Glimpses of Guizhou

Jun and I knew we wanted to travel to celebrate his birthday. We initially thought about going to Qingdao, but the flights and hotels there were expensive. We next thought about Chongqing, but it was extremely hot there. Then our friend suggested Guizhou. We thought it was a splendid idea. The weather was less hot and humid than in Shenzhen; it also was forecasted to be sunny during the five days we would be there.

After booking everything we were ready to celebrate Jun’s birthday in Guizhou!

We flew to Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou the day before Jun’s birthday. Everything went smoothly. When we arrived, we took a COVID-19 test, took a taxi to the Guiyang Pullman Hotel, and settled in for the night in anticipation of our first day of exploring.

Day 1

After breakfast on our first full day, we took a car to the village of Qingyan. Located in the southern portion of Guiyang, it began its existence as a military outpost during the early Ming Dynasty. It grew into a village and was later incorporated into larger municipalities.

The village itself is quaint. Surrounded by mountains, the village is well preserved. Jun and I enjoyed walking around the place. We especially enjoyed traversing the old city wall.

During our visit, Jun received a call from the hotel. The concierge informed him that because it was his birthday, the guest service team was going to provide him with a cake. We were pleasantly surprised at their initiative.

After the call, we continued to explore the village. After taking a break to enjoy some locally made drinks and snacks, we ended our trip here to head to a nature park closer to the city center.

Aha Lake National Wetland Park was a wonderful place to spend the late afternoon. The cool breeze from the lake and river invigorated us as we walked along the park paths from the northern entrance to the lake. The main area of the park is situated within a gorge with several landscaped sections for people to enjoy. Jun and I found it serene and rejuvenating after the busier Qingyan.

We next went into the city’s main area from the park to visit Jiaxiu Pavilion along the Nanming River. The pavilion is considered the city’s emblem. It originated during the Ming Dynasty. It’s a popular place for tourists and photographers.

By then it was early evening. Jun and I were ready for dinner. We decided to try Laokaili, a local restaurant known for its fish hot pot. The meal was delicious, but we ended up eating a bit too much. We decided to walk back to the hotel to get some exercise and help digest what we had eaten.

When we got back to the hotel, we finished celebrating Jun’s birthday with the cake the hotel provided. It was a wonderful way to end the day.

Day 2

Early the next day, Jun and I left Guiyang for the next part of our trip. Jun had decided to hire a car so we could travel a bit around Guizhou and explore both the natural and cultural sides of the province. Our first stop would be the Xiaoqikong Scenic Area, which is a part of the South China Karst UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Libo County.

Our driver was great and soon got us to the gates of the scenic area. From there we took a bus to the Kew Green Hotel located inside the park. Once we had settled in at the hotel, we went out in the early afternoon to explore the Xiaoqikong section of the park. We decided to take the buses to the park’s west entrance and hike back to the hotel. We seemed to be the only ones who decided to do that since everyone else took the busses from scenic spot to scenic spot.

I’m glad we decided to hike through the park. It was relaxing and we got to see so much more of the park. Going this way offered us a nice respite from the tourists when we did get to major tourist spots—the first of which we encountered at Wolong Pond. The area was neat as the waters were turquoise when we visited there. It was quite picturesque.

From there we continued our hike through the different fields and valleys in the park. After a while, we saw a fork in the road and decided to head towards Mandarin Duck Lake and Tianzhong Cave. When we got to the lake, Jun and I found it was a bit boring since all we could do was pay for a paddle boat to go around the small lake. We decided to forgo spending too much time there and walked up towards the cave instead.

Tianzhong Cave was great! We certainly enjoyed that it was cool inside. We found it fascinating to see the different formations inside. The entire area was also lighted in different hues of color that created a whimsical atmosphere.

From the cave, we next walked to Laguan Waterfall, which is an area the busses skip over. As a result, Jun and I nearly had the area to ourselves. We enjoyed walking and seeing the waterfall and walking along the lake towards Cuigu Waterfall. This area, however, had a lot more tourists. It, though, was nice seeing the children playing in the water.

From there we continued our hike through the water forest. This part of the park was interesting as several rapid creeks and springs flowed through the forest. At times you had to walk over boulders in the water to get through it. Being a bit clumsy I was nervous about slipping on the rocks, but fortunately, Jun and I made it through all right.

Our hike continued past several smaller waterfalls until we got to the end where the bridge with seven little arches is located. The scenic area’s name originates from this bridge. Here, there were a lot of people. Jun and I found it interesting trying to take nice pictures of the bridge. We ended up doing okay in this regard.

By this time, it was early evening. Jun and I were ready to head back to the hotel and clean up before dinner. Since it was already late, we decided to eat at the hotel. The food there was great! Our meal capped off a wonderful day. After dinner, we went back to our room to call it a night.

Day 3

Early the next morning we went up to Daqikong to visit the northern section of the park. This part was much smaller but equally beautiful.

We first took a small boat down the river. When we got to the dock, we were amazed at how tall the cliff faces were on both sides of the gorge. From the dock, we went along a pathway built on the side of the cliff towards a natural arch that was quite massive. When we got there, we took some pictures before going through the arch towards the end of the trail. A cave is the endpoint of the trail, but it was closed to visitors due to recent flooding.

From there we then went back the way we came and took a longer trail out of Daqikong instead of going back by boat. When we got to the bus station at the end of the trail, we discovered that the bus we wanted didn’t stop there. Jun and I decided it was just easier to walk back to the hotel. The bus attendant was surprised and insisted she would help us figure a way back without the need to walk the 2 kilometers back. Jun and I said it was fine; we thanked her and walked back to the hotel.

Once we got to the hotel, we gathered our things, checked out, and went back to the front entrance of the park to meet our driver.

From there we drove towards Zhaoxing Dong Village. The Dong people are one of the many ethnic groups that live in Guizhou. Zhaoxing is one of the larger Dong villages. Dong people are known for their unique architecture, especially their drum towers and flower bridges.

When we arrived, we first went to get a COVID-19 test and then checked in at the hotel. Afterward, we went to grab some lunch at a local noodle stall. Then we began to explore the village. The wooden structures were a nice change from all the concrete of the larger Chinese cities.

In the late afternoon, we caught a bus up towards Tangan Dong Village up in the mountains. From there Jun and I hiked down back to Zhaoxing through the rice terraces. We both enjoyed this hike as it was simply gorgeous. The late afternoon and then early evening sun created a fantastical environment for the hike. This hike was the highlight of the trip for me.

When we got back to Zhaoxing we went straight to a wonderful restaurant for dinner. We got there at a good time since we snagged a corner table next to the windows on the second floor overlooking the outside area. The food was amazing, and we left happy.

Jun and I walked back to the hotel and enjoyed the nighttime view of the village. When we got back to our room, we relaxed a bit before heading to bed. We had quite a wonderful day!

Day 4

The next morning Jun and I went and had breakfast at a Liaopangzi. They served a nice selection of noodles and dumplings for breakfast that Jun and I found delicious. They also had sweet dumplings, which we both enjoyed.

After breakfast, Jun and I went for a walk around the village one last time. We also took another COVID-19 test since it was easy to do in the village without having to wait in long lines. Afterward, we went back to the hotel to pack and head back to the village entrance to meet our driver.

From Zhaoxing we drove northwesterly towards Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village. This village is one of the largest villages of the Miao ethnic group. It’s also a major tourist attraction. There were a lot of people there compared to the other places we had visited, but it wasn’t too bad. Once we had gotten to the hotel, Jun and I were impressed with the size of the village. Our room had a balcony, and we could look across most of the village.

After we had settled in, we went around to explore the village. As we did, we noticed that the area around the river was where most people congregated. But in the upper area of the village on the northern side, there were more locals than tourists. Sufficed to say Jun and I enjoyed being in the upper areas. As we walked, we also bought some snacks.

By the late afternoon, Jun and I found ourselves in the rice fields to the east of the village. As we walked around, we realized that we were hungry and went in search of a place to eat.

Jun found one in the upper areas, and we enjoyed a nice meal. The food was a bit salty for us. Eaten with the rice, though, and it ended up okay.

After dinner, Jun and I went for a walk around the village to enjoy the buildings and other structures lit up. When it got late, we went back to our room to end the day.

Day 5

The next morning Jun and I continued to explore the village. The morning light offered opportunities to view Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village which differed from the afternoon light. As we walked around the village, we came across some women embroidering. It was nice to see that aspect of the villagers’ cultural heritage. Jun and I ended up buying an embroidered piece.

From there we went closer to the river to try some local tea at a tea shop. We tried a variety of green and black tea. It was nice a relaxing to sample the different teas they had to offer. We bought some of the teas before we left for lunch.

Lunch was a nice affair at one of the local restaurants. The food was great, and it was completely filling.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel to collect our bags and checked out. We walked back up to the bus station and took it to the entrance. After we had met up with the driver, we drove towards our last stop of the trip.

