Dongguan is noted for its manufacturing prowess, not its scenery. However, that is misleading. The city has been given a “National Excellence in Tourism” award, largely as a result of its historical relics and charming natural attractions. There is much to see and do here, and it’s a big place, so you need to plan your outings carefully. Here! (the magazine) is a good resource for events and listings of restaurants and bars. Following are our recommendations for the Top 10 must-go spots in Dongguan.
- Songshan Lake: picnic in the park, ride around Ox Horn
Address: Songshan Lake, Dongguan
Songshan Lake was chosen as the site for Dongguan’s high-tech district precisely because it was unspoiled and it would be easier for companies to attract talent here. Huawei Technologies bought in, establishing their Ox Horn R&D campus, which is fun to take a journey around on a train, chugging past European-style buildings. The lake itself is also gorgeous, a good place for picnics during the cooler months. Bikes can easily be rented here and there are plenty of places to get snacks and drinks. The Hyatt Regency is a comfortable place to stay a night and enjoy top-notch cuisine. It’s not yet super-easy to get here from Hong Kong, because railway connections are still being built, but you can take a train to either Humen (high-speed) or Changping (KTT) and get a taxi from there.
- Opium War Museum: history lessons from a painful period
The Opium War Museum, also known as the Humen Lin Zexu Memorial Hall, is an important historical exhibition hall and a demonstration base for patriotic education in China. This was where the famed official, Lin Zexu, made a valiant but doomed attempt to eradicate the opium trade in China in 1840, by piling up and burning a huge confiscated cache of the drug. The museum tells an interesting story of the first Opium War (1840-42), which took place in and around here, albeit in a very patriotic style. It’s easy to get here from Hong Kong, as Humen is a stop on the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Guangzhou high-speed railway, and the museum is a 15-minute taxi ride from there.
- Humen Naval Museum: Opium War, Part 2
A 10-minute taxi ride away from the Opium War Museum stands the Naval Battle Museum, another testament to this terrible time in China’s history. Located at the east end of Humen Bridge, the museum looks like a warship. Embraced by dense green trees, the main building faces two clear-water lakes and, from the square in front, visitors can get a good view of the Humen Bridge and the ancient Weiyuan Emplacement. This was where the British fleet used “gunboat diplomacy” to force its way into China and establish extra-territorial concessions, first in Guangzhou and then in Hong Kong. It is well worth a visit.
- Qifeng Park: greenery and fengshui in the city
Moving across to the main CBD area of Dongguan, which is accessible from Humen on the city’s Metro Line 2, there are lots of attractions. Perhaps the best way to start is by getting off at the Qifeng Park station and climbing Huangqi Mountain, which rises only 180m to its peak. Topped with a red lantern, the mountain and its surrounding park is often referred to as Dongguan’s “lung” or “dragon’s vein.” The locals believe that under this dragon vein’s blessing, Dongguan has never had catastrophic natural disasters, or been destroyed by wars. There is a small museum near the western entrance to the park, which is worth a look, and not far away is the city’s main CBD area.
- Central Square: a vivid cultural blend
A short taxi ride away is the Dongguan Center Square. This is the core administrative and cultural center of Dongguan, with a mixture of libraries, museums, and government buildings. They spent some effort on it, and at night, the street lights give off an impressive effect. You can wander around the square and visit the nearby art museum, youth activity center, and science and technology museum. There are plenty of options here for kids.
- Keyuan Park: Wander around a Chinese garden
Keyuan Garden is one of the province’s four most famous gardens established during the Qing Dynasty. Lying to the west of the city center, the triangular-shaped garden is an architectural gem. Built in a classical style, there are dozens of traditional buildings scattered around pavilions, pools and bridges. It’s a labyrinthine complex, with paths winding in all directions, which makes it a fun place to just chill out and soak up the ambience. Keyuan is known for having played an important role in the modern history of Chinese painting and calligraphy.
- Dongguan Walking Street: shopping and dining
Address: Bu Xing Jie, Dongguan
Over on the eastern side of town is the Dongguan Walking Street, a lively place, especially in the evenings when all the lights are on. Wander around and explore the surprising little shops selling fascinating items, try some delectable food items at the many cafes and restaurants, or perhaps let your kids indulge in the numerous fun activities there.
- Yinxian Resort: natural, historical, and modern
A great place for a family getaway, the picturesque Yinxian Resort is about 15km from the CBD but close to the Changping Station (if you are coming from Hong Kong). Mountains provide a charming backdrop to historical buildings and cultural sites related to Buddhism. Kids will love the acrobatic and animal performances, and there are barbecues provided for a kind of dinner theater.
- Shuilianshan Forest Park: explore the hiking trails
Shuilianshan is one of the most popular forest parks in Dongguan. Families flock here on weekends, so it’s best to arrive for the 7am opening to enjoy a more peaceful saunter to the peak. Enter from the north, past the parking lot and up a wide paved boulevard. From there you can spy the namesake waterfall. Divert to Butterfly Canyon – but skip the other animal attractions, as the conditions aren’t great. Continue ascending until the road diverges into tributaries of winding, narrow forest paths. The paved gradient is never difficult as you pass pavilions and rest stops to the 378-meter peak. Check out the renovated Xishan Temple. Snacks and drinks are available.
- Zhangmutou Town: “Little Hong Kong”
Zhangmutou got its nickname because the railway station was a stop on the Kowloon-Canton Railway in the early days of the reform and opening period, which made it easy to access for Hong Kongers. Guanyin Mountain is its principal attraction, but it’s not an easy climb at 488m. It also has a small zoo. Near the summit is the Guanyin temple, the world’s largest made of granite. For the daring, a zip line can take you down part of the trip. There is also a small amusement park with a “House of Horrors.” The shopping districts are worth a look, full of bargains. In the downtown area a ferris wheel gives spectacular 360-degree views.