GUIZHOU, GUANGXI, GUILIN (Stunning Scenery, Minorities)

GUIZHOU PROVINCE

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GUIZHOU PROVINCE is a hilly, remote province in southwest China. Situated between Hunan, Guangxi, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, it is known for its beautiful countryside, festivals and ethnic minorities (Yi, Dong, Miao, Bouyei, Shui, Gelao, Bai, Zhuang and Hui make up 25 percent of the population). In 1935, during the Long March, Mao Zedong consolidated his power here and took control of the Chinese Communist Party.

There is a saying in Guizhou: "there aren't three days without rain, three miles without a mountain or three coin's in anyone's pocket." About 90 percent of the land is covered by mountains and a third of the villages can not be reached by road.

Even though only 12 percent of the land is arable, farmers make the most of it by harvesting two crops a year in a patchwork of fields between limestone hills and low granite mountains. Homes, walls, terraces, bridges, aqueducts, roads, dikes and dams are all built from stone. Travel is not easy. The trains are slow and bus and truck journeys are rough.

Guizhou is one of China's poorest provinces. According to one estimate 70 percent of the population is illiterate, and a third of the people live in severe poverty. Guizhou is rich in minerals but it doesn't have the infrastructure to deliver them to the marketplace.

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Guizhou map
Guizhou has been relatively untouched by the Deng reforms. Peasant families sleep in open-air huts, collect water in the mountains with shoulder poles, sleep under thin quilts in the winter and subsist off cornmeal gruel. Many people are too poor to buy plow animals or fertilizer or afford electricity. In the remote Duyun prefecture, 3.8 million people live below the Beijing poverty line of $1 a week. Many people here say they lived better in the Mao era, when at least they were guaranteed grain rations and given subsidized medical care and free schooling. [Sources: the New York Times and Time magazine] Map: China Highlights China Highlights

Guiyang

Guiyang is the capital and largest city in Guizhou. There isn't much to see but some people change trains or catch buses here.

Tourist Office: Guiyang Provincial Tourism Bureau, Tower 5, 346 North Zhounghua Rd, 550004 Guiyang, Guizhou, China, tel. (0)-851-689-2101, fax: (0)-851-68-2309 Web Sites: Wikipedia Wikipedia CRIEnglish CRIEnglish Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Maps: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet China Map Guide China Map Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Trip Advisor Trip Advisor Budget Accommodation: Check the Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint Getting There: Guiyang is accessible by air, train and bus. It is a major railway hub and is accessible by train from Chengdu, Guangzhou, Kunming and other major cities in China. Some of the trains are slow. It Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide

Huaxi Ethnic Scenic Spot

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Huaxi Ethnic Scenic Spot (16 kilometers from Guiyang City) is dotted with Miao, Bouyi and Dong villages. The ethnic groups entertain tourists with singing and dancing at touristy Lusheng parties. The best way to see the area is trek around with a guide. Huaxi Park is a nature reserve with underground caves with clear rivers and stalactites. Also in the area is the ancient city of Qingyan, known for its nine monasteries, eight temples and four towers which are placed on a plateau.

Hongfeng Lake (32 kilometers west of Guiyang) is actually a series of three lakes bordering Qingzhen and Pingba County. The lakes contain many beautiful bays and islands. Surrounding the lakes are mountains and ravines covered with dense forest. There are many Dong villages here. Dong girls sing, dance, and entertain visitors in a tourist village.

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Bouye girl
Zhijin Cave (100 kilometers from Guiyang) is a huge cave in the northwest of Zhijin County which covers over 30,000 square meters. There are eight scenic spots, 19 halls and 49 chambers that are open to the public. The average height of the cave is 150 feet and the highest spot is 550 feet. The cave is noted for its stalactites, stalagmites, and the clear blue water in its lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Web Sites : Luopan.com Luopan.com ; Photos Travel in China

Duyun (100 kilometers southeast of Guiyang) is the home of the “chicken feather Miao.” They wear perhaps the most elaborate costume of any ethnic group in Asia. Web Site: Travel China Guide

Anshun

Anshun (96 kilometers southwest of Guiyang) was once the center of the opium trade. The limestone scenery around the town is quite beautiful. Web Sites: Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Anshun is accessible by train and long-distance bus. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide

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Miao girls
Dragon Palace (32 kilometers to the east of Anshun) is an underground cavern with waterfalls, a 10,000-square-meter lake called Heavenly Pool, and other underground scenic spots that can be explored by boat and on foot. Purplish stalactites drop down from the arched roof of the cave at the entrance. If you follow Heavenly Pool far enough you'll arrive at Dragon Gate Falls. Below the falls is a huge room which resembles a crystal palace and above the falls is a huge stalactite covered arch called Dragon Gate. There are many caves, stone forests and waterfalls near Dragon Palace, which is also known as Longgong Caves. The South China Karst area which extends across a large area of Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan Provinces has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO .Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site

Huangoushu Waterfall (50 kilometers southwest of Anshun) is the largest waterfall in Asia in terms of the amount of water that drops over the edge. Bordering Zhenning County and Guanling County, these falls are 220 feet high, and 250 feet across. In the middle of the falls water cascades over a cliffside cave, which can be reached on a slippery trail for an inside view of the falls. The falls are most impressive in the rainy season from May to October

The karst scenery in the area is very impressive and they are many villages inhabited by Bouyei people. Other falls in the area include Luositan Falls and Yinlianzhui Falls. There are also more than a dozen major caves in the area. The Tianxinqiao Stone Forests boasts outdoor stalactites and stalagmites. Web Site: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Kaili

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Dong bridge

Kaili (200 kilometers east of Guiyang) is another area famous for its ethnic groups. There are many Dong villages around Liping. Many Miao live around Shibing, where boat rides are offered on the Wuyang River. Most of the Dong and Miao that reside here live in stilt houses. Many of the Dong villages have drum towers, pavilions and bridges. There are 135 festivals held in this area each year. The most well known ones are held in the middles of the first lunar month and the seventh lunar month. Visitors who attend get treated to rice wine, dances and songs played on reed pipes.

The Chenyang Bridge in Guangzi Zhuang Autonomous region is regarded as the best Dong covered bridge. Tongdao Bridge in southern Hunan Province is another good. Dimen is a Dong village of 500 households that has a community, cultural and research center and is home to the Dimen Dong Eco-museum. The Dong here were described in a National Geographic article by Amy Tam.

Shanglandgde is an interesting Miao village. Some of the Miao girls here wear enormous and elaborate silver headdresses.

Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; China Highlights China Highlights Hotel Web Sites : Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Kaili is accessible by train and bus but the train. There are many trains but the service is slow. Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

GUANGXI PROVINCE

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Guangxi
GUANGXI PROVINCE is home of famous limestone formation of Guilin and several ethnic minorities. Situated north of Vietnam and east of the Yunnan Province, it for the most part is rural and poor. Some people still live in caves. Farms are worked with water buffalo, horses and non-mechanical water pumps. Children swim naked in the rivers. The whole region is very green the year round. Han Chinese outnumber the local ethnic groups in Guangxi.

Guangxi has a per capita income of between $250 and $500 (1997). Sinologist Jasper Becker said that it is where "the poorest of the poor go hungry surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world." Many people live on less than $50 a year and half the children are malnourished. There are few schools and medical facilities.

Guangxi (Short title is Gui) is a multi-ethnic autonomous region that lies in subtropical climate. There are hills, basins, plains, coastal, complex terrain, high temperatures, plentiful rain and long frost-free periods. A wide variety of livestock are found there. Fruit and vegetable can be harvested in every season. Minorities that live in Guangxi Province include Dong, Jing (also found in Vietnam), Yi, Maonan, Miao, Miaai, Mulam, Mulao, Tujia, Yao, and Zhuang.

Nanning

Nanning is the capital and largest town in Guanxi. It is a bustling agricultural town Tourist Office : Guangxi Tourist Administration, 40 Xinmin Rd, Nanning, 530012, China, tel. (0)-771-280-8738, fax: (0)- 771-280-1041 Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation:Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Nanning is accessible by air and bus and well connected by train to major cities to the north. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide

GUILIN

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Guanxi map
GUILIN (400 kilometers from Canton) is located at the center of area filled with spectacular and unusual limestone rock formations. The subject of many classical silkscreen scrolls, great Chinese poems and tourist brochures, the formations are one of China's most well-known attractions. You can't really climb or hike on the formations. They main way to enjoy them is to look at them.

There is a saying in China that the mountains and waters of Guilin are the best under heaven. As far as the eye can see in all directions are limestone formations riddled with caves, covered with lush vegetation and shaped like animals, mythical beasts and other objects. Weaving through the cliffs and rocks are placid rivers and streams surrounded by a patchwork of farms, rice paddies, villages and ponds. The otherworldly beauty of the region was showcased in the movie the Joy Luck Club .

