On the Pearl River, Shamian Island is actually a sandbar connected to the city by several bridges. For nearly a century, it was both French and British, having been sold to these two countries (1/5th French, the rest British) under the Treaty of Tianjin In 1859.
Shamian returned to China in 1949, but it still retains a strong colonial footprint. A visit here is a complete departure from the noisy and hectic modern city. The streets, lined with banyan and camphor trees, give the impression that time has stopped, that the mah-jong players have been at it forever. The Victorian and Second Empire houses have been restored in their original pastel colours. On weekends, you will see young married couples that have come to be photographed in the gardens. As in old Canton, tai chi and qigong are practiced everywhere. If you have religious beliefs, note that Protestants go to Shamian Christ Church, Catholics to of Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel.