Guides for China
City, Guangdong (November 2010)
Tai Shan City is known as Toisan in Cantonese and Toy
Cern in the local language of Taishanese. It is a large
second tier city in central south Guangdong quite near
the sea and includes two large and very famous islands
- Sheung Ha Doh and Siu Ha Doh. Whilst it is a very
international city, this is due to emigration especially
to USA, and not because of a large foreign presence.
The Taishanese are noted for their spirit of travel
and adventure, quite unlike most of their Chinese peers.
It is the people of this city plus its nearby twin city
called Kai Ping (Hoi Peng) that emigrated to USA at
the turn of the last century and built the great american
railroads. Many also emigrated to Europe, and wherever
they went they founded local communities and the famous
'China Towns' known in all parts of the globe.
Having established successful careers over the intervening
century, many now return to their home city to create
jobs and markedly influence the local economy. Some
donated large amounts of money to improve the resources
of the local community, whilst others have invested
in grand projects.
The result is that modern Toisan city is a thriving
mass of humanity which enjoys some of the best and most
diverse shopping in the whole of China. There are two
enormous pedestrianised areas that will soon link together,
creating a traffic free zone some miles in length. What
is most refreshing, is that whilst the usual global
stores are prominent in large malls, the paved streets
offer an amazing diversity of smaller shops and local
Foreigners are not a common sight, but English is widely
spoken by most people you meet on the streets and has
the status of being the Third language spoken. Taishanese
is of course the major language, and is known locally
as 'Toisanwah'. This is a very strong dialect of Mainland
Cantonese, and features an unusual and common usage
of Celtic double L and 'ch' sounds. Guangzhou Cantonese
is the second language, which is spoken by virtually
everybody older than primary school age. For adults,
Mandarin remains the forth language, so much so that
even migrant Chinese workers have had to learn either
Children usually begin kindergarten at 3-years old,
where they learn Mandarin and English. At home the children
speak Toisanwah, and it is not until they reach secondary
school that Mainland Cantonese is introduced. However,
once a few basic sounds have been mastered, there is
only slight difference in pronunciation between main
stream Cantonese and the local dialect. Therefore adding
Cantonese is fairly simple for linguistically adept
There is a large and growing export trade, but unusually
for any Chinese city, Toisan does not devote its entire
fortunes to one specific industry. In fact, there is
no industry at all within the city, and whilst modern
factories are developing in small clusters in the nearby
countryside, these are clean and in keeping with the
environment. This means the city air is very clean and
smog is unheard of!
Your first clue to what this city manufactures are to
be seen by a few furniture factories that mainly produce
high quality goods for export. Toisan is surrounded
by rolling hills and wide fertile plains. The plains
are extremely well irrigated, and rice is the staple
crop. Each village commune normally grows two crops
a year - the first being planted before Chinese New
Year (February) and the second set root before August.
Villages are largely self-sufficient for all fruit and
vegetables, the surplus being sold at local markets.
Look to the hills for the city's other main industry.
That's right, they are all covered with trees. Closer
examination reveals these to be managed woodlands that
mainly produce the quick-growing local fir tree that
has many diverse uses. The cycle from planting seedlings
to harvesting a hillside takes about 10-years, which
is remarkably quick.
The only other notable industry is tourism, but visitors
are mainly either Overseas Chinese or their Mainland
counterparts. Many come to visit the hot springs, spend
time on the beautiful islands, or linger on the coastline
of the South China Sea.
Toisan does not have an airport or railway station.
It does have very good ferry connections to nearby cities
and even Macao and Hong Kong. However, the main form
of transportation centres on the city's two main bus
stations. These are located quite close together on
Huanshi West Road and offer destinations to all parts
of China and beyond. Intercity buses are frequent, with
connections available to destinations such as Guangzhou,
Jiang Men, Zhong Shan, Kong Kong and Macao running every
15 - 20 minutes.
Local transportation is provided by numerous city buses
which run from early morning through until midnight.
The set fare is Y2 RMB regardless of distance, and you
pay on entry. These are supported by numerous taxis
that are either dark green and yellow, or maroon. The
minimum fare is Y6 RMB, and they are cheap and plentiful.
Also numerous are the motorcycle taxis which can be
found on every street corner. Less numerous are the
3-wheel taxis, but these are ok if you fancy something
a little different. Finally, outside both bus stations
and at other locations you will find collections of
cars, MPV's and microbuses. These are for private hire
and you agree a price with the driver before departure.
If you have a lot of luggage, or are travelling a long
distance to somewhere off the beaten track, then these
are very good value.
What to Do
Chill, relax, and take your time...
