The capital of Guizhou province in Southern China, surrounded by mountains, is cut off both culturally and geographically, yet it’s one of my favourite Chinese cities. Here are seven things to do in Guiyang.
1 – WANDER AROUND THE OLD TOWN
You’d be forgiven for saying that many Chinese cities kinda feel a bit samey. Grey, modern, polluted. But Guiyang is different. It feels like it has a history. It feels like rather than old and new are colliding, with the new beating the old into submission (like most cities in China in my view), here they live side by side. It makes for a really nice city to just wander around.
2 – STAY IN A SWEET HOTEL
The Sofitel in Guiyang doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the rooms are quite something. Watch the sun go down over the mountains and the city from anywhere in your room thanks to enormous floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the entire room. And if that doesn’t float your boat, in the morning, check out the congee station. It’s the best I’ve ever seen. Its condiment central.
They even have lumps of SMOKED CHEESE. I swear it’s worth traveling to Guiyang just to try congee with smoked cheese. Incredible.
3 – MEET THE LOCALS
The people in Guiyang smile and laugh more than any city I’ve traveled to in China. And that’s saying something. The locals are lovely! Maybe it’s the climate, or the fresh mountain air. Who knows. But whatever it is they should share it around a bit.
4 – TASTE THE STREET FOOD
Street food is everywhere in Guizhou and Guiyang has some unique specialties. Many of which I couldn’t even identify but tasted amazing.
Some however, didn’t taste so great….
You win some, you lose some.
5 – TASTE MORE PICKLED VEG THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A (CHOP)STICK AT
Guiyang loves pickled veg. You have to try Siwawa (a rice pancake filled with all manner of pickled loveliness); its literally a flavour explosion in your mouth. And it’s vegetarian, which, as snacks go, is somewhat of a rarity in China. Love it.
6 – EXPLORE THE SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE
Head out of the city and you’ll be amazed at Guizhou’s countryside. Partly through natural isolation, the Southern Guizhou region feels more like ancient China than anywhere I’ve been in the country. What’s more, the province is home to 49 of China’s 55 ethnic minorities and their culture has been preserved here more so than anywhere.
7 – MEET CHINA’S LAST GUN-TOTING TRIBE
A long but very worthwhile day trip from Guiyang, Basha Village is home to a unique culture that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. “China’s Last Gun-toting tribe” as they have come to be known by, the Basha Miao people have managed to maintain their unique traditions and customs through years of cultural homogenisation and rapidly increasing tourism. The tribe worship trees, believing the buns on their head represent the leaves and the purple clothes they wear, the bark. At 15, the boys heads are shaven using a sickle, and are handed a rifle as part of a coming-of-age ceremony.
It’s a fascinating insight into a culture that has somehow survived against the odds. I’ll be writing a full article on this experience soon.
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