Jun and I had a few hours before our flight home and decided that along the way we would stop at Xiasi Ancient Town, which historically was an important inner trading port in Guizhou. The town is well preserved and was fascinating to visit. When we went, we were each given free noodles to take home. That was a bit of a strange souvenir, but it’s still a nice gift.

After walking around for a bit, Jun and I stopped to have some of the local blueberry jellied dessert. It was nice and cool; it was such wonderful treat to have before we left.

Soon though we were driving back to Guiyang to get to the airport. As we approached the airport, it started to rain. After checking in and going through security, we had a bit to eat. The rain stopped about an hour before our flight. Soon after Jun and I boarded and headed back home.

While it was a bit of an impromptu trip, Jun and I enjoyed it greatly. The parts of Guizhou we saw were amazing. We were lucky in having had great weather and being able to explore several fascinating cultural and natural sites. Overall, we found the trip a success.

Fun in Foshan

After having traveled outside the province for the last few holidays, Jun and I decided to stay in Guangdong for the Dragon Boat Festival. After talking a bit about where we could go, we decided to visit Foshan. Located next to the western side of Guangzhou, Foshan is an old city that is known for its cultural and culinary contributions to Chinese heritage. Cantonese opera is regarded as originating in Foshan, as well as lion dancing and high-quality ceramics.

Day 1

Our trip started by leaving Futian Station in Shenzhen a little after noon. The train ride to Foshan West Station went smoothly. When we got to the station, we learned that we would have to endure a winding line of health code monitoring and COVID-19 testing. After about 40 minutes of waiting in multiple lines, we were finally able to leave the station. We first needed to figure out how to do that. It turned out that the ride-hailing pick-up area of the station was on the opposite side of the station from where the health checking was happening. After walking an additional 10 minutes across the station, we got in the car and went to our hotel in the Qiandeng Lake area of Foshan.

Checking in at the hotel went smoothly; they even upgraded our room. When we got up to our room, we decided to rest a bit and decide what we wanted to do that afternoon. After thinking about it, we chose to stay close to the hotel and explore the area around Qiandeng Lake.

We started our walk on the eastern bank of the lake next to the hotel and walked southward. A lot of people were there to enjoy the long holiday weekend. As we walked, we saw some interesting artworks and gardens around Qiandeng Lake and in the adjoining Leigang Park. Jun and I particularly like the more abstract and fantastical artwork.

After a while, Jun and I realized that we were ready for an early dinner since we only had brunch that day. We decided to go to a local restaurant—Shuihuo Zuoyong—that served food in clay pots. The food was amazing. We tried a variety of dishes including scallop fried rice, vegetables, and over-baked pork. We then topped it off with some ginger and sesame ice cream.

After having eaten a lot for dinner, Jun and I went for a walk around Leigang Park and visited the southern section so we could see the Kuixing Pavilion and then walk northward back to the hotel. The pavilion, unfortunately, was closed, but we could walk around it a bit. As we got closer to the hotel, we did see some nice murals under some of the bridges and on some of the buildings.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was getting late. Jun and I decided to relax for the rest of the evening and call it a day.

Day 2

Our second day started with us beginning the day in the Zumiao area of Foshan. Jun wanted to have a late breakfast at the Nanshan Snack Shop, which sold a variety of rice rolls and noodles. The meal was delicious and a great way to start a day of exploration. The street the restaurant was located on was also nice as the trees along the street were blooming.

From the restaurant, we next walked up towards Liang’s Garden. This garden is one of four famous Qing Dynasty gardens in Guangdong. I first visited here in 2013 when I first moved to Guangzhou. I found it interesting to see how much of it has changed, as there are more buildings open than I remembered from my last visit. Jun and I enjoyed walking around the garden and visiting some of the buildings. One thing I found particularly nice was that there were examples of contemporary arts and crafts by local artists and artisans that were displayed in the gardens.

From Liang’s Garden, Jun and I then walked along the historic streets toward the center of Zumiao. We both found some of the side streets more interesting than the main streets as they encapsulated the lived experience of the people and the changes in the city.

When we got to the Zumiao area, we decided to first visit Lingnan Tiandi, which is a city block of traditional buildings that have been renovated and repurposed into an arcade for restaurants and shops. While there we did some shopping and had a snack at one of the restaurants.