Toisan has two main shopping areas, the first of which
is located north of the city centre and called Wah Yuen.
From the roundabout on Qiaohu Road where you enter this
section, turn into Huanbei Avenue where there is a very
large mall on your right. The ground floor is host to
a very large and quite western supermarket called 'Vanguard'.
This is well worth visiting and sells proper Western
style sandwich bread in its bakery, along with delicious
pizza a Y7 per large portion. Here you can also buy
bacon, fresh milk, butter and many other foreign foods.
The mall continues with numerous other retail outlets
that are not the usual names found everywhere else.
The mall ends with 24-hour MacDonald's, which is set
against a green featuring a statue in enclosure of a
rich local who donated money to build this complex.
He is very highly respected by local people. On the
main road (Huanbei Avenue) nearby are two banks, of
which ICBC across the road and on a little bit, will
accept any international visa card (Use the machine
marked ATM only)
Opposite MacDonald's is the beginning of a long pedestrianised
street which is over 1-mile in length. Midway is a crossroads
that is home to 24 hour KFC. The back streets adjacent
to this are very interesting and full of novel and unusual
The second shopping centre is located adjacent to the
city square, although you would not know it on first
glance. It is known as 'Fo Lam Muen' which is actually
the name of a very famous Chinese Tea House. This is
on Tongji Road and flanked by 24-hour MacDonald's and
KFC, and hosts a couple of small malls of little interest
Walking away from the Park along Xihao Road you will
soon discover wide pedestrianised streets that stretch
in several directions for a long way. Tourists will
enjoy shopping along these streets, which host many
local retailers as well as regional, national, and international
chains. Walking directly away from the park will eventually
lead you via a short section if interesting and unique
back streets, to the first pedestrianised area noted
above. To do this continue along Xihao Road until Juyuan
Road appears on your left. Follow this past the Catholic
Church to the T-junction at the very end, and turn right.
The Park and Square
Standing with your back to KFC you will notice a small
road opposite that quickly turns left. This road is
called Huannan Backstreet, and is circuitous in nature.
Walk down here and bear left, following a path through
the trees. In a few yards this opens onto Toisan City
Square, a modern area surrounded by picturesque buildings
which are brightly lit at night. The square itself overlooks
a large lake and the whole setting is remarkably tranquil.
It is hard to imagine that 100 yards away is the hustle
and bustle of a major road and shopping area.
The lake is actually part of the local waterway, and
in this area forms the lake as mentioned, and further
left are islands for recreation. However, we stayed
on the main path then turning briefly onto Shuangting
Street, before turning left and followed a winding road
set between two small lakes and lined with palm trees
(Picture on your right). After 100 yards we came to
a delightful restaurant with tables inside and out on
the street. Our outside table overlooked the park, and
as the sun set, so the lights came on all around the
lakes complex, and the atmosphere was filled with quintessential
ambience. I love this place! Later I introduced my American
chum Jim to this area and he loved it also.
By chance one day I happened to take a walk around the
lakes and went off exploring. I was hoping to find another
street restaurant nearby, but this was not to be. However,
leaving the restaurant above and walking left and then
to my right, I discovered an amusement park. This is
at the corner of Shuangting Road and Heping Road, and
has a lovely small garden outside called Qianxi Garden.
The amusement park is quite large and comes complete
with many power rides and other attractions. I would
say this attraction is ideal for the very young, right
through to mid-teens. Older people with more world exposure
would probably find it a little small and boring - but
for something right in the city centre I think it is
excellent for what it offers.
There are several attractions grouped reasonably close
together along Huanbei Avenue - but
further along than the Wah Yuen shopping centre. The
first is Taishan Cinema, which is very
close to the junction with Taidong Road.
A little further along - and you better look at the
map above, are various other attractions beginning opposite
the junction with Shihua Road:
1. Opposite this junction is something
called "Taishan Children's Palace". We know
it is not a school of any sort, and it sounds very interesting.
2. A little further along Huanbei Road
is Taishan library.
3. Between these two is a road going
North. Half a mile along this minor road you will find
Taishan Panshi Television University on your left. Our
information is that this is a very small University
only teaching film and broadcasting, and is open to
4. At the end of this small road and
just before the lake (Shihua Reservoir) is Taishan Museum,
which is very interesting and well worth visiting.
Toisan is again remarkable for a Chinese city in that
the restaurants are not all grouped together as if seeking
shelter. They are spread out all over the city and offer
excellent food at reasonable prices. Apart from fast
food, there is little dedicated specifically for Westerners,
but there are some.
