Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village

Zhaoxing: Updated travel info and new (old) photos.

Zhaoxing 肇兴镇 (2003)

Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village. Having a chat
Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village. Having a chat

Zhaoxing, the ultimate Dong village is must for anyone interested in Dong minority architecture and culture. And even if Zhaoxing has become somewhat tamer and more touristy since we visited, it is still a gem you cannot miss if you are travelling in these parts.

Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village.
Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village. Having a chat

Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village: About the black and white photos

These are real black and white photos taken using a cheap black and white film i picked up in Beijing. The colour photos are from later in the day and the following day after changing rolls.

Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village. All aboard!
Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village. All aboard!

The ride from Songjiang to Zhaoxing takes around 5 hours: first the road hugs the shores of a broad river with quite a bit of river traffic, before becoming an unsealed road that winds its way up and down over the mountains (see update at the end of the article). There are ample vistas of shiny, undulating rice terraces, narrow valleys, distant drum towers and covered bridges.

Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village in black and white
Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village in black and white

Zhaoxing is one of the few towns in China whose beauty you will never forget. It’s a traditional Dong town, entirely built of wood, with 5 drum towers, an equal number of theatre stages and arcaded streets.

Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village; the Drum Tower
Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village; the Drum Tower

Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village

Zhaoxing dog on balcony
Zhaoxing dog on balcony

In 2003 the town remained completely intact and authentic; there wasn’t a white tile building in sight (apart from the local school on the edge of down), nor had they carried out any of those tacky reforms aimed at the tourist trade. There were just a couple of guesthouses, small restaurants and one or two tasteful shops, selling antiques, rustic farm implements and ethnic clothes.

River Scene Zhaoxing
River Scene Zhaoxing

The town is extremely compact with a clearly defined beginning and end. The main street is bustling with vegetable and meat stalls and there are chillies everywhere; fresh chillies, chillies being dried, pounded, ground or preserved.

Grinding Thunder Mountain Chillies in Zhaoxing Guizhou
Grinding Thunder Mountain Chillies in Zhaoxing Guizhou

Update 1: Thunder Mountain chillies

Since our vist to Zhaoxing I have become a great fan of chillies and cultivating them too. Looking again at these photos I am more and more convinced that the chillies they are selling are the famous Thunder Mountain (Leigong Shan) Chillies grown in Guizhou. They are said to be the longest chillies in the world and their seeds are sought after by chilli freaks like me. My only doubt is that they look a little thicker than Thunder Mountain Chillies,

Thunder Mountain chillies on sale in Zhaoxing Guizhou
Thunder Mountain Chillies on sale in Zhaoxing Guizhou

There is a busy traffic of carts, pulled by shiny, well looked-after little horses, bringing in fresh produce. Villagers from the surrounding countryside are ferried into town in jam-packed minivans, or piled high on pick-up trucks.

Zhaoxing travel connections 200
Zhaoxing travel connections 2003

Set back from the main street there are several squares, some centred  around imposing and elaborately decorated Drum Towers, others set by small theatre stages where local opera performances still take place, especially in June.

Zhaoxing theatre and Dong lady with basket
Zhaoxing theatre and Dong lady with basket

Zhaoxing: The Ultimate Dong Village: Chilling Out

Locals, mostly elderly people and grannies looking after babies, occupy the benches underneath the Drum Towers, or lining the streets, and while away the hours.

Chilling out in Zhaoxing
Chilling out in Zhaoxing

One of the funniest sights we saw, was an old man un-harnessing his horse in front of his little house, unlocking the door and walking straight in … with the animal!

Siesta time in Zhaoxing
Siesta time in Zhaoxing

As for its surroundings, Zhaoxing is set in a deep valley, enclosed by rice terraces and forests on all sides.

Dinner passing by in zhaoxing
Dinner passing by in zhaoxing

As in many parts of Guizhou, especially in summer, the sky is often dull and grey, which lends a slightly gloomy atmosphere to the countryside. Yet, occasionally a ray of sunlight breaks through the clouds and ignites the rice paddies into a blaze of bright green, completely transforming the ambience.

Stunning Zhaoxing
Stunning Zhaoxing

Climbing up the rice terraces behind Zhaoxing, you will be rewarded with marvellous views over the whole town. This way, you’ll be able to fully appreciate its completeness and uniqueness.

Fiddler on the roof Zhaoxing
Fiddler on the roof Zhaoxing

For further exploration, there are many paths leading out of the village towards other, smaller, but equally beautiful Dong settlements such as Jitang and Tang’an. The local guesthouses can provide maps and recommendations for hikes to surrounding villages.

Zhaoxing practicalities:

Wind and Rain bridge Zhaoxing
Wind and Rain bridge Zhaoxing

Accommodation and Food:

We stayed at Lulu’s Homestay, a small hostel run by a friend of the owner of the Chengyang Bridge National Hostel and located right behind one of the Drum Towers. He must have rung ahead, as the daughter of Mr Lu, who spoke a little English, was waiting for us at the bus stop when we arrived.

Zhaoxing Map of walks and other Dong Villages given to us by Mr Lu
Zhaoxing Map of walks and other Dong Villages Given to us by Mr Lu

Rooms in the three-storey wooden house are clean and simple, with a shared bathroom, and internet access is available. The family also made very good food, with plenty of fresh vegetables and large portions. They were in the process of building a much larger wooden guesthouse, just a few doors away. 

Breakfast in Zhaoxing
Breakfast in Zhaoxing

At the time there was another, more upmarket hostel, with a restaurant and a shop selling ethnic clothing and souvenirs, near the main street.

