Meet your private guide at your Guangzhou hotel and journey south by private, air-conditioned vehicle into rural Guangdong province. Pass bustling towns and emerald rice fields, and hear intriguing anecdotes about Kaiping’s famous, multi-story watchtowers (diaolous).
The oldest of these unique, castle-like towers date from the Ming dynasty era between the 14th and 17th centuries, and take three forms: communal refuges built by several families, residential fortresses constructed by individual families, and watchtowers for alerting locals to encroaching bandits.
After about two hours on the road, arrive in the village of Zili, home to some of the most striking watchtowers, including some built by returning Chinese migrants who incorporated Western-inspired features in their design. Inspect the different styles of the towers close up, and head inside to absorb the interiors and bird’s-eye views from the rooftops.
Explore Kaiping’s elegant Liyuan Garden, also known as Li Garden: a stately blend of Chinese and Western architectural and landscaping influences. Meander around the exquisite gardens, seeing highlights like the birdcage-shaped pavilion, watchtowers, bridges and canals.
Break for lunch at a local restaurant, and then continue to the Old Town at Chikan, famous for its faded Western-style watchtowers and buildings designed by local migrants who returned here in the 1920s. Admire the imposing riverfront houses adorned with Western features like columns and balconies, and learn how the unusual, east-meets-west architecture has drawn many movie producers to film here.
Afterward, relax on your journey back to Guangzhou, where a hotel drop-off brings your tour to a close.