Perhaps the best Western restaurant is located immediately
adjacent to the Main or Number 1 Bus Station. Walk to
the roundabout outside, and look to your right (Bus
station behind you). This is actually the junction of
Huanshi West Road and Zhanxi Road. You will see a door
leading up some stairs just around the corner from the
road that crosses the river bridge. Go up here and find
a large and comfortable restaurant which also features
several large screen TV's. The televisions are not usually
turned on, so you can request your favourite sports
channel if you wish.
I have dined here a couple of times and whilst not being
the best restaurant in England, it is certainly one
of the best of its kind in China! The menu is in both
English and Chinese, and the staff are attentive and
extremely helpful. Most speak very good English, and
are used to foreigners ordering western dishes. They
are also used to foreigners having a drink first and
ordering later. Whilst I have not sampled every dish
on their menu, the ones I have tried have been very
well cooked and presented. I'm definitely going there
|Ying Fu Zhong Xi Can Ting
Bei Jiao Lu (North Suburbs Road)
Tel: (0750) 5619988
Mobile: 133 920 55288
|This restaurant is literally 2 minutes
walk from my front door and a great place to dine.
It is found on the backroad running parallel with
the main road (from the North) as it approaches
Number 1 bus station. Go directly across from
this bus station and go down the road opposite.
This ends in a T-junction, so bear left and the
restaurant is on your right about 50 yards up
|The menu is a nice blend of typical western
fayre complimented by asian dishes. The curry
pictured was delicious, and of perhaps Vietnamese/Thai
style. The fries where top quality, and the beer
was respectably cheap. Other specialties include
choice of steaks and sauces, pizza's, and finger
foods like kebab skewers. This is complemented
by a full western drinks and cocktails menu, fresh
juice specialties, desserts and coffees.
We liked the atmosphere and the staff were lovely
and friendly. The manageress/owner speaks some
English, and took our daughter for a tour - returning
her 10-minutes later! It was hot mid-afternoon
when we went, but inside the air-conditioning
made it very pleasantly cool.
|Amongst the wall of imported Brandy
and Wines, you will notice a TV. Later during
our visit this was tuned on to Sports channel,
where we watched Volleyball, followed by Football.
I highly recommend this restaurant (After only
one visit) - more later!
There are two other Western style restaurants that I
know of in Toisan, but at time of writing (28th July
2010) I have not tried yet. Please call back next month
when I should have completed this piece of research
- the things I have to do!
All the modern malls have associated MacDonald's and
KFC, which are open 24/7. The Chinese Kung Fu chain
are also present in these locations. I have heard there
is a Pizza Hut here, but have not located it so far;
and as far as I am aware, none of the others like Star
Buck's or UBC have made it to Toisan ... yet.
Toisan abounds with Chinese eateries and they are everywhere!
These are mainly variations and styles of Cantonese
cooking that people who know Canton will instantly recognise.
Unusually this city does not appear to support many
restaurants featuring cuisine from other regions of
China, although the excellent Little Sheep chain is
here already - but perhaps I simply haven't found any
others ... yet.
The major restaurants are easily recognised by having
plush tables visible from the road. We have tried many
of them and most are based on the philosophy of Chinese
Tea. This does not mean they only sell tea - far from
it. They serve beer, spirits, and a multitude of dishes
far too numerous to mention.
Fo Lam Muen is the best and most famous. Just say this
to any taxi and he will take you there.This is near
MacDonald's on Tongji Road. However, know this is on
the third floor and approached via an escalator set
to the left of MacDonald's. There is also a lift which
although in plain sight, is not obvious. I like this
place because you can go and look at hundreds of dishes
+ fresh fish or shellfish in tanks, and chilled produce
from the sea (Fresh that day). They also serve Chinese
pancakes, and other tasty morsels not always found under
one roof. Every so often a lady comes round pushing
a trolley of Dim Sung, from which you can select from
many small bamboo dishes of excellent flavour. The staff
are all very helpful and observant, despite the fact
this restaurant is nearly always full, and waiting a
few minutes for a table is common. The opening times
include 9am and midnight, and I'm not really sure when
it actually opens or closes - such is eating-out in
A very good fish restaurant is located on the road that
runs past Number 1 Bus station. With this to your back
and roundabout in front, turn left and walk half a mile
to the bend in the road. Right on this corner on your
left is a very good fish restaurant selling all manner
of marine life, including gigantic prawns at ridiculously
There are literally thousands of street bars, and again
whilst you may find a dozen in one locality, mainly
they are spread out all over the city. Here are some
of note - although research continues and is on-going!
