Historically, the town has been associated with the Guangdong opera style of Quyi. Performances are held regularly and many of Guangdong’s top performers have visited over the years.
Machong also has a rich tradition of dragon boat racing, which can be seen as you walk around; from the dragons painted along the bridge as you come into the town to the spectator stand that has been built beside the river.
Machong continues to celebrate its traditions. In 1999 the town was named The Land of Quyi by the China Federation of Literature and Arts. Earlier this year, a local team won the Dragon Boat World Championship in Ravenna, Italy.
Overall, Machong seems less affected by the opening of China than other towns in Dongguan. There appears to be fewer factories, the local dialect is widely spoken and the population seems older. Only around 40 percent of the population of Machong are non-permanent residents. When compared to towns like Changping, where the non-permanent residents account for about 85 percent of the population, the difference is more apparent.
WHAT CAN I DO?
When speaking to people in Machong, they recommend the recently opened Hua Yang Lake. The lake offers some scenic sights and a welcome break away from the hustle and bustle of the town. If you do go, then be sure to hire one of the pedal boats. They offer the best views of the lake and when you arrive at the other side there is a free shuttle bus service returning to town.
Machong is also home to Zhongshan University. In the evenings there is a lively atmosphere and surrounding the campuses are plenty of cool coffee shops and restaurants.
Like many places in China, a significant amount of money has been put into redeveloping Gu Mei Road into a faux-traditional district. The road has been split into two narrow cobbled streets while the old housing has been replaced with grey brick shops. It may not be really traditional, but Gumei Road is still a pleasant environment and has the higher end retail shops in town.
For those who are feeling brave, you can try Machong’s infamous cuisine at the many local restaurants. Signature dishes include ‘mouse stem pork’ and ‘rat top three chickens’. They are not cheap, however, with it being possible to pay up to RMB 60 per kilogram for dried rat bacon.
Almost as unusual as Machong’s local delicacies, is the lack of taxis around town. So if you plan to explore then be prepared to either ride around on the back of a motorbike or do a lot of walking.
If you are going to walk anywhere, however, take a stroll along the river. In the early afternoon old fishermen sit lazily by the water and by the evening young couples from the university can be seen taking romantic walks.
If you walk away from the university and under the bridge then you will come across Italian Kitchen, Machong’s only western restaurant (see review page 45). Henry, the owner, will be happy to give advice about what to do around town.
Across the river from the Italian Kitchen is the spectator stand for the dragon boat racing. The racing takes places on the 16th day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, but the stand is open to the public all year round for those who want to sit by the river. Fortunately, you do not have to wait so long to enjoy Machong’s Quyi opera. Performances are held most Wednesdays in the town’s cultural square.
You can go directly to Machong from Wanjiang Bus Station by taking the 601. If you go by taxi, it takes about 40 minutes and should cost around RMB 100 from downtown.
Location: North West Dongguan
Area: 74 sq. kilometers
Journey Time: Around 40 minutes from downtown
Local Attractions: Hua Ying Lake, Zhongshan University, Gu Mei Road