The Southeast

South of Shànghâi and the Yangzi River, the coastal provinces of Zhèjiang, Fujiàn, and Guangdong have always been China's most outward-looking. These towns, which boomed under the relatively open Tang dynasty and which were forced to re-open as "treaty ports" by the guns of the British in the 19th century, are also those most prosperous under the current "reform and opening" policy. But in between the famous names, smaller Shaoxlng and Quanzhdu have managed to preserve some of their charm. Xiamen, connected to Hong Kong by sea, has a treasure trove of colonial-era shop-houses, and an island covered in foreign-style mansions. A short distance inland, rural life continues much as it did back in the Tang dynasty, and extraordinary collections of fortress-mansions, corridor bridges, and watchtowers have survived the destruction of the Cultural Revolution. A little further inland, the impoverished pottery-producing province of Jiangxl shows the two-speed nature of China's growth.

HONG KONG & MACAU

Two sets of pencil-slim towers jostle for position on either side of a harbor, close as bristles on a brush. Between them, ponderous ocean-going vessels slide past puttering junks, and century-old ferries waddle and weave across their paths. The mixture of Asia's finest hotels, territory-wide duty-free shopping, incense-filled working temples, and British double-decker buses makes this city-state worth flying to Asia to see in its own right. Macau, a little bit of misplaced Mediterranean, is a short ferry ride away.

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