Just a few kilometers out of Rongjiang is the Dong Village of Chejiang 车江, A rustic place with a couple remarkable structures including an enormous Drum Tower. Chejiang is a peaceful and lad-back where locals get on with life and curiously observe the odd foreigner who strays into their village.
Chejiang is really a cluster of Dong Minority 侗族 hamlets, spread out along the road heading east from the bridge. Bus number 1, leaving from in front of the Qingfeng hotel will take you there in less than 10 minutes.
The highlight of Chejiang is an enormous Drum Tower that can be seen from quite a distance. It has been fenced in and provided with a ticket office (un-staffed after 5 o’clock), but in the late afternoon, after 5 or 6 o’clock, village life around the Tower resumes.
Bakai village is the home to the Gaoshan Miao, a Miao sub-group known for their incredible embroidery.
After spending the morning strolling around Rongjiang’s huge Sunday market we were left with a few hours to kill before we had to catch the last bus back to Kaili. There wasn’t enough time to go to the amazing Dong Village of Zengchong so we looked for a closer alternative.
Gaoshan Miao 高山苗
Walking around the market we had noticed that some ladies had come to town in the most amazingly embroidered dresses and trousers. We asked the receptionist in the hotel about them and she told us that they were Gaoshan Miao 高山苗 or High Mountain Miao from the village of Bakai 扒开村 some 15 kilometers away along the Duliu river. I had never heard the name, Gaoshan Miao, before or since so it might just be a local name for the villagers living along the Duliu River.
Before we could say any more she was already recommending that her ex-boyfriend, who just happened to be a taxi driver, could take us there for the modest fee of 60 Yuan for a round trip to Bakai village. And before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’ there he was ready to take us to Bakai, a village we had previously never heard of.
During the One Child Policy (一胎政策) which finished in 2015, the Chinese government tried to persuade the population not to discriminate against having female children. Unfortunately, the campaign was not successful and has resulted in there being far more males than females in China. Traditional families, especially in the countryside chose to have a male child over a female child.
This is a government propaganda sign in Rural China (Bakai, Rongjiang, Guizhou Province) reminding the local population that males and females are equal.
Rongjiang Sunday Market is one of South West China’s great markets. It is where the Dong and Miao minorities come together on a Sunday morning for a few hours of shopping mayhem.
Updating article and travel information
We are updating this article with new photos. Rongjiang 榕江 is dusty but expanding town in Guizhou Province 贵州省 that forms part of what is known as the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture黔东南苗族侗族自治州; Qiándōngnán Miáozú Dòngzú Zìzhìzhōu.
China’s High Speed Railway Network now connects Rongjiang to major Cities such as Guangzhou and Guiyang, . The Train station is 5km out of town and there are buses, 2 Yuan, and Taxis 10/15 Yuan, connecting Rongjiang to the train station. Rongjiang is on the Guangzhou – Guiyang line.
Rongjiang: First Impressions
Rongjiang 榕江 is definitely not one of china’s most attractive towns. It’s dusty, slightly chaotic and white tiled. However, there are a number of redeeming factors. Not only does Rongjiang provide a fascinating gateway to minority villages, but it also has an amazing Sunday Market that draws in a myriad of different ethnic minorities for the day.
On market day you are sure to come across the Dong minority 侗族 in huge numbers as well as various Miao 苗族 ethnic groups including the Gaoshan Miao (see Bakai article)and maybe even the odd Top knot Miao coming up from Basha village 芭沙村 near Congjiang 从江.
Passing through this area on your way between kaili 凯里 and the famous dong Village of Zhaoxing 肇兴; Rongjiang 榕江 makes for great break in the journey. In fact, just the spectacular bus ride between Kaili and Rongjiang makes the whole trip worthwhile.
Arrival in Rongjiang
Our bus bumped into Rongjiang’s run-down and grubby bus station after a gorgeous five- hour, 160- kilometre bus ride from Kaili 凯里. Rongjiang. We stumbled off the bus and into a scruffy town spread along the banks of two rivers, the Duliujiang and the Zhaigaohe. The town sits firmly within the Dong minority heartlands and this was immediately evident by the way many of the locals looked and dressed.
This photo was taken at Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge, near Sanjiang 三江 in Northern Guangxi Province. It is one of the best examples of a Dong Minority Wind and Rain Bridge. Built in 1912, it’s 64 meters long and reported not to have a single nail. This photo was taken after scrambling up a steep path to find an ideal spot to get an overview of the bridge. A pity about the crappy camara I had at the time.
The area around Chengyang Bridge is stunning. Beautiful Dong Minority villages are set amongst electric green paddy fields. In the lazy meandering rivers, huge water wheels turn slowly as they have done for centuries, tipping water into bamboo irrigation pipes. And above all there is the Chengyang Bridge. Sounds like paradise doesn’t it?
