Day 1: Arrival Day. This journey begins in Guangzhou. If you need advice or assistance getting to Guangzhou then please contact us. Arrival transfer: You will be met at the airport and taken to your meeting point hotel. Our representative will answer any questions that you may have and ensure that you are checked-in before leaving. Please note: You may only actually be able to check-in after the hotel's standard time. If you will arrive in the morning and want to be able to check-in immediately you should consider booking the previous night as an Extra Service.
After check-in you are free to do as you please. Please do look for a message from your Guide about a Briefing this evening. In the evening, your Guide will meet with the group and take you to dinner. After eating the guide will brief you all on some important aspects relating to your Journey. This should only take about half an hour. Meals: dinner.
Day 2: Train to Kaili. You have free time this morning to see a bit of Guangzhou before we transfer to the station for the overnight train to Kaili. This will be our first overnight train ride. Fear not. We normally travel soft-sleeper class for overnight journeys and soft-seater class for short, day-time trips; both of these are comfortable enough. For more details see Trains in China. Meals: breakfast, lunch.
Day 3: Kaili and Beyond. We meet our private vehicle and driver in Kaili. They will be with us now until Guilin. Our first visit is to Matang village, home of the Ge Jia. Although classified officially as a sub-group of the Miao, the Ge Jia have their own unique culture. This is based around worship of Hou Yi who, in their mythology, shot down six of the then seven suns and saved the people from excessive heat. Ge Jia ladies are highly skilled in a wax dyeing technique similar to Javanese Batik. They wear fabulous red and black clothing with heavy silver jewellery for festivals. We return to Kaili to get a good night's sleep. Meals: lunch, dinner.
Day 4: Miao Handicrafts. We drive from Kaili to Qingman, a typical village of the Short-skirt Miao minority. This is a reference to the incredibly short (only 16-20 centimeters: about 6-8 inches) skirt worn by ladies. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that these skirts are made with a wrap that may be as much as 7 meters (20 feet) long. Obviously it is not a shortage of cloth that determines this fashion. Qingman is noted as a place where you can see the various stages involved in making the traditional clothes, including weaving, dyeing and sewing. Later we continue to Shiqiao village where the local Miao people have specialized in making paper from Mulberry trees. Innovations now mean that they use other species to make a variety of different colored papers. We end the day in Xijiang, a cluster of buildings around the hillsides. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 5: Greeted with Baijiu. Today we stop at two very different Miao villages. Datang village is another Short-skirt Miao village. Datang village sits at the foot of Leigong Mountain. Visitors are greeted with a sip of baijiu (local rice wine): a demonstration of hospitality. The wooden buildings in Datang are well worth a look. Barns are built over water to prevent fire and pests. You will also be greeted with a sip of wine at our next stop, the Shui village of Qiaotu. The Shui are one of the smallest minority groups. Their language is similar to that of the Dong and is related to Tibetan and Thai. Their houses always contain an odd number of rooms as an even number is considered unlucky. We continue to Rongjiang a Dong minority county town where we will spend the night. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 6: Rongjiang to Congjiang. This, being Sunday, is market day in Rongjiang. We spend an hour or two checking out the local produce and, more likely, the distinctive clothing worn by the ladies of each ethnic minority group. When finished we head off to Congjiang. We stop along the way at Chejiang village. This has a 'Wind and Rain' Bridge, so typical of the Dong minority. We also stop in Basha where, unusually, it is the men who have the unusual feature. The locals here believe themselves to be descended from the remnants of a defeated army and the men still wear their hair dressed up in a coil on top of their heads. They are also known to carry long swords and guns, more as status symbols now that hunting is restricted. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 7: Zhaoxing. Our journey continues with a drive through spectacular mountainous terrain to Zhaoxing. Zhaoxing is perhaps the largest Dong minority town. It has an amazing five Drum Towers and many other incredible pieces of architecture including "Wind and Rain" Bridges. The morning market is an excellent place to try local snacks. We also visit Jilun, another Dong village with its own characteristics. Being much smaller it makes for a nice contrast. We sleep in Zhaoxing, the nearby town, for more comfort. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 8: To Tang'an. Today we have an excursion from Zhaoxing. You could opt out and rest up if the driving has been a bit much so far. We will head off to Tang'an, a Dong village noted as being less developed. This gives it a more natural feel and makes it a great place to wander. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 9: Chengyang. We leave Guizhou Province behind today, cross into Guangxi Zhaung Autonomous Region and head for Chenyang. Chenyang is one of the most attractive villages in the Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County. Its 'Wind and Rain' Bridge is one of the most famous in China. We arrive with plenty of time to walk around the village, and possibly beyond. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 10: Mengjiang and Longsheng. We finish looking at local sites before heading off again. We will visit the village of Mengjiang for one last look at Dong architecture. Later we head off to the Rice Terraces at Longsheng (the Dragon's Backbone). We have to stop at the bottom of the valley to purchase entrance tickets. This is a Yao village and there will almost certainly be a group of local ladies willing to show off their ankle-length hair for a small fee. The roadhead is just beyond, up on the hillside opposite. It is then a 30 minute walk to Ping'an, a village now famous for its rice terraces carved out by the hard-working Zhuang people over generations.
Many people believe that the wet May season is the best time to visit in that this is when the paddies are full with water and look like a cascade of mirrors down the hillside: a photographer's dream. A visit is special at any time as the hospitality is always warm. There are two main view-points above the village. Many visitors will head up to one or the other for sunset. If you choose to go, don't forget to take a (head)torch for the descent. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 11: Hiking the Dragon's Backbone. Those who are keen can rise early to see the sun rise over the rice terraces from one of the view-points. Others may be satisfied to see the same from the guesthouse, or to just stay in bed. There is an optional hike today.The route will depend upon interest but with a maximum duration of about 6 hours. You are, of course, free to stick around Ping'an and relax. Meals: breakfast, dinner.
Day 12: On to Guilin. After breakfast we board our vehicle for the last time and head for the city of Guilin. The afternoon is free for you to go sightseeing or shopping as you wish. We finish with one last meal together. This is a chance to relive the highlights of your journey, to thank your guide and to exchange contact details if you haven't done so already. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 13: Journey's End. This Journey ends after breakfast. Check-out is usually 12:00 (noon). This journey ends in Guilin but can easily be extended.
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