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Young explorers find feet with city walks

By CHENG SI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-09-29 08:50

People walk along the Bund in Shanghai in July. WANG GANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Paid city walk

Though the primary attraction of the city walk trend lies in the fact it is free, some organizations and companies are now trying to cash in on it.

Kuang Jiajian, founder of BookDocent in Guangzhou, in Guangdong province, told Yangcheng Evening News that the trend originated in the United Kingdom as a supplementary service by homestays.

He said that the "paid city walks" is more like "paying for knowledge". So far, his team has designed over 40 guided routes in Guangzhou and its neighboring cities with the cost of a single guided walk being around 88 yuan. The walks last about two or three hours and cater to at most 20 people at a time to ensure a personalized traveling experience.

"Guides play the most important role in paid city walks. They have to be very familiar with the walking routes and have a rich knowledge about the histories and stories of the streets."

Kuang said that it's not easy to design a city walk route, which may take a guide months or even a year to prepare. The route experiences changes every day as these are along streets where communities live and the lives of people keep changing. This requires the guides to travel regularly along these routes to stay up to date.

He said that so far, most of the people joining the paid city walks have been young, and who are interested in the city's culture and history.

"When people discover a sense of identity or belonging after learning more about the city and become an observer of the city, our work is done," he said.

Song Jing, a 29-year-old from Shanghai, joined two paid city walks this summer. "It was a good experience for me. The paid walk I first joined was in early June and cost me 128 yuan for the three-hour trip. I've gathered some knowledge about the history of the streets and buildings I saw, which is better than seeing it all, without learning anything."

She said she is fine with the fee though her friends laughed at her when she told them about going on a paid walk. "It's understandable. Some people like city walk because for them it means free urban travel. I like trying new things. I can also socialize with other people during the walk, which makes the walks more interesting," she explained.

Strategy guides

Latching on to the trend, the culture and tourism departments of many cities have started to attract travelers by publishing city walk guides on their official WeChat accounts or websites.

For instance, the Wuhan Culture and Tourism Bureau released an online city walk guide in early September, which includes seven stops along some old but flourishing streets in the city's Hankou district, which is famous for its mix of Chinese and Western cultures and Western-style buildings and river views.

In the walking guide, the bureau highlights some well-known attractions. For example, the Dazhimen Railway Station, which was first built in 1900 and is designed by two French architects. Food street is also marked in the walking guide to let travelers find delicious food and specialties during the walks.

Zhejiang's Yuhang city also released a city walk guide on its WeChat account earlier this September, introducing some ancient towns, bridges and foods to attract city walk fans.

Zheng Nan, a publicist from Tuniu, said that city walk is a more relaxed way to see a place for both local residents and travelers, and meets more personalized traveling demands of young people.

"I think it's a sustainable way of traveling. Exploring on foot gives travelers a more down-to-earth experience of the city's culture, history, consumption and nature, which is a derivation of the diversified tourism industry and means good development prospects for the future," she added.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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