In 2003, the only place to stay near the bridge was the lovely rambling Chengyang Bridge National Hostel, a funky wooden guest house with a great veranda for chilling, reading and knocking back a few beers right next to the Bridge. Unfortunately for Margie, it was also home to some of the biggest and fastest moving 8 legged monsters you’ll ever meet.
Spiders, big long-legged, hairy spiders scuttling across wooden beams from room to room, hiding behind the bedhead or hovering above you in the shower; Margie’s nightmare; my hassle. Travelling in Northern Guangxi and Guizhou Provinces with an arachnophobic can be quite a testing experience. The old wooden houses in the minority villages provide perfect abodes for these arthropods. And my job, as always, is to make the rooms safe before Margie will go in them. Given the spaces between the wooden slats; an impossible task.
We hope you enjoy this video slide-show. The photos were taken in the Miao Minority village, Langde nearKaili in 2007. The accompanying songs are traditional Miao folk songs with modern music (again the slide-show is a bit too long: I promise to get the videos down to about 3 minutes in the future). For more information about Langde and how to get there: Continue reading below the video.
Langde was once the centre of an important Miao uprising against the Qing, which took place in the 19th Century. These days the village of Langde suffers a different kind of Han invasion; that of hundreds of Han tourists, coming to get a feel what has been marketed as exotic Miao culture. Nowadays, Chinese tourists take part in traditional singing and dancing events and marvel at the elaborate dresses and jewellery of the residents of Langde. How things have changed!
For the traveller Langde is still a great village to visit. Its setting is idyllic, built on a green hill overlooking an elegant slow bend in the river. Rice fields and wandering water buffalo add to the rural charm. The village itself is a classic collection of traditional Miao two or three-storey wooden buildings, draped in strings of drying chillies and corn.
From the parking lot it takes a mere 10 minutes to climb up to the grey-stone Wulong Si, through thick forest, often shrouded in mist, passing a mysterious ancient tree with lots of red threads tied to it.
The temple’s location is impressive, perched on top of the mountain with a sheer drop on one side. It is said to have been built by Wu Sangui, the Ming general responsible for letting the Manchu armies through the Great Wall, thus allowing them to establish the Qing dynasty.
Wu Sangui later rebelled against the Qing and set up his own dynasty, the Zhou dynasty (1678 – 1681), in the South-west of China, which collapsed soon after his death. The temple is small but full of character, with some atmospheric halls supported by thick red pillars and some more Dixi masks on display.
We were the last and only people around and it would have been a great place to spend more time.
Chishui 赤水, in the northeast of Guizhou province 贵州省, is a small but prosperous town. It owes its prosperity to its strategic location on the Chishui River 赤水河 (Chishui means Red Water), right on the border with Sichuan 四川. It’s a beautiful and fascinating area to explore if you have time. The only other tourists you’ll meet here will be Chinese.
The Chishui River 赤水河 was once part of the imperial Salt Route, which provided Guizhou with this precious condiment for many centuries. The river continues even today to be a busy commerial tranport route between Guizhou and Sichuan, with large flat bottom barges plying up and down between towns.
The city still preserves a few streets with traditional wooden houses, but in general the buildings are modern and slightly drab. Judging by the local people’s curious looks, giggles and pointing, Chishui doesn’t see too many foreigners. However, everyone was friendly and above all they seemed to enjoy having a good time. Continue reading “Chishui赤水 / Sidonggou 四洞沟 / Shizhangdong Waterfall 十丈洞瀑布”
Whether you are leaving Guizhou Province from the West, or entering it from Eastern Yunnan, you’ll probably end up passing through Xingyi (see Map), a small town undergoing rapid development. To be honest, Xingyi is not the prettiest of towns, though we didn’t find it quite as grim as it was depicted in our guidebook. It is true that the town is entirely lacking in sights and has lost all its old neighbourhoods to the rampant white-tile and concrete construction that continues to proliferate in China. However, it’s a pretty laid- back place and its major sight, the Maling Gorge, just a few kilometres out of town and easy to reach, is truly spectacular.
Locals also recommend visiting nearby Fenghuang Shan (Phoenix Mountain 凤凰山), which they claim is another natural wonder not to be missed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to check this out.
We arrived in Xingyi on a bus from Anshun 安顺. The journey took around six hours and passes through some of the most dramatic limestone scenery you are likely to see.
As in the rest of China, rapid changes are underway even in this remote corner of the country. The future cross-China East to West Highway, currently in the initial phases of construction, will eventually pass close to Xingyi. For the moment, it’s giving China’s civil engineers and Continue reading “Xingyi 兴义 & Maling Gorge马岭河峡谷”