Onward Travel & Update:

Local Transport Zhaoxing
Local Transport Zhaoxing

In 2003 we continued from Zhaoxing to Kaili. To do this we took an early morning bus, at approximately 7 o’clock to Liping (one to one and a half hours) and then changed buses for Kaili, which took another eight hours.

Beautiful Zhaoxing
Beautiful Zhaoxing

However, we could have interrupted our journey in Rongjiang – a town we finally ended up visiting this summer – in 2007.

Travel Update

Old Zhaoxing Residents under the main drum tower
Old Zhaoxing Residents under the main drum tower

The high-speed train that runs between Guangzhou and Guiyang makes getting to Zhaoxing faster. The closest stops are Sanjiang or Congjiang. Congjiang station is much closer and is less than 10 kms way from Zhaoxing. Regular buses connect Conjiang Railway Staion to Zhaoxing and cost around 2 Yuan.

Downtown Zhaoxing
Downtown Zhaoxing

From Sanjiang there is a toll road motorway that reduces travelling time to around one and a half hours. Buses may take longer as the usually take the old road to stop at other towns along the way. I fondly remmeber the 5 hour ride in 2003 as it passed through some beautiful river and mountain scenery.

Zhaoxing overview
Zhaoxing overview

Matang Gejia Minority Village

Hurry Up! Matang Village

Matang

Matang Gejia Minority Village

Matang Gejia Minority Village is a leisurely two kilometre stroll from the turn off from the main road that leads to the lively, friendly and prosperous town of Kaili 凯里市 Guizhou Province .

Gejia Ladies returning home to Matang

On the way you’ll pass plenty of colourfully dressed Gejia ladies working in the fields, or dangling live chickens over their shoulders on their way back from the market.

Gejia  Women from Matang Guizhou China
Gerjia Matang

The Gejia, a sub group of the Miao nationality

The Gejia, a sub group of the Miao nationality, wear distinctive clothes and are renowned for their batiks. Especially striking are the women’s multi-coloured striped hats, as well as their elaborately embroidered aprons.

Matang Gejia Minority Village

At first sight Matang looks like any other minority village in the Kaili area. Large wooden houses ramble up and over a hill, green rice fields and terraces surround the houses on all sides.

Gejia House Matang

It’s only as you approach the entrance that you notice something different about the place.

Gejia Trninket seller Matang

We weren’t the first foreigners to visit

First of all, you quickly realise that you are not the first tourist to pass by, as you are greeted by a scrum of ladies trying to flog you anything from batik cloth, local lace and embroidery to ethnic silver jewellery.

Laughing Gejia Girl Matang

The negotiating is pretty good- humoured and you are soon left alone, once you make it clear you aren’t buying anything. The second thing you note is that Matang has been earmarked for special development.

Gerjia Lady

Matang Gejia Minority Village: A Model Village

In Matang you won’t find the usual broken and scruffy paths, found in most Guizhou villages. In this model village you will come across well- laid cobbled paths with neat concrete gutters running alongside and little night-lights built in.

Matang Village

The houses, like the streets, show a cleanliness and order unusual in minority villages, as well as obvious signs of prosperity, such as TV aerials and satellite dishes.

Matang Gejia Minority Village

The Gejia seemed friendly and pretty unfazed by a couple of foreign devils strolling around and poking their curious noses into homes.

Witing for the French tourists in Matang

Bedlam only ensued with the arrival of a French tour group that found itself besieged by souvenir sellers on the brand-new and partly covered village square.

Matang Gejia Minority Village
Matang Gejia Minority Village

In the commotion, we slipped away  behind the village, where numerous paths wind their way into the pretty countryside, offering good hiking opportunities.

Beautiful Bucolic Landscape Matang

Chinese Bullfighting

The day we visited Matang was a big day for the village. It was the culmination of the five-day annual bullfighting festival, an event held to commemorate the day that rebel leader Zhang Xiumei. He met his end at the hands of the Imperial troops in August 1873.

Going to the Bull Fighting Matang

Luckily, bullfighting in China isn’t as bloody as in Spain. Basically, two buffalo are incited to fight each other by crashing their heads together, until one decides he has had enough and runs away.

Going to the Bull fight Matang

Getting there

There are loads of daily buses from Kaili that pass the turn off for Matang so getting there and back in a day is very easy. The village can be explored in an hour, but as I mentioned above, hiking opportunities abound in every direction.

Matang Just been shopping

Kaili has excellent accommodation and food.

Wuyang River Zhenyuan Guizhou

From our Diary August 2005

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
Wuyang River Scenery 舞阳河风景

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州

The Wuyang River Zhenyuan Guizhou province is a scenic area near the historic town of Zhenyuan. Locals and some (not all) tourists claim it is nore beautiful than scenery near Guilin.

The disappointed Brit

The only other foreigner on the tour was a pale, spotty Brit with his Chinese girlfriend /wife. The evasive gaze in his eyes could do nothing to hide the bitter disappointment on his contorted face, that he was going to have to share this tour with two other foreigners, and worst of all, one them another Brit. Zhenyuan in 2005 was still supposed to be undiscovered. We never uttered a word to each other or exchanged glances during the entire trip.

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
Zhenyuan and the Wuyang River

The Wuyang River / 舞阳河风景

Most Chinese tourists come to Zhenyuan to take a trip along the Wuyang River, Guizhou’s rival to the Li River scenery around Guilin and Yangshuo.

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
Wuyang River Scenery 舞阳河风景

Travel agencies in Zhenyuan arrange these trips for around 35 Yuan a person (in 2005). This includes transport to the river, an entry fee to the scenic area, plus a one- and- a- half-hour cruise on a tourist boat.

