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Guangzhou: Boom town China style
Guangzhou's futuristic skyline. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Riding on a narrow-rail track 450m above the ground provides a perfect view of China's southern boom city, Guangzhou. If only I could lift my eyes off my feet.

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As a guest of Guangzhou Tourism, it would have been rude to have declined its offer to be shot up the inside of the 600m-high Canton Tower and to ride in one of the bubble cars which shuffle their way for 20 minutes around its perimeter.

So here I am, peeling my eyes off the carpet to gaze at the mighty Pearl River that winds through the city, spot the new sports stadium, the new opera house, the new museum and be overwhelmed by the tower upon tower of apartment blocks housing more than 12 million people and stretching until the haze envelops them.

This is the new town, a two-hour ride from Hong Kong and the result of a rapid-fire building program in the heart of the financial district born from the news that Guangzhou would host the Asian Games in 2010.

The buildings are distinctive; the museum, particularly, worthy of hours of your time.

It has 160,000 pieces of exquisite porcelain, pottery and woodcarvings, including a priceless blue and white porcelain vase dating back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

At night, the city is a neon wonderland. About half an hour away, over 25 unbroken kilometres of high-density living, sits the old town, the contrast with its modern sister reflected in their names.

Each is within easy reach by bus or train.

Vendors sit eating or playing cards at the front of their narrow shops. Red lanterns hang from the trees in the narrow streets.

Amid the bustle sits one of China's most regarded restaurants, the Panxi. Opened in 1947, it has become a favourite of former world leaders including our own Gough Whitlam, George Bush Sr and Helmut Kohl, who liked a beef dish so much it now bears his name.

You can fly direct from Perth to Guangzhou with China Southern, and connect to flights around the world.

Alison Wakeham flew with China Southern Airlines and stayed at The Westin Guangzhou hotel. flychinasouthern.com and starwoodhotels.com/westin.