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Guizhou – A Visit to a Beautiful Province
By Iris Culp, Heritage Programs Director
I recently had the opportunity to visit Guizhou province and it was a wonderful opportunity to see some parts of China that aren’t often on a foreign visitor’s tourist radar. I’d like to share some of my experiences, and photo highlights with you of my favorite places.
Tianlong Tunpu Minority Village
It was a traditional, ancient village that was partially built into the side of the mountain area there. It had winding streets and showed different aspects of life. There were small shops, homes and many traditional buildings. There was also a small “museum” that highlighted some rock drawings, fossils and local findings. Since the museum descriptions were written in Mandarin, I mainly admired the art itself and the quaint building housing the artifacts. The building had numerous stairs and as I was the last person to leave one of the rooms, the lights automatically switched off. It was small, quiet and had some lovely rickety stairs one had to climb to view the art on the second floor. This would never pass muster in the US for a museum and that is one of the things that created charm to the place. It appeared that the building had been made from a shopkeeper’s former shop and home. This village is not typically frequented by foreign visitors, so it retains much original charm. Village residents carried themselves with a general ease and there was no sense of any souvenir “hawking” or intense interest in making sales, though several shops lined the streets. There were a couple of villagers that were more extroverted or curious and were interested in a photo with a North American face sporting some blond hair. That made for some delightful interactions and a few fun photos.
There were several grandparents caring for grandchildren and the children were a bit curious about our group. Two of the children were playing together and I asked the nearby adult if it was allowed to offer a bit of candy. I happened to have a pack of lifesavers in my pocket. I believe I enjoyed sharing my candy more than they enjoyed consuming it, LOL!
Throughout the village there was a number of Chinese tourists visiting and just a sprinkling of foreign visitors. There were some quaint vendor stalls offering some locally created jewelry, primarily in silver or beadwork. Tables offered numerous options for earrings, bracelets, pendants, etc. Some shops created their own jewelry on site, with some very traditional tools, as one can see in the photo here.
There were shopkeepers offering food options, such as this woman selling baked potatoes which were very appealingly warm on a cool fall morning. I was enthralled with the small children who were in the village and there were several, who each appeared to be cared for by a grandparent.
Along the winding streets there was a small traditional Chinese hostel, which offered a bed for the night for just 12 yuan or so. Just down the walking path there was a rounded room offering community seating for a performance with traditional costumes and masks. The grandfather with his granddaughter, and I were among the last to leave and I offered a small yuan bill as a gift to his granddaughter, that he automatically refused. He and the granddaughter shared a comfortable curiosity and ease about wandering the village and watching others. I’d like to go back and spend more time, staying in the hostel of Tianlong Tunpu.
Ten Thousand Peaks
This place literally has more than 10,000 peaks and when visiting and seeing all the peaks, it seems like it is a place from a postcard. The day I visited the numerous mountain peaks were a bit shrouded in mist and as our mega golf cart took us up the mountain, it felt a bit surreal to see the many mountain peaks in the distance. It was a great way to see this beautiful scenery and as our group circled the mountainous area to the top, the valley below came into a more dramatic view and it was a lovely scene. Our group took the easy way on some motorized carts since we had climbed up and down two miles or so through rough terrain to view the waterfalls and scenes earlier in the day. However, for anyone interested, one can also do this mountainous route as a hiking or bike tour. It would be a great tour for the physically adventurous, either on bike or on foot. And, you would capture even more beautiful scenery while being closer to nature.
In some ways the beauty seemed a bit surreal, but I was jarred into reality of the risks of living and working in China, as I saw a young man in his twenties perched near the top of a rather slim tree, with hatchet in hand swinging near his bare feet in order to trim the branches. That would never be shown in a postcard. Though I was too stunned to capture a picture of that, it is seared in to my mind as I am reminded of the safety laws in the US are so pervasive, one would never even envision the scene in the US. And, certainly here, the young man had no safety ropes anywhere around. To me it served as a reminder that living in China has a “raw” sense of adventure. Thankfully he was skilled (and lucky) enough that he accomplished his task to cut away limbs that were blocking the stunning views from our vantage point.
These were my two favorite glimpses of Guizhou. Unfortunately (or fortunately for travelers such as I! ) this province tends to be overlooked by most who are making plans for a China trip. If you have the opportunity to include Guizhou on your agenda, you can to visit several areas that retain an original charm and visit several regions with a pristine, beautiful landscape. With the rapid modernization taking place in China, that is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity in China.
You can reach Iris to discuss Guizhou or other trip planning at firstname.lastname@example.org .