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
Wuyang River Scenery 舞阳河风景

The Inevitable Delay

The trip began with a delay. Usually, delays on Chinese organised tours are caused by some tourists turning up late, or by the travel agency frantically trying to find one or two more people to join the tour last minute.

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州

Our hold up was caused by another frequent reason for delays in China: an over-turned coal truck on a mountainous bend in the road.

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
The overturned lorry and the hapless driver

Eventually, after a lot of loitering, and with the help of other drivers, enough spilt coal was removed for our bus and other traffic to pass. We left to the hapless truck driver to fend for himself. I have always wondered what becomes of these poor fellows, abandoned by all and sundry in the middle of nowhere with an overturned lorry.

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
Wuyang River Scenery 舞阳河风景

The scenery is lovely, and yes, very similar to Guilin and Yangshuo, though not quite as spectacular in our humble opinion. During entire the trip this was the hottest topic among the Chinese tourists: Yanshuo scenery or Wuyang River Scenery; which was the most beautiful. 

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州

A few came down on the side of the Wuyang River, while most remained coy. I suspect everybody was trying to be polite in order to please our overly-keen local guide.

The boat trip

The trip takes place mainly on a huge reservoir surrounded by sugar candy Karst Mountains and weirdly shaped rocks jutting straight out of the water.

Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
The Wuyang River / 舞阳河风景

Cascading  waterfalls and local fishermen in sampans casting their nets add to the sense of rural tranquillity. A pleasant surprise was that even in August 2005 there was still only one boat a day with capacity for about 30 people.

fishermen on the Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
The Wuyang River / 舞阳河风景

It being a Chinese tour, there was the obligatory guide, a friendly, bubbly, local chap who explained in great detail why every nook and cranny along the river had been given a poetical name. Even Adam was baffled by the lyrical expressions he was using.

fishermen Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州
The Wuyang River / 舞阳河风景

When the Chinese tourists got bored of his explanations and had taken their obligitory ‘I’ve been there’ snaps, they went downstairs to watch T.V, smoke, play cards and (WAN’R 玩儿 ) to have fun.

Snacking

lunch on the Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州

On disembarking from the boat you have to run the gauntlet past a gaggle of overly-pushy and entrepreneurial fishermen who have set up small benches and oil spitting woks. For the hungry; you can try the spicy fried fish, fried river prawns or the potato and vegetable kebabs. I must admit, everything is extremely tasty and cheap; but negotiate the price first or see what the Chinese tourists are paying.

snacks at the Wuyang River 舞阳河, Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou 贵州

Getting to the Wuyang River Scenic Area

Getting there: there are tour agencies in the center of Zhenyuan who organise the river trips. I suppose you could take private transport to the scenic area and rent a sampan. However, we found the Chinese tour quite fun (barring the sulky Brit). See Zhenyuan for accommodation and food.

Zhenyuan Guizhou’s Most Attractive Town

Zhenyuan 镇远 Map

See next article for Wuyang river 舞阳河TRIP

Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
Zhenyuan Zhusheng bridge古桥,镇远

Guizhou’s Most Attractive Town

Zhenyuan 镇远 Guizhou’s most attractive town lies in the far east of Guizhou 贵州, not too far from the Hunanese 湖南 border and can be easily reached by train from the railhead town of Huaihua 怀化 (Hunan). Or by bus from Kaili 凯里 and Taijiang 台江 in Guizhou贵州.

Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
View over Zhenyuan from Qinglong Dong 青龙洞镇远

Apart from being pretty, Zhenyuan 镇远 is close to some remarkable scenery and is also home to many of Guizhou’s Miao minority 苗族. However, in town, very few people wear traditional costume and are mostly indistinguishable from the Han majority.

Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
View from Qinglong Dong zhenyuan 青龙洞,镇远

What to do in and around Zhenyuan

For the traveller it is worth spending a few days in Zhenyuan to soak up the relaxed small town atmosphere. Moreover, you can unwind in a riverside teahouse or snoop around the ancient back alleys. Zhenyuan also has a number of scenic spots in and around the town.

Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
Train Huaihua怀化 to Guiyang贵阳 passing through Zhenyuan镇远

There is good cheap accommodation and enough bars and terraces by the river to make the evenings a pleasurable experience. We spent four nights there in 2005 and found it hard to tear ourselves away.

locals in Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
Chilling out in Zhenyuan镇远

What to See in Town

Qinglong Dong 青龙洞
Qinglong Dong zhenyuan 青龙洞,镇远

Qinglong Dong 青龙洞

Qinglong Dong 青龙洞 is the name of Zhenyuan’s main monument. It is a cave and temple complex on the other side of the Wuyang river 舞阳河 facing the town and reached by crossing an attractive bridge.

Qinglong Dong 青龙洞
Qinglong Dong zhenyuan 青龙洞,镇远

Qinlong Dong 青龙洞 dates from the 16th century and has a series of separate halls dedicated to the 3 most important religions and beliefs in China. chiefly, Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Unfortunately, the halls are mostly empty, as all the statues were smashed up during the Cultural Revolution 文化革命.

Qinglong Dong 青龙洞
Qinglong Dong zhenyuan 青龙洞,镇远

However, the best bit about Qinglong Dong are the views. Exploring the halls, covered walkways and cut-out niches that ramble up and down the cliff face, you get fantastic vistas over the town and the aquamarine Wuyang River with its romantic sampans.

Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
View from Qinglong Dong zhenyuan 青龙洞,镇远

Near the exit there is another surprise: a marvellously carved and painted guildhall with a stage for performances. The far end of the Hall houses a slightly dusty exhibition on traditional architecture with wooden models and black and white photos.