The Guilin area is is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. But Guilin city itself isn't all that great. The Communists transformed it from a large market town into a small industrial center. Although it is nicer than some Chinese cities. It is still noisy, dirty and drab. You are much better off heading to Yangshuo, about an hour and a half away.

Guilin means "City of Osthmanus Trees" and the city produces syrupy and medicine-tasting osthmanus wine. There are rock formations in and around Guilin but there settings are often less than tranquil. The market is filled with all kinds of caged birds and turtles, kites, pot holders, aprons, napkins, fans, carved salad bowls, handmade glasses, silver boxes, puppets, masks.

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Getting to Guilin isn't all that easy to get to. The bus trip from Guangzhou (Canton) is long and uncomfortable. The train is often fully-booked and it is slow and relatively infrequent. Flying is expensive.The South China Karst area which extends across a large area of Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan Provinces has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site

Tourist Offices at the airport, near the main bus station, at the entrance of Seven Star Park and near the Lize Bridge. Guilin Tourist Information Center, 14 North Ronghu, Diecai District. Guangxi Province tel. (86)-773-280-0318.Also try Guilin Tourism Bureau, 14 North Ronghu Rd, 541001 Guilin, Guangxi, China, tel. (0)-773-282-5890, fax: (0)- 773-282-9111 Web Sites: Guilin Tourist Office Guilin Tourist ; Guilin China.net Guilin China Wikipedia Wikipedia ;China Highlights China Highlights Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Maps: China Map Guide China Map Guide Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint

Getting There: Guilin is accessible by air and bus. It is well connected by train to northern China but to reach many destinations in southern China it is easier to take a bus. Check out Travel China Guide (click transportation): Travel China Guide ; Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

Yangshuo

Yangshuo (65 kilometers south of Guilin City) in the view of many is the best place to check out the Guilin area rock formations. Situated on the shore of the Li River, it is a charming budget traveler town with lots of guesthouses, art and souvenir shops and restaurants that sell muesli, banana pancakes and beer.

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The Yangshuo area is a great place to explore on foot and by bicycle. Bicycles (the typical Chinese ones are often stronger than the mountain bikes) can be rented for around $2 a day at several places.As for hiking routes, just start walking in the direction of some nice rock formation and remember how to get back. There are plenty of guides that will take you to the scenic spots. They roam around with photo albums.

Yangshuo is fairly small. The budget travelers section is located mostly on one street. The rest of Yangshuo is a typical Chinese rural town. The scenery around the town is stunning. Surrounding it are ten limestone peaks that some say look like a lotus flower. They are interspersed with houses, farms, stands of trees and streams. Well known spots include Moon Hill, Pageboy Hill, Green Lotus Peak, Dragon Back Hill, White Carne Hill, Old Ferry Under the Banyan Tree, Beautiful Girl Hill, Crab Hill and Laixan Hill." Each scenic spot has unique characteristics, which vary with the changing seasons.

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Tourist Office: There are several CITS offices in town, tel. 86- (0)-773-280-0318. The small town tourist office is at West Streetm Chengzhou Road tel. 86- (0)-773-280-7922. Web Sites: Yangshuo Mountain Retreat Yangshuo Mountain Retreat ;China Backpacker China Backpacker Maps: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Maps of China Yangers.com Yangers.com Yangshuo Travel Guide Yangshuo Travel Guide Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint

Getting There: Yangshuo is accessible by bus and minibus from Guilin. Buses and minibuses can most easily be caught in Guilin at the South railway station and the long distance bus station. Yangshuo is also a stop on buses that travel between Guilin and Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Another alternative is to take a cruise on the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide ; Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

Touring the Li River

Touring the Li River is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ways to enjoy the Guilin region. A 50-mile section of the river between Guilin to Yangshuo winds through the heart of region with the densest concentration of limestone formations, passing steep-sided conical hills, green mountains, waterfalls, springs and caves.

There are essentially two ways to tour the river. The first way is to take a tourist boat down river from Guilin to Yangshuo. The boats are large, comfortable and expensive but the pass through lots of formations. Most passengers get off in Yangshuo and take a bus back to Guilin. The second alternative is to catch a smaller, cheaper boat in Yangshuo, travel upriver past the best formations and return to Yangshuo. Many people bring a bicycle along and get off in Xingping and ride back to Yangshuo.