From Lingnan Tiandi, we then visited the Foshan Ancestral Temple. First built during the Song Dynasty (1078 – 1085 AD), the temple serves as a central node for the people in Foshan. Technically a Daoist temple, many people of different beliefs visit it for a variety of reasons. As it was a holiday when we visited, the temple staff had planned a few cultural activities and performances, such as a Cantonese Opera performance and lion dances.

Then we took the metro to Shiwan so we could visit Nanfeng Ancient Kiln and walk around Shiwan Park. Nanfeng Ancient Kiln is where the ceramic and pottery art of Foshan originated. Beginning around the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), it is the oldest known kiln in China and is still in operation. Nanfeng is a working historic site. Jun and I both found it fascinating as you could see people working, explore different parts of the history of the area, and enjoy just walking around the different alleys within the site.

Afterward, Jun and I walked around the surrounding area and did some shopping. We ended up buying two ceramic lions to remember our trip. Then we walked a bit around Shiwan Park before heading back to Zumiao for dinner.

When we got there, we found a restaurant located on the second floor—Shangyan Boutique Guangzhou Cuisine—and sat on the balcony. The view allowed us to look at the square around the bell tower. After dinner, we took a walk around Lingnan Tiandi and had dessert at Minxin Old Store before taking a car back to the hotel.

Day 3

On our last day in Foshan, we decided to have dim sum at Renshan Renhai Yueshi Dim Sum near our hotel. It was a nice walk in the mid-morning that helped us build our appetite. The dim sum was inexpensive and delicious.

From the restaurant, we next took a car southward towards the Shunde district of Foshan so we could visit Fengjian Village. The village is known for its water canals and has existed for over a thousand years. Many of the structures were originally constructed during the Song Dynasty. Nestled within the alleys and streets of the village are many temples and bridges that created a whimsical atmosphere. We enjoyed spending the early afternoon here.

Afterward, we decided to head northward to Beijiao and visit Lingnan He Garden. The garden first opened in 2018 and has a variety of architectural and garden styles from the Ming Dynasty to the present. It was interesting to visit the different sections and see how the styles both continued from one period to the next but maintained a unique character to them.

After our visit, we then had dinner at the restaurant within the gardens—Guoranju—that allowed us to sample Shunde cuisine. Most of the dishes were great, but there was an interesting dish of curdled milk with eggs that has a mix of savory and sweet flavors. This dish was a delicacy of this restaurant, but both Jun and I thought it was a bit too rich for us. The rest of the food, though, was great.

From the restaurant, we walked to the metro and took it to Guangzhou South Railway Station. Everything went smoothly at the station, and we were back in Shenzhen in a little over an hour. The trip to Foshan was a nice sojourn for us. We got to see some wonderful sites, as well as eat some amazing food.

Adventures in Xishuangbanna

Heading into the May Day holiday, Jun and I decided to travel further afield from Guangdong province. Yunnan was one of the few places we could travel to that had reasonable COVID-19 requirements. We, thus, decided we would go back to Yunnan for the second time this year. This time we would travel to the southwestern corner of the province and visit the Xishuangbanna region. This area is home to the Dai people, an ethnic group similar to others in Southeast Asia.

Accompanying us on the trip was Jun’s cousin and a friend of hers. We also decided that since Jun’s cousin had her driver’s license, we would rent a car to make traveling around Xishuangbanna easier. This decision would prove to create interesting situations during the trip.

Day 1

The first day of the trip started extremely early for me. My annual university conference occurred on the morning of May 1, which required me to be awake from midnight to 6:00 that morning. After my conference was over, I had to take a shower and then head off to the airport for our mid-morning flight. I was extremely tired by the time we got on the plane. Sadly the flight was short and required us to deplane in Nanning to pick up more passengers before heading to Xishuangbanna. Sufficed to say I did not get much sleep.

When we got to Jinghong—the main city in Xishuangbanna—we first had to go through airport health procedures. After we had cleared the health checks, we went to find the car. When we found it Jun’s cousin had some initial difficulties in figuring out how to operate the car. The attendant there helped, and we were soon on our way to the hotel. During that drive, I learned how inexperienced Jun’s cousin was when driving. She drove through a red light at one point thinking it had turned green. That incident made me nervous about what would happen next.

Fortunately, the hotel was close by, and we soon had our room keys. What should have been a time to rest in our rooms, however, soon turned into a frustrating situation.

When we got to our first room—yes, the first room—we found that it wasn’t ready and needed some time to be cleaned. We went back to the front desk, and they changed our rooms. Our second room was nice, but it had taken up some time to go back and forth. We decided that we had wasted enough time and we should go out and explore a bit.

