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