Qinglong Dong 青龙洞
Qinglong Dong zhenyuan 镇远镇远

Nearby, just past the exit, we found a lovely teahouse/restaurant with stone tables outside on the waterfront, sheltered by the willow trees. It’s an excellent place to watch the afternoon float by. We definitely rate it as one of the most relaxing we have found in China.

local Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
Zhenyuan near Qinglong Dong 青龙洞镇远

Historic Zhenyuan

There are two Zhenyuans: there is the usual new white- tile modern area near the train and bus stations and then there is the older section on the other side of the river, romantically enclosed by a bend in the river.

Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
Ferry crossing Zhenyuan 镇远渡船

The older section itself is also divided into two quarters. firstly, there is the slightly revamped main street with its old Qing dynasty 清朝 architecture and eave roofs, where you can find a couple of hotels, restaurants and shops.

Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
Main drag Zhenyuan 镇远

The buildings all have wooden fronts and pillars flanking the doorways. Then there is the even older section, running up the hill. In this section of town you’ll find cobbled streets, stone houses, patios and steep narrow alleyways full of grubby children and roaming livestock.

old houses Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
Zhenyuan old town 镇远古城

Curiously, the river front is lined by tall, narrow, white-washed houses, some of them with stepped façades, just like in Dutch or Belgian architecture. It is here that most of Zhenyuan’s inhabitants seem to while away their days, sitting on the quay or the bridge, fishing.

old street Zhenyuan Guizhou镇远贵州 One of Guizhou’s Most Attractive Towns
Zhenyuan old town 镇远古城
Continue reading “Zhenyuan Guizhou’s Most Attractive Town”

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang

From Our Diary presents Bullfighting in the Gejia 革家 village of Matang: Guizhou Province

owner with his bull Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province

Chinese bull fighting in Matang is a huge and colourful event. The day we visited Matang was a big day for the village. It was the culmination of the five-day annual bullfighting festival, an event held to commemorate the day that rebel leader Zhang Xiumei met his end at the hands of the Imperial troops in August 1873.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang man with his bull Chinese Bull
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Bullfighting in China isn’t as bloody as in Spain

Luckily, bullfighting in China isn’t as bloody as in Spain: basically, two buffalo are incited to fight each other by crashing their heads together, until one decides he has had enough and runs away. However, the bulls do get injured and sometimes fatally and that is why we decided to make our exit before that actual fighting got underway.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

The Matang festival is a pretty big event and loads of buses from Kaili and all the  nearby towns and villages had already begun arriving when we got to the arena, a huge sand- pit about 2 kilometres from the village.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang: Get there early

People were getting there early to obtain a good place and with 2 hours to go before the first fight, space was already at a premium. Whole clans of Miao and Gejia sat precariously on the high slopes, overlooking the bullfighting arena.

Watching chinese bull fighting Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Gejia spectators 革家人

Meanwhile, the owners of the star buffalos were proudly displaying their huge, well-groomed, shiny beasts to impress the onlookers.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

I’ve always looked upon water buffalo as quite docile creatures, but having seen some of these monsters and their aggressive manners, I have come to change my mind.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang: Heavy drinking and gambling

Heavy drinking and gambling is part and parcel of any local minority event and this was no exception: shady- looking types with Al Capone hats and cigarettes dangling from the corners of their mouths stood near the buffalo, waving big wads of hundred Yuan notes.

expetant crowds Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Many of the punters had that glazed look of one glass (or bottle) of Baijiu (Rice wine) too many. Thieves and pickpockets were also out for a day of rich pickings. However, one unfortunate thief was discovered and pursued by an angry mob who cornered him and gave him a pretty heavy thrashing.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

The timely intervention of the truncheon- wielding Military Police spared the terrified pickpocket any further damage by appearing from nowhere to separate the culprit from his assailants; their truncheons indiscriminately whacking anything in the way.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang: Dog Hot Pot

Though the fighting buffalo were well looked-after and pampered, the Gejia don’t seem to hold their dogs in equally high esteem. When it came to food, it was dog, dog and more dog.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 
dog meat guizhou
Dog Hot Pot

Fried, grilled and most popular in a hot pot, dog meat was everywhere. Live animals, waiting to have their throats slit, huddled pathetically together near the pools of blood from their departed brothers and sisters, aware of the fate that was about to befall them.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 
dog hot pot guizhou
Dog Hot Pot

Dead dogs lined the road side, under the blaze of blow torches blasting their skin off, and cauldrons full of dog parts bubbled away with the smell of chillies and Sichuan pepper.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang  dog meat guizhou
Dog Hot Pot

Hoards of people gathered around the improvised hot pots, gnawing away contentedly on bits of canine flesh. Not really a place for a dog-loving vegetarian like myself. 

Practicalities:

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Coming and Going

resting bull Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Matang is about an hour from Kaili’s local bus station (not the main bus station). Buses don’t go directly to the village, but drop you at a turn- off from where it is a two- kilometre walk. Any of the regular buses going to Chong’an or Huangping will drop you there. When returning, just get back to the main road and flag down any passing bus.

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Accommodation:

Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛: Guizhou Province
Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Villagers were putting the final touches to a wooden guesthouse near the entrance. Some fancy toilet buildings were already standing.