Number 1 Bus Station
The streetbars' are mainly set to the left of the bus
station (To your back) and are on both sides of the
main road. The first large establishment is very good
and located where the road comes together properly.
Another good area is 50 yards further on by the pedestrian
lights, and again on your left and down an alley. Crossing
the road and heading back, the the last one is renowned
for selling great food - so good the local Police drop
by and are good company. I know this place is not closed
at 5am, and think it is virtually 24/7? It is called
De feng yuan can yin dian.
Number 2 Bus Station
Here the streetbars' are obvious and grouped together
along the main road outside. I personally prefer the
second one from the main entrance, although some of
the others look very interesting. There is a good variety
hereabouts, and there are about 10 in total. Take your
pick. Again, closing times appear to be irrelevant.
This is one of the best late night eatery centres and
is situated somewhere between the two main bus stations,
but in the backstreet's before you reach the river.
It is well out of the way unless you know where it is.
There are about 20 eateries in this locale, offering
a diverse range of foods that tourist familiar with
larger cities like Foshan will immediately recognise.
I have not tried all of these as yet, but do recommend
a couple already. In the middle is an excellent BBQ
place, which although short on seating, offers delicious
and typical BBQ food. I recommend the oysters, sausages,
squid, and virtually everything they sell. Directly
across the road is a small outlet that sells great Dim
Sum. You can buy here and eat at another restaurant
table. Amazing! Around the corner to the far end is
a lovely larger restaurant set back in an open courtyard
called Fulin Hauxian. They have many fish tanks set
to the rear, and it has a great vibe when a crowd is
in late at night. The staff are also excellent, and
whilst only a few speak English, their genuine pleasure
to meet you and say 'Hello, how are you?' is infectious
and sets the mood for a very pleasant evening.
There is another area a little further on from the Statue
mall and then right a bit down a bendy road called Dongchen
Avenue. This later becomes Fucheng Avenue and the restaurants
are located near the area called Chengdong. I need to
research this area a bit better, but know it also has
a fantastic BBQ set amongst a throng of other eateries.
More info later, sorry.
The Place in the Park is definitely worth a visit -
as mentioned several times above - total chill!
Toisan has several good nightclubs,
disco's and Western style bars. One is located directly
opposite from Number 1 bus station, diagonally to your
right. This doesn't do it for me, but is neat and convenient.
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There is another large nightclub that is adjacent to
the park and opposite the restaurant I like so much.
You can find it by following the noise until it gets
very loud, and then entering the premises that look
like a ship. This is very well lit up at night, and
is on the western leg of Huannan Backstreet and is called
Shengyuan and known as Free Cheng Disco. Not as good
as the one above in our opinion, but worth visiting
all the same.
Bars: There are two that are notable; the first being
on the second floor near MacDonald's and Fo Lam Muen.
There is actually another that is better just around
the corner. Both are very acceptable, if plush surroundings
and expensive bottles of small imported beers are your
The second area is back at Number 1 bus station, and
left of the main entrance (Back to the station). This
is set up a flight of stairs and the entrance is a little
hard to find. Inside it is what you would expect, and
very convivial if this is your bag, baby?
Toisan is one of the most famous cities in Guangdong
Province for Hot Springs. There are several of these,
the best (Apparently) being somewhere north of the city
near Kai Ping. I don't know where this is, so will mention
one I have been to and enjoyed immensely.
From either bus station take the route directly south
to the sea along TaiHai Road, also known as 274 Provincial
Road. The final destination is the seaside town of Gong
Hoi, or Guang Hai in Mandarin. If you are taking the
bus, then stay on this for about 15 minutes, and until
you reach the first set of traffic lights along this
road (outside of the city proper of course). Sunrise
Hotel Hot Spring main entrance is flanked by lions and
very noticeable. Most taxis will drop you at the old
entrance, which is not where you need to be. Get to
the traffic lights and enter there.
This is a resort hotel complex, and there are a great
many building and a lot of rooms for hire at reasonable
rates. Your room includes evening bathing until midnight,
and morning bathing until midday. This is not obvious
from their literature. Swimming costumes are provided,
as are towels and obligatory flip flops (Bathing areas
Outside are many pools which offer varying degrees of
temperature. Fortunately the cooler ones are adjacent
to your egress, getting progressively hotter as you
venture forth. To your right you will find two pools
for children (adults welcome) which feature a couple
of water shutes in one, and a wave machine in the other.
Whatever powers these seems to only do one at a time,
therefore each pool experience lasts for about 20 minutes
before switching to the other pool. That's fine, but
What is a must do are the couple of gazebo's. These
enclose a variety of water spa's and water massage beds.
