Nowadays some travelers coming to Guangzhou prefer living in renovated historical houses rather than hotels.
Western-style detached buildings in the Dongshankou area — Qing Dynasty ancestral houses and communal houses from the 1940s — have been repaired and refurbished to become residences full of delicate atmosphere.
Pengyoujia is a mobile application providing house booking services. It offers some 30 renovated classical house for short term leases. The most expensive of these houses is RMB 1,000, while the cheapest is about RMB 200 per night.
A renter named Li has renovated his own house for leasing to travelers. Located at Zhongshan 4 Lu of Yuexiu District, the house looks no different from any other detached Chinese red brick house. But inside it features a charming and cozy traditional Chinese atmosphere and a tearoom for both entertainment and reading.
Li sometimes makes tea and chats with his tenants. He may recommend some interesting places for guests to visit near the house, such as the historical moat Donghaochong, the Peasant Movement Institute and Cantonese arcade streets. Lying on a reclining chair, sipping a cup of tea, chatting with friendly neighbors, Li said living in his house makes travelers feel like native Cantonese themselves.
Unlike Li since he is not native Cantonese, Bin came to Guangzhou from Beijing this January. After a long railway journey Bin arrived at the city’s historical Xinhepu block in the Dongshankou area, where he took a fancy to a red-brick western-style mansion built in the early 20th century. An idea came that he wanted to stay in Guangzhou and live in this house. Bin repaired and now leases it to travelers.
“I think travelers would find it very interesting when they can see and experience the city’s way of life, and talk to the natives,” said Bin, who used to study social work. He wanted to do community building and hoped more interesting stories might take place in the community. In this sense, he usually brought congenial tenants to experience local customs and tradition in person. Living with them in the some house, Bin always guided his tenants through the historical architecture in the block and told them their stories. “I want to bring them to discover the interesting places in Dongshankou,” he explained.
“Old houses are the window of traditional Guangzhou’s culture,” said Pengyoujia’s founder, Deng Shengyao. “This is one of the reasons why these kinds of repaired old houses become more and more popular.”
Actually, many old houses have been abandoned for years before becoming homestay sites. After renewing his own house for lease early this year, Li is planning to rent and renew several other old homes for homestay, too. “Do we have to remove the old houses? My answer is no. Old houses can be renovated into something with high quality and good taste,” Li said.
(By Carina Zheng, Louis Berney)