Although the city of Zhuhai has only recently been developed, the old streets of Beishan Village are alive with energy and hide the city’s best-kept secrets. The Lingnan architectural style buildings face north, to symbolize heart to the country, call themselves part of a creative park dedicated to the arts, that all pull together for the yearly International Jazz Festival held in Beishan for the last six years. A short taxi ride from the border, it is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon.
First head to the 100-year-old Xianggong Temple site renamed ‘Beishan Hall’ in 2009. With numerous entrances and exits, it’s easy to get lost and spend an hour or two wandering within its walls. The labyrinth of corridors lined with red lanterns leads to courtyards of bonsai trees, calligraphy studies, and costume wardrobes—with the quiet atmosphere adding to the feeling of sneaking onto the set of an old-fashioned Chinese film. The front entrance guides you to the main courtyard, where you often find young boys playing traditional Chinese drums outside a quaint coffee shop hiding in the left corner. The cafe often holds musical or artistic activities on the weekend, so it is the perfect place to grab a coffee and soak up some culture.
For cheap, cheerful and traditional Chinese food you can’t go wrong with the street food in Beishan. Handed a basket, the tables become a fragrant pick and mix of various ingredients to form stir fry, hot pot or barbecue. If a dinner for more than one, we recommend a selection of all the above—we like the thick rice noodles and barbecued squid. The beverage fridges are usually self-service, so after ordering grab a drink and balance yourself upon the tiny plastic chairs that fill the sidewalk while awaiting your feast.
For high-end dining, Beishan Theater—which is no longer actually a practicing theater but a handcrafted homeware store/coffee shop—offers a banquet once a month. The stage and upper gallery are still intact, and the high ceiling and wide set of the building, although brimming with ornate furnishings for sale, is a refreshingly open and quiet space amidst the bustle of the outside world. With a set menu of seasonal ingredients, and prices varying to match, you can expect the freshest food with impeccable presentation. Both the setting and the meal are a unique experience of authentic Chinese cuisine.
The bars in Beishan don’t quite rival those of Macau, however, if you want to end the day with a drink the Jazz Bar is the top recommendation. In alliance with the nearby Contemporary Music Institute, the house band delivers a mesmerizing set every weekend that draws a crowd of locals which often spills out of the doors into the alleyway. In true spontaneous jazz spirit, the band often invites fellow musicians from the audience to play or sing, which adds to the small town vibe as you get the chance to speak to everyone—including the band—over the smoky air at the interval.
For some fresh air, head to the park opposite the Beishan Hall. As with most open spaces in China, by 9:00pm the park is flooded with the sounds and colors of nightly exercise and family fun. Join the ladies in their dance routines led by uniformed nimble instructors or test your skills against the locals at the ever-popular ping pong tables.
Wherever you go in Beishan, you will be welcomed with a friendly face and charmed by the mix of traditional architecture with modern artistic flair. It is the perfect escape from the harshness of city life.
July 1 Coffee Shop, Beishan Village, Nanping Town, 0756-8674170, www2.beishan.org.cn/page/yiyueyihao 柒月一號咖啡館南屏鎮北山村近楊氏大宗祠)
Beishan Theater, Beishan Village, Nanping Town, 南屏鎮北山村北山戲院, Follow 旧爱珠海 on WeChat for details
Zhuhai Contemporary Music Institute, 76 Beishan Center Street, Beishan Village, Nanping Town, 0756-8816898, www.gjazzcmi.com, 珠海現代音樂南屏北山正街76号AfternoonBeishanVillageZhuhai