Pearl River Cruise
An essential part of any trip to Guangzhou is a cruise along the Pearl River at night. The standard route takes you from just west of Shamian Island to Xinghai Concert Hall on Ersha Island and back again. Along the way you pass under a number of brightly lit bridges and past endless buildings sporting neon signs or flashing lights. In the humidity of Guangzhou, cruising the river with a breeze blowing is a wonderfully relaxing experience.
A number of companies run these cruises. The cheapest option are the cruises that leave from Fangcun Pier (Subway: Fangcun) at 19:45, 21:20 and 22:55 (the same boats leave from Huangsha pier about 10 minutes earlier). The cruise costs ¥38 ($5.30) and takes you on a round trip to Ersha Island. The blaring commentary (only in Chinese) spoils the experience a bit but otherwise it’s lovely. And they throw in a bottle of water and a small snack as well.
A slightly classier option are the cruises that leave from Tianzi Pier, where Beijing Nan Lu meets the river (Subway: Haizhu Square). Prices for these cruises start at ¥78 ($10.90 – includes a drink) for a place on the lower deck while ¥98 ($13.75) gets you a top deck berth with fruit to boot. You can also have dinner while on the cruise. For the extra money you basically get a bigger, nicer looking boat and not much else.
Directions: To reach Fangcun Pier, take the exit to Luju Lu (Exit B) from Fangcun subway station. Follow Luju Lu to the end, where it meets the river, then turn right and after a couple of minutes you will be at the ferry terminal.
To reach Tianzi Pier, head south from Haizhu Square subway station. When you reach the river, turn left and walk straight until the intersection with Beijing Nan Lu.