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The Li River is clearish green and moves along at it a good clip without being rough. The trip usually takes most of the day. You can drink beer and chat with the other passengers as you cruise along watching the fishermen and limestone formations. Most boats serve lunch. The most prominent rock formations include Bat Hill, A Boy Worships Buddha, Snail Hill, Five Fingers Hill, Cockfighting Hill, Five Tigers Catch a Goat, Crown Cave, Single-Beauty Peak and Mural Hill. There are hundreds of others.

In the countryside along the river are bamboo forests, water buffalo, farms, rice paddies, and villages. In the river, fisherman get around in sampans, narrow fishing boats and raft-like boats made from bamboo and poled through the shallow water by a standing fisherman.Cormorant fishing is done on the Li River around Guilin and Yangshuo. Cormorant fishing tours can be arranged in both places. Map: China Map Guide China Map Guide Photos : Guilin China

Elephant Trunk Hill (at the confluence of the Li River and Yangjiang River) is rock hill with hole in it that dips into the river like an elephant taking a drink. The hole is known as Water Moon Arch and although it is only a few meters high tourist boats go right through it. Inside the arch are more than 50 sculptures. Nearby a small path leads to the hour glass shaped Precious Bottle Tower which sits at the top of the hill.

Reed-Flute Cave

Reed-Flute Cave (south of Guangming Hill in Guilin) is a half-mile-long stalactite and stalagmite cave with multi-colored lights and formations with names like Lion and Forest Under the Glow of Dawn, Singing Birds, Fragrant Flowers, Wild Lion Roaring Goodby to His Guests and Flying Waterfall from the Gorge. In one section stunning pillars and chandeliers that hang from the roof of the cave are perfectly reflected in the smooth surface of an underground pool. The cave was discovered by a man digging a well.

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Some find Reed-Flute Cave to be unbearably tacky. In Riding the Iron Rooster, Paul Theroux wrote, "It looked Disneyish, a piece of natural vulgarity---a tasteless act of God. It could have been made of polyester or papier-mâché. It dripped. It glugged. Chunks of slimy limestone dropped from the ceiling. It was a spelunkers version of Sunset Strip or the Shanghai Bund." The Zhuangzu region around the cave is filled with caves and karst formations.

Seven Star Cave (halfway up the slope of Putuo Mountain in Guilin) is the largest and most fascinating cave in the Guilin area. A tourist attraction since A.D. 600, it contains several caverns. The main one is a 1,000-meter-long tunnel festooned with 40 major stalactite formations such as Water Overflowing the Golden Mountain, Palace of Immense Cold, and Two Lions Fighting For a Ball. Over the centuries many poems and inscriptions have been left behind on the cave's wall by scholars.

Piled Festoon Hill (on the Li River north of Guilin) is a green hill with exposed limestone cliffs that look like dangling chains. Some of the hill's main features include Windy Cave, Crane Peak and Bright Moon Peak which has a little pavilion sitting on the top of it that can be reached by foot. Tourist have been coming here for 1000 years and many inscriptions and sculptures, including 90 cliff statues, have been left behind.

Big Dragon Pool (near Liuzhou, 160 kilometers from Guilin) is an underground river that comes gushing out of a limestone hill and then disappears again. Poets used to come here to pray for rain. Behind the pool are seven peaks called the "Seven Lady Peaks" which form a circle. Yufeng Hill, also located in this area, is a 250-meter-high hill, with rock caves. Inside the caves are 50 dragon pools which drain into the Liu River through rock crevasses. The area around Liuzhou has limestone formations similar to those in Guilin but less impressive.

Longsheng Rice Terraces

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Longsheng (near the border of Guizhou Province, three hours northwest of Guilin) is the home of Dong, Dao and Miao hill tribes. The town of Longsheng isn't so nice but the countryside around is filled with stunning rice terraces and minority villages. There are organized tours to Longsheng from Guilin. Many travelers do two or three treks in the area.

Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Map: China Highlights China Highlights Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Longsheng is accessible by bus or organized tour from Guilin and Yangshuo. Buses leave about every 40 minutes form the main Guilin bus station.Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide ; Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet Photos: Travel China Guide

Wuzhou (seven hours from Yangshuo) has two things of interest to travelers: a hovercraft to Hong Kong and one of the world's largest snake repositories. More than one million snakes from the repository are taken to restaurants and medicine shops all over southern China. Web Site: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Hekou (on the Vietnam border) is filled with gambling halls and prostitutes. In some places heroin is sold openly on the streets.

Image Sources: Province maps from the Nolls China Web site. Photographs of places from 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4) Beifan.com; 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6) Mongabey.com; 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia; 10) Julie Chao photo site; 11) Guilin Pictures

Text Sources: CNTO, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

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