We decided to visit a small temple nearby called Mannuan Longcun Temple. The grounds of the temple are quite small, but the central structure is gorgeous. It’s a white stupa with gold statues and silver candelabras and incense holders surrounding it. It was sublime to be there in the late afternoon, early evening sun. Jun and I enjoyed being there as it was relaxing and calming. Something I needed due to my exhausted state.

From there we next went to a local restaurant for dinner. The grounds of the restaurant were gorgeous, and the food was amazing.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel. When we got to our room, we noticed that it was quite warm. We turned on the air conditioning and realized that it wasn’t working. Jun called the front desk and they sent someone from maintenance to check it. The maintenance person found that the air conditioning unit was broken and needed to be replaced. That resulted in us moving to our third room. Fortunately, this was the last room change we needed to make. After taking a shower I was in bed and asleep for the next ten hours.

Day 2

After a wonderful night of rest, I woke up feeling more myself and ready to explore Xishuangbanna. Jun and I got ready and then went down to have breakfast. After we ate, we then went for a walk around the grounds of the hotel. As we walked, we saw that the hotel had several peacocks, including white peacocks. For Jun and me, it was the first time to see white peacocks.

When Jun’s cousin and her friend were ready, we then went out to explore Gaozhuang. Located next to the Lancang River, Gaozhuang is known for its night market. There, though, is also a temple—Shuangjing—located within it that we wanted to visit during the day. The temple had an ornate pagoda that in parts was covered in gold. The surrounding courtyard was also quite magnificent. We ended up taking a significant number of photos there.

Afterward, we then went to have lunch at a local restaurant that was decorated with cattle skulls, which was an interesting choice in décor.

After lunch, we walked a bit around Gaozhuang. While Jun’s cousin and her friend took pictures, we took a walk by the river. When we met up again, we decided to go visit Manting Park.

The drive to the park was uneventful. When we got there, however, we had to deal with a lot of traffic. Jun’s cousin got nervous and decided to drive further ahead to see if she could make a u-turn. It ended up she had to travel over a kilometer before she could. Finally, however, we were able to park and enter the park.

Manting Park is over 1,300 years old. It was once an imperial garden to the Dai royal family. Remnants of those structures still exist within the park. Besides the historic importance of the park, the grounds are gorgeous. We enjoyed walking around the park and visiting the different areas within it and around it, such as our visit to Jiebajie temple.

As it got closer to evening, we decided to go back to Gaozhuang to visit the night market. When we got there, we first stopped to have dinner at a small rooftop restaurant. The food there was nice, but there were a lot of smokers outside. Our first table had a guy who kept blowing smoke into my face. It was not intentional, but it got to the point where I started using the menu to blow it back to him so I wouldn’t choke on the smoke. He was surprised that I didn’t enjoy the smoke. He, unfortunately, was unwilling to stop smoking. The staff at the restaurant helped and moved us to another table inside the restaurant.

After dinner, we went for a walk around the night market. There were a lot of people there, which was quite a different experience from the morning. After walking and exploring the different stalls, we decided to head back to the hotel.

Our second day was fun, and it was great to explore the different parts of Xishuangbanna.

Day 3

Our third day had us venture outside the city to explore the natural side of the area.

We first visited the Xishuangbanna Primeval Forest Park. The park is typical in its design of a nature park in China with paved walkways. There are several cultural and natural sites to see, such as the Ai’ni village and the indigenous monkeys. The best part of the park was walking through the forest on the bamboo walkway mid-way up through the tree canopy. Jun and I enjoyed that experience.

From the park, we next went to the Chinese Academy of Science’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. The drive there was interesting as we had to stop at a health checkpoint to make sure our negative COVID-19 test was valid. It was, but I couldn’t use the electronic system and had to get out of the car and fill out the paperwork. Joy … After that was taken care of, we soon arrived at the park and took a little tram to the western area.

The tram dropped us off at an orchid exhibition. That was neat as they had orchid mantises. I had never seen them, and it was fun trying to find them in the orchids. The rest of the exhibit was quite impressive even though they were being watered when we got there, and we had to use our umbrellas to walk through the exhibit.

Jun and I decided to explore the rest of the park by ourselves. Jun’s cousin and her friend wanted to take pictures. Jun and I first decided to eat something since by then it was mid-afternoon and we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Then we went around the park and explored different areas. We ended up visiting the water gardens. We saw huge lily pads. We walked through a fun hedge maze. And we generally just enjoyed being in nature.