Food:

Dog hot pot.

dog hot pot guizhou
What to eat at Chinese Bull Fighting in Matang 麻塘革家寨的斗牛

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

From our diary: August 2003

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 old men
Having a spot of Lunch at Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场: Once One of China’s most Fascinating Farmer’s Markets

Anshun Sunday Market used to be one of the biggest and most spectacular in China. However, China has changed so much and so rapidly over the last twenty years that trying to make sense of what has been happening can be almost impossible. In such a short space of time China has been catapulted from a largely agrarian society into a modern industrial and high tech country. While pockets of old China remain, evidence of modernization reaches even the most remote corner.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 seller
Trader with weighing tools Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

If the old doesn’t go, the new won’t come

The Chinese have a saying: If the old doesn’t go, the new won’t come ( 旧的不去,新的不来, jiù de bù qù , xīn de bù lái ). Nowhere is this saying more appropriate than when used to describe the virtual disappearance of the Sunday Farmers Market in Anshun; a quirky barometer to show just how far and fast China has changed.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 overloaded horse
Poor horse: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

just over a decade ago hordes of peasants, farmers and merchants, who made make up a vast array of a jack of all trades, would descend upon the Sunday market in Anshun in their thousands to sell their wares and ply their goods:

basket seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Fish net seller: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The Traders and their Customers

Some would produce their wares on the spot; basket makers, tobacco pipe craftsmen, chili sauce grinders all jostled for space with sellers of human hair, street dentists and Taoist soothsayers.

human hair seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Hair seller: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Professional pickpockets took advantage of non-too street wise peasants from the countryside to relieve them of their hard earned profits.

street dentist Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Dentist: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

It was organized bedlam that now, due to modernization, has been reduced to a few dilapidated streets and left waiting for the final death knell.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 very busy
Traders:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Below is our account from our diary of the first of our three visits to Anshun’s Sunday Market 安顺星期七农民市场. Some of the photos are from our later visits in 2005 and 2007.

Anshun 2003 安顺星期七农民市场

pipe smoker Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Pipe smaker:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The receptionist looked at us with a puzzled expression and asked: “What market?”.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 pipe smoker
Pipe smoker: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

“The Sunday market”, I replied, almost in despair, in my faltering Chinese. My spoken Chinese tends to lose a lot of its coherence when the reply to a question is not at all what I’m expecting.

old buyi man Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Farmer: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

“There are some good shops near the bus station, all the tourists go there”, she insisted.

“No not those; we have already seen those”, I responded.

brush seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Household goods seller:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

“Oh I don’t know. There is a  local market where all the villagers come to buy and sell their products, but you wouldn’t be interested in that one; there are no souvenirs, or anything else for foreigners to buy”.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 pipe smoker
More Pipe smoking: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Locating the Market

“Yes, that’s the one!”. I could have given her a hug. “How do we get there?”

Location.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 street hairdresser
Street Scene:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The city of Anshun, a mere two-hour bus ride away from Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, is a pretty ordinary modern town.

pounding chilis Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Chilli Crushers: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Nowadays, its new concrete buildings are encroaching relentlessly upon the few remaining pockets of old wooden architecture.

peasants Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Peasants: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Worth the trip

However, we had been told that Anshun’s Sunday market was well worth seeing and, as it turned out, we were not disappointed.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Compressed into the north-western part of town, the market mostly follows one long street, spilling over into side streets and small squares.

basket weaver Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Basket weaver Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

All goods are rigorously divided into sections: there is a square for vegetables and chillies, an alley dedicated to tobacco and pipes, a hairdressers’ and dentists’ corner, streets full of artisans, another square where carpenters work on wooden and wicker furniture, etc. etc.

buying bamboo ples Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Buying bamboopoles:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Fascinating artisans.

Watching the artisans at work is fascinating, especially now that so many of the old trades have become redundant and have almost disappeared from the modern cities.

bucket makers Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Here, you can still observe street dentists extracting a tooth, see people having their bodies cupped, or watch a bearded sage selling ancient Taoist tracts.

fortune teller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Taoist Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

You can try and guess which of the five bamboo poles that the farmer is carefully inspecting and testing, he will eventually buy. Marvel at how quickly the wicker workers can put together a chair or a basket.

Farm tools maker Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Encourage groups of young men pounding mounds of chillies into a pulp. Work out how much that mass of human hair, lying on a set of portable scales, might be worth.

pipe smoking brush seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Broom seller:

Finally, you might also catch a professional pickpocket at work, using a giant pair of tongs to extract a purse or wallet from his unsuspecting victims.

bucket maker Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Basket Maker Anshun

A sea of blue.

Buyi ladies Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Bouyi shoppers Anshun

However fascinating the artisans are, the real highlight of this market are the people. Anshun is the heartland of the Bouyi ethnic group, whose origins are Thai, and who are related to Guangxi’s Zhuang nationality.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 ladies waiting to go home in the rain
Sellers in the rain Anshun

Many of the Bouyi, as well as a few Miao, come to the market, dressed in their Sunday finest, for a few hours of hectic buying and selling.

Buying Bamboo polls Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Choosing the right bamboo pole Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Most of the women wear indigo blue tunics over baggy black trousers and aprons. On their heads they wear black or white headscarves, folded into small turbans.

Fashioable minority ladies Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Trendy Minorities Anshun

A few of the younger Bouyi girls wear brighter colours, such as turquoise or light-green, and combine their traditional clothes with high-heeled shoes, creating quite a stylish and fashionable look.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 old men
Old Men Anshun

The Old Men

The older men tend to dress in blue Mao jackets and cloth caps. Many of them have distinguished long grey wispy beards and smoke elongated and extravagantly carved pipes.

out door hairdressers Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Hairdresser Anshun

Try and find a quiet spot from which to observe this blue-grey sea of shoppers and traders, pushing and shoving their way through the jam-packed, narrow streets.

