In Guangzhou, couples wander up and down a street dedicated to bridal wear, holding hands and stealing a kiss when they feel no one is watching.
Wedding dresses come in all shapes and sizes here, from meringue-shaped designs to the sleek and chic, and trade is brisk.
In Hong Kong, locals and foodies sit elbow to elbow in a tiny cafe enjoying some of the best noodles around while others form a line stretching to the end of the block, longing for someone to give up their tiny stool as the delicate aroma wafts from the over-worked woks.
In Macau, hidden away from the glitz of the towering crowded casinos, locals and tourists stroll along charming old cobblestone streets past colourful houses and shops where the Portuguese influence is preserved and celebrated.
Welcome to three different faces of southern China - three dynamic cities that sit on the Pearl River delta triangle.
They share many things yet all have their own eclectic personality that entertains, amuses and seduces the traveller in search of something different.
Scratch the surface of Guangzhou, Hong Kong or Macau and you soon discover each one’s individual charm and personality.
The trio of cities offers an intriguing look at a country that rarely sleeps with a great mix of attractions, flavours, sights and sounds.
Thriving Guangzhou, formerly Canton, is the third largest Chinese city with a population of 15 million and a history dating to more than 2000 years.
It may be the major manufacturing hub of the Pearl River Delta and one of mainland China’s leading commercial and manufacturing regions, but make no mistake, there’s lots to do.
It’s a city of contrasts with the Guangzhou Opera House, designed by the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, and the equally impressive International Finance Centre, Guangzhou’s tallest building.
For the best bird’s-eye view of Guangzhou, head to the 600-metre Canton Tower that was built for the 2010 Asian Games,and travel via two lifts to the top for stunning views, day or night, across the Pearl River and the sprawling city.
For a step back into the past, visit Shamian Island next to Qingping market which is home to a string of 19th-century buildings that reflect the elegant colonial era complete with shaded elegant boulevards.
The post-Mao era’s first high-rise hotel, the White Swan, is another island landmark now undergoing a renovation.
In 1859, after the Opium Wars, the Qing Dynasty divided Shamian Island into British and French concessions where foreigners conducted business with the Chinese.
These days couples spend time ballroom dancing in Shamian Park and there’s even a Starbucks in one of the stately buildings.
Guangzhou Museum provides a fascinating insight into the area’s history with an amazing pottery collection and, when the sun goes down, step aboard a Pearl River cruise for an impressive light show that showcases its towering skyscrapers.
The city’s cuisine is memorable and if you are a goose lover, there are restaurants that serve multi courses of goose dishes - definitely an acquired taste for most of us.
Catching the train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong via Shenzhen is easy, it’s just a two-hour trip. We disembark at Hung Hom Station.
The best way to discover Hong Kong, which translates as ‘fragrant harbour’ is via an Octopus card which you can use on buses, trams and trains and even convenience stores.
With 7 million people, it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and, like Guangzhou, it’s a city that never sleeps.
Some of the most iconic attractions is a ride on the STAR ferry, and a visit to The Peak on Hong Kong Island for stunning views.
Step into the historic cafe for a refreshment then head out on a walk on one of the trails where you will see a different side of the peak glimpsing mansions hidden behind gardens and high fences.
The Stanley Market is a great day out and there are some small bars and cafes close by that are perfect for a break, then enjoy a ride at the front of a double-decker bus back to the CBD.
After two days of shopping, walking and dining, we catch a Turbojet ferry to Macau on the far side of the Pearl River Delta, our last city stop.
It’s definitely a city of contrasts and you will discover a surprise around every corner.
You may well come face to a face with a Taoist temple, a Michelin-starred Portuguese restaurant, a towering skyscraper or stone fortress, all within several blocks.
There’s a certain mystique about Macau, located on the western banks of the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong Province, that entices you to discover more. Macau, with a population of about 573,000, was first settled by fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong in the 16th century and soon became the perfect crossroad for the meeting of East and West cultures.
Today there’s so much more to Macau than just gaming, entertainment venues and sprawling malls.
Scratch the surface and you will find there’s something for everyone here, where the East meets the West.
If you want an adrenaline rush, you can climb the mast of the Macau Tower, the 10th tallest tower in the world. For a history fix, head to the impressive Macau Museum, which traces the character of the city over the past four centuries.
One of the most beautiful sights is the famous Senado Square and St Domingo’s Church in the main square, which is paved with a wave patterned stone mosaic created by experts from Portugal. The A-Ma Temple with its whopping incense sticks that cost $300 is also a must-do.
Of course, the other side to Macau is its crowded casinos often attached to ritzy luxury hotels.
Fancy a ride along a canal with a singing gondolier? It’s all possible because gambling is big business here with an annual turnover more than five times that of Las Vegas.
Be tempted by some authentic Portuguese and Macanese cuisine and try classic dishes at the excellent Dom Galo Portuguese restaurant.
In a few days you can easily visit these three great Chinese cities, taste their different specialties, discover their heritage and marvel at their progress.
They may well be different but they have one thing in common - each beckons you to return for more adventures.
Published under license from Well Travelled