Be careful, as one of them is very cold! All the others
are of lovely therapeutic heat and relax you superbly.
The complex is completed by bars and restaurants, which
are of the standard foreigners would expect in China.
Some locals may know this as the Jiayi Hotel, which
forms the older part of the complex.
Nearby, but well off the beaten track is another hot
spring called San He. More information later.
Toisan and its natural twin city Hoi Peng (Kai Ping)
are home to a man-made wonder of China. These are tall
buildings called 'Watchtowers'. They are actually defensive
structures that developed over centuries, basically
to protect the local inhabitants from invading Chinese
from other regions of the country. More recently they
saw action in the 1937 - 45 war as bastions of resistance
against the Japanese invasion.
Virtually every small village has one, and usually there
are two - one at each end of the village. They are normally
about 20 feet square and rise to a height of 5 or 8
storeys'. They are distinguished by having very small
windows, and a turret like affair standing proud on
top. These would be Toisan Castles. Often the windows
only start at the third or forth floor, thus reducing
the likelihood of unwanted ingress. As with a Swiss
chalet, animals and provisions filled the lower floors,
whilst the greater family sought protection in the middle
reaches. The upper storeys' being set aside for defenders,
and ammunitions were stored appropriately, and mainly
at the very top of the structure. Meanwhile, wells sunk
in the bottom would provide water by breaching the natural
Not many of these are in good repair, or even open to
the general public. However, we will endeavour to give
you a video walkthrough at a later date, and also offer
addresses for the very few that are tourist orientated.
Toisan and Kai Ping are unique in China, in offering
Colonial/Latin façades as frontage to the vast
majority of their older buildings. This is the legacy
of returning Chinese emigrants from all quarters of
the earth. I quite like it, as it is so refreshing to
see something very different. However, many of these
building do require substantial refurbishment, and I
worry they will be replaced by modern Chinese tenements,
that are not that easy on the eye. Conversely, these
building do have great respect, and are generally valued
as being of excellent design and internal proportions.
Long may they remain.
There are two main islands to the south of Tai Shan
County. The larger one is given over to tourism, which
is largely under-developed apart from a small hotel
complex, which we later will add a marina to. This is
called 'Sheung Ha Doh' in Cantonese. The local and regional
governments do have plans to develope this island for
greater tourism, but this remains a few years away.
Therefore this island remains largely unspoiled and
worthy of an overnight visit.
The second and smaller island is dedicated as a national
natural wildlife reserve and protected internationally.
This is called 'Siu Ha Doh in local Cantonese. Visitors
are allowed to enter, but only under express permission
of the Buddhist Head who controls entry and egress from
this preserve. This is actually no problem, but be aware
that you can only visit the monastery there + selected
vantage points. Otherwise this island remains the habitat
of wildlife only.
There really isn't very much for tourists to see in
Toisan apart from that mentioned above. The only cultural
relic is the Pagoda called Lingyuan Guta, which appears
to be near Number 2 Bus Station. However, the actual
entrance is located 1 mile away along the Southern leg
of Huannan West Road. It is very well worth visiting
if Chinese Pagoda's are your thing, or missable otherwise.
Where to Stay
Chinese beds are usually very hard!
There are numerous hotels in Toisan, most of which are
of local Chinese standard. The majority are very basic,
and exceedingly cheap.
The best hotels are probably situated overlooking the
Park, and the highest rated is called Cui Hu Hotel,
or Tai Shan Garden Hotel in English. It certainly appears
to be of good standard. Nearby are several other promising
hotels including the Tai Shan Hotel very near by, and
the Xin Fu Yuan Hotel across the lake by the nightclub.
Moving to a different area we find another reasonable
hotel. From Number 1 bus station head around the traffic
roundabout, and at the traffic lights, turn right (Most
traffic here goes left). The hotel is located half a
mile down this road on your left, and its frontage sports
another Chinese Tea establishment, which is 'OK'. The
road is called Qiaohu Road and the hotel is next to
the Bank of China. The rooms are fine and what you would
expect of a higher class establishment in the middle
Toisan is a quintessential city in the heart of Guangdong
Province. It is always open and outward looking, abundantly
welcoming to foreigners, and very different from most
other Chinese cities.
This city is one of very few that does not pander to
the West, but rather encapsulates it and consists of
people that know the west well, and have brought a little
of this home to influence their local culture. It is
also a very 'laid-back' city - which suits me well.
I really like this place!
This information is as supplied by the China Expats,
as dated 19th November 2010, and/or other reliable sources.
Please check this information yourself as it may alter
without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure
it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for
any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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