Choosing a bamboo carrying pole Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Choosing a bamboo pole Anshun

Most of the time you will pass unnoticed, as the people are so engrossed in their shopping; other times you might become the actual focus of attention, as many of the Bouyi from further afield have rarely seen foreigners.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Pole buyers Anshun

What to eat

overloaded horse Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Horse chaos Anshun

Food at the Sunday market is not that appetising: fiery dog- meat hot pots and other such local specialities very much dominate the menu.  It might be worth waiting for the excellent daily night market to set up its stalls to enjoy a decent meal.

spice seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Spice Seller Anshun

What to buy

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 in the rain
Shopper in the rain Anshun

Finally, as far as shopping is concerned, our receptionist was right: apart from the delicately carved tobacco pipes and rustic wicker products the market hasn’t got much to tempt travellers with.

buying drying tools Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Buying wicker implements Anshun

If you really want to buy something in Anshun, you are better off going to the shops on Nanhua Lu, next to the bus station.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
More horse chaos Anshun

Here you can find a good selection of Batiks, a Bouyi and Miao speciality, such as wall hangings, table cloths, ethnic jackets and bags at a fraction of the price you will be charged in touristy places such as Kunming or Dali, or around Beijing’s Houhai lake.

spices Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Spice sellers Anshun

Other Anshun Attractions

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
The hordes Anshun

The countryside surrounding Anshun is dotted with Karst Mountains, jutting out the ground, with the medieval, stone villages of the Bouyi nestled in between. Some of these, such as Shitou Zhai and Tianlong, have become tourist attractions in their own right and can easily be visited by bus.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 very busy
Packed on Sunday Anshun

Moreover, some 64 kilometres from Anshun is Guizhou’s number one tourist site and China’s most famous waterfall, Huangguoshu. In full flood the waterfall is a spectacular sight, while the surrounding area, with other, smaller falls and little villages, offers wonderful opportunities for walking and exploring.

old ladies Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Buying Bamboo Anshun

Practicalities:

Coming and going:

Baslets Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Basket sellers Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Anshun is easily reached by frequent buses from Guiyang. It is also on the Guiyang – Kunming train line. Moreover, buses link Anshun to the interesting town of Xingyi (starting point for exploring the Maling Canyon) and other destinations in the remote western part of Guizhou.

chili seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Chilli seller Anshun

Update; Anshun is now connect by high-speed trains to various parts of China.

Places to stay:

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Going home Anshun

In recent years, Anshun has been put firmly on the Chinese tourist trail, not for the market but because of the waterfalls, and hotel prices have risen accordingly.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场 bored pole sellers
Bamboo pole anybody? Anshun

Bear in mind that at weekends and especially during the summer months the city can get quite full and finding a reasonably priced room may take a while. Most of the hotels that feature in the popular guidebooks seem to be eternally full.

fish seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Fruit and eel sellers Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

We stayed at the clean, bright and friendly Huayou Binguan n Tashan Xilu (tel. 322 6020) , excellent value for 150 Yuan. The hotel is in the centre of town, to the left of the roundabout on Tashan Donglu. Unfortunately, it was completely full on our last visit.

buying flase teesth Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Teeth for sale: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

In 2007 we really had a hard time finding a room. Eventually we were pointed to the huge Fu Yun Hotel, right next to the bus station on Guihuang Gonglu lu. Light, airy rooms, arranged around an atrium, were 210 Yuan, a modest breakfast included. Staff were extremely friendly.

the world's most amazing pipes Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Anshun’s special reed pipes. Now very expensive Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Other cheap options that may have vacancies are the Ruo Fei Binguan on Nanhua Lu, and the Anju Binguan next to the train station.

Places to eat in Anshun:

For photos of Anshun night Market click here on Shitou Zhai and scroll down.

smoking tools Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
More pipes Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

There are restaurants all over town, but nothing beats the night market. Try one of the many tents, where you can roll your own pancakes with an incredible selection of cold vegetables, pickles and noodles. The hot pots are good too, though they are not for those with a weak stomach. The food is spicy enough in Guizhou to rival any of its neighbouring provinces, such as Sichuan or Hunan. 

garlic sellers Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Garlic Seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

For vegetarians there is a real treat, something that seems unique to Anshun: at the top end of Gufu Jie there are two tents that specialise in vegetable pancakes. For 4 Yuan you get ten small pancakes that you can stuff with any of the vegetable fillings, meticulously prepared and attractively laid out on plates. Sauces and chilli are provided for dipping.

old man in the rain Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Old man in the rain Anshun marlket Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The Hair Seller of Anshun: Photo of the Week

the hair seller of Anshun at Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Hair seller Anshun Sunday Market 安顺市场 卖头发的农民

Not so long ago Anshun’s Sunday Market was one of the biggest, most vibrant and exotic in China. Kilometers of streets filled with farmers, traders, ethnic minorities, craftsmen and a gaggle of pockpockets. These days the market is a mere shadow of its former self and is restricted to a few delapidated streets.

These photos were taken in 2003 and show the hair seller at the market.

weighing the human hair the hair seller of Anshun at Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Hair seller Anshun Sunday Market 安顺市场 卖头发的农民

His bags are full of human hair that are sold in small bundles mostly to women who attach it to their own hair, either to cover thinning or to make it look longer. The bundles are sold by weight.

the hair seller of Anshun at Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场
Hair seller Anshun Sunday Market 安顺市场 卖头发的农民

We will be re-posting our article about Anshun’s Sunday Market market very soon. Article now posted.

Bucolic Stone Village near Anshun安顺 with an expensive Entrance Ticket

Shitou Zhai 石头 home to China’s best Batik.

Baishui River (白水河 Shitou Zhai 石头寨

Click here to read updated article and new photos

Baishui River (白水河 Shitou Zhai 石头寨

Tunbao Village 屯堡 and Dixi Opera

Step back in time and visit this fascinating ancient village in Guizhou Province.

Residents of Tunbao village shopping in Anshun Market

We didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived at Tunbao village 屯堡 (sometimes known as Tunpu), next to the larger town of Tianlong 天龙. We had heard that it was home to a special group of Han Chinese who still dressed in Ming clothes. They are descendants of part of the army sent to quell unrest in the region during the reign of the Hongwu emperor; the founder of the Ming Dynasty 13681398.

Dixi Opera in Tunbao Village

Although we had wondered whether it was going to be some themed, Disney-style village to amuse Chinese tourists, we were actually pleasantly surprised.

Young Tunbao Children

The first  thing we discovered came as a total shock: the women in Ming  dress were the same ones we had seen haggling at Anshun market, or working the fields in nearby villages. We had previously mistaken them for Buyi (Bouyi) 布依族; ( an ethnic minority who live in this area), but from our previous visit to Shitou Zhai we had learnt that they wear darker clothes, embroidered in the different way.

Tunbao Village

The ladies in Ming dynasty clothes were definitely authentic; there were not only old ladies, but many young girls too, who continued to sport these traditional garments. There seems to be an area of villages and towns around Anshun where this practice continues.

The Ming costume basically consists of long, calf- length blue tunics, black trousers, dark aprons and the embroidered cloth shoes that are common in this area of Guizhou. The tunics are usually bright blue, but can be turquoise, purple or pink as well.

Tunbao Ladies in Anshun

The ladies wear their hair in a bun at the back of their head, with a small white cap around it, held in place by a long pin, and they usually wear long dangling earrings as well. As is often the case, the men don’t wear anything special.

Tunbao village isn’t undiscovered. There is a 25- Yuan ticket that includes a guide, which we declined. However, it is far from over-run and a very picturesque place, which offers a much better example of the local stone village architecture than the touristy and over-priced Shitou Zhai.

While souvenir shops line the main street, the sales pressure is low and the haggling good-natured. Local woodcarvings and Dixi opera masks seem to be the main products.

The stone houses are well preserved and still lived in, many have a multitude of traditional farming implements spread all over the courtyard, as an indication that farming is still one of the main occupations of the villagers.

Tunbao 屯堡 boasts a few real architectural gems: one of these is the ancient Three Religions Temple 三教寺 (Sanjiaosi) which combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. In the Temple courtyard there’s a delightful wooden pyramid, adorned with carved figurines and ceramic bowls with tea-oil lamps.

Old ladies in their traditional blue dresses sit around sewing shoes, some are real ones, while others are miniature versions, something that seems to be another speciality of the village.

The second gem of Tunbao is the 19th century church school, built by a French priest, an unusual oval stone building with adjacent wooden halls that house a Dixi museum.

Dixi Opera

Dixi Opera in Tunbao Village

Dixi is the local style of opera, in which actors wear colourful wooden masks and extravagant costumes. The museum has a whole collection of these masks, some of them huge and frightening creations.

Dixi Opera in Tunbao Village

On the stage in the courtyard, regular mini-performances are held, whenever there are enough people around. The performances are lively and the mock fights are excellent.

You may have to wait around a bit in the plant-filled courtyard (look out for the dragon-shaped mini-tree) for a few other tourists to turn up.  The actors a quite happy for you to enter their dressing room, nose around and ask questions.

Click here to Visit Tiantai Shan and Wulong Si from Tunbao Village

Practicalities: Tunbao 屯堡

Getting there and away:

Buses leave regularly from Anshun’s 安顺 main bus station to Tianlong. It takes around 45 minutes, up to an hour, depending on the route they take.

Food and Accommodation:

There were a number of restaurants serving local dishes and a few small inns (kèzhàn).

Practicalities Anshun 安顺

安顺夜市 Anshun Night Market Gufu Jie

Accommodation:

Accommodation can be tight in Anshun, especially at weekends, holidays and in summer. You may have to search around a bit before finding a bed, most of the hotels that feature in the popular guidebooks seem to be eternally full.

In 2003, we stayed at the pleasant Huayou Binguan on Tashan Xilu (tel. 322 6020), where comfortable airy rooms went for around 150 Yuan and staff were very friendly. Unfortunately, it was completely full on our last visit.

In 2007 we really had a hard time finding a room. Eventually we were pointed to the huge Fu Yun Hotel, right next to the bus station on Guihuang Gonglu lu. Light, airy rooms, arranged around an atrium, were 210 Yuan, a modest breakfast included. Staff were extremely friendly.

Other cheap options that may have vacancies are the Ruo Fei Binguan on Nanhua Lu, and the Anju Binguan next to the train station.

Food:

Wok cooking at Anshun Night market Gufu jie 安顺夜市

The best food in Anshun is definitely to be had at the night market. At seven o’clock on the dot, stall holders start appearing from nowhere, pushing their carts, and within minutes the entire length of Gufu Jie and its surrounding streets become crammed with stalls and tents, selling all kinds of snacks and more elaborate dishes. Cauldrons bubble and grilles crackle and practically the whole of Anshun seems to turn up for the feast.

安顺夜市 Hot pot / Huo guo Gufu jie

Huo guo is extremely popular and the Anshun variety is one of the hottest we’ve ever tasted!

安顺夜市 Grilled fish at Anshun Night Market

Another popular dish is grilled fish: you take your pick from an aquarium and watch while your choice is plucked out, bashed several times on the floor, gutted and placed in a metal griddle on top of a barbecue. You pay according to the weight and type of fish (around 60–70 Yuan for two). The whole, grilled fish is served on a hot plate, covered by spicy vegetables and aromatic herbs. Washed down with a mini, portable barrel of draught beer it makes for a very tasty meal.

安顺夜市 Grilling the Fish Gufu jie night market Anshun

One more dish that seems all the rage is barbecued mixed meats, mostly innards and offal, which you cook yourself on a round hot-plate, teriyaki style.

Veggie Feast Gufu jie 安顺夜市

For vegetarians there is a real treat, something that seems unique to Anshun: at the top end of Gufu Jie there are two tents that specialise in vegetable pancakes. For 4 Yuan you get ten small pancakes that you can stuff with any of the vegetable fillings, meticulously prepared and attractively laid out on plates. Sauces and chilli are provided for dipping.

Veggie Feast Anshun Night Market Gufu Jie 安顺夜市

Noodles, Xinjiang lamb kebabs and a host of other snacks make up the rest of the market. Fruit shakes and shaved ice with various toppings, called baobing, provide the desserts.

Fanjingshan Guizhou Province

Fanjingshan梵净山

Guizhou Province贵州省

Introduction

Fanjingshan

Fanjingshan Guizhou Province is a place we have wanted to visit for a long time. Fanjingshan is a sacred mountain in Guizhou province on the border with Hunan province. Unfortunately, we never had the time when we were in Guizhou. Last summer one of my students, Maria Vioque  and her partner, visited and climbed Fanjingshan and here is their review and photos.

Fanjingshan

 

Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve梵净

Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. According to the Chinese Tourism rating system for places of interest in China, this sacred mountain for Chinese Buddhism has an AAAAA rating (the highest score).

Fanjingshan
Fanjingshan

Just climbing up the infinite steps and walking through the lush green forest was an experience in itself. However, better to get some tips in advance if you want to enjoy this unforgettable spiritual experience properly.

Starting the Ascent

On Arrival:

On arrival, it is necessary to buy two tickets to get into the Fanjingshan Nature Reserve. One ticket to enter the park and another one for the shuttle bus (approx 100 CNY both) to the entrance.


Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve梵净山

It’s easy to feel dizzy and a little carsick on the shuttle bus as it wizzes up the narrow zigzagging road with hairpin bends. The landscape is amazing and the delightful river flowing by the side of the road makes the discomfort all worthwhile.

A few meters from the main gates, there is a stone dragon fountain in the river and a building with a big golden Buddha on the roof. We started our ascent by taking the stone steps, all 8,888 of them. It took five hours to reach the summit; which is the equivalent of climbing all the stairs of a 460-floor-building.


Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve梵净山

Walk or Take the Cable Car

There is a cable car option for the lazy ones or those in a hurry. It takes 7 minutes to get to the closest point to the peaks. After that there are some more steps.

Fanjingshan

However, the path winding up the mountain was gorgeous, full of nature, fresh air and stunning views. There are endemic species such as the rare Guizhou golden monkey and lots of colorful insects and birds. You’d be very fortunate to catch a glimpse of the elusive monkeys because they are shy and keep well away from humans.

Fanjingshan

The infrastructure and facilities along the way are very good.
There are some toilets and more important: locals selling energy drinks and fruit.

Be carried like an Emperor

If you are feeling lazy and can’t handle the challenge, you can be carried up to the top on a chair by some porters. Like the emperors of old.

Fanjingshan

Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve梵净山

After several arduous hours of hiking up the precipitous steps, the temples on the top of the mountain come into view and the goal is within reach.

Then came the anti-climax. Despite having set off very early with the hope of beating the crowds, by the time we reached the summit it was already overcrowded and full of local tourists.

It is crowded on the summit

We somewhat regretted not having taken the cable car in order to have reached the peak sooner. However, the amazing climb up the paths and through the gorgeous forest more than compensated for the slight disappointment of having to share the final experience with so many people.


Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve梵净山

The Chinese have a great saying for this moment when the whole of China’s enormous population seem to converge on one place at the same time. The saying is Ren Shan Ren Hai 人山人海, which translates as “people on the mountains, people in the sea”。

Fanjingshan

Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve梵净山

Views On the Top

 The views from the top are stunning! There are strange rock formations and stone pillars made by stratus and the peak is crowned by three temples. In the middle there are some famous rock formations from where you can enjoy a magnificent overall view. We decided to climb to the highest temple, on the right. The path is beautiful and slightly dangerous, with very steep steps, a slippery surface and vertical drops. It was a whole new experience walking along those small paths and being treated to those spectacular views from the summit.

Fanjingshan

Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve梵净山

 

Getting There:

To get to Fanjingshan, we took a class-G-train from Guiyangbei (Guiyang North Station) to Tongrennan (it costs 122,50 CNY). Once there, we took a van from the train station to Jiangkou, a city full of neon lights and very comfortable to spend a night.

Fanjingshan

There were nice restaurants in the city center and lots of convenience stores where you could buy a piece of fruit, water or nuts. Early the next morning, we bought some baozi and soy milk for breakfast and we called for a ride by Didi app (which is similar to Uber). A couple of minutes later a driver picked us up and drove us to Fanjingshan. Getting there doesn’t take long: It is possible to go by taxi (100 CNY approx). You can take a bus if you don´t mind arriving a bit later in the day. I wouldn’t recommended arriving after 12 pm in August as the place is packed and there are endless queues.