Have I ever picked a place out of the blue and left on the first plane I could find...well...would have say no about 10 days ago...and would now say yes and asking for more !
It was one of those Saturday where you find out that you got three days off you hadn’t planed for starting the next morning...ones would think about the long list of things and sleep I could catch up on but ending up online as soon as I reached home and searched for the "deal" ticket that would get me out of Shanghai for a few days...guess the name of Guiyang the capital of the Guizhou province sounded good...30 seconds more on the net to find out where the place actually was (never heard of it before...) and bought immediately a ticket...
Printed a very rough map of the area (that did help a bit...) and headed to the airport the next morning with Stephane (my brother who moved back to China)...rainy day in Shanghai so one more good reason to leave Shanghai for a few days!
2 hours and half later ... arrival in Guiyang
a big third tiers city
right in the center of the province ... not much interest in a city tour so went straight to the main bus station to catch a bus to ... well ... didn’t really know yet ... could technically head to the four directions ... so we have just decided to take the first one that was going out of the city in direction of the mountains ... found out that this was from where the bus were leaving for Anshun
so Anshun it was :-)
First bus out of quite a few over the following few days…clearly the best way to travel around and truly easy to navigate when you speak Chinese. 1 hour and half and we reached Anshun where we managed to get the last bus for Huangguoshu further down south.
As we drive outside Anshun in direction of the small Huangguoshu village, we truly started to enjoy the ride...the industrious country side slowly got replaced by rice paddy fields and mountains, crossing one tiny village after the other, this was going to be the canvas of our trip for the following three days.
We finally reached the Huangguoshu waterfalls
village as night was coming
down ... headed straight back to the oldest part of the village from the bus drop off point (up hills obviously...) and followed the advice of a local taxi driver who recommended a tiny restaurant with a few rooms on the top ... just fabulous... although from outside it looked old and not exactly welcoming...well, once you walk inside you discover a massive balcony overlooking the falls...actually, right in front to be precise with nothing to block the view over the water and surrounding forest and mountains...THE dream place to start our holidays...at least until I start to chit chat with the owner who explained me that they were not allowed to accommodate foreigners there....and that we had to go to one of the three hotels in town that could do so....arrrrhhhh...couldn’t believe it...it was indeed a rule that used to be enforced about everywhere in China when I was there in 2000 but now most provinces have a more free and easy approach... well, too bad .... quick dinner and walk back, down hill this time, toward the entrance of the waterfalls park where the "hotels" were located. Ended up in one right next to the entrance and really
felt like we were the first foreigners to ever stay there... especially when the front desk staff asked us to help her to fill the check in paper as "she never saw a passport before" so couldn’t understand how it works...
Just fyi, this was to be the MOST touristic place we went to during that trip so let you imagine the remaining part of it! Love it! Day 2
: early morning wake up and straight to the waterfalls park...just on time to avoid the Chinese tour groups! The park in itself has much more to offer than just the falls. You start this 3 hours trek with a walk through a bonsai garden where over a thousands of those are displayed and then well... you start the climb up and down up to the moment when you reach the river and start to see the Huangguoshu waterfalls... those are said to be the biggest in China and indeed they are quite impressive!
The mountains, falls, river and a slight mist made of this instant something quite magical....
As you get closer, you can then see a path leading to a natural cave that allows you to
walk right behind the falls...first time for us and got to say that the walk behind this water curtain was really unique...not only you get to see the entire valley through the water but also you get to experience how powerful to water actually is...
Spent some time there enjoying the scenery and then kept walking on the other side of the river toward the exit... believe it or not...to go up hills again, they have installed a massive escalator...yes...an escalator... still don’t understand how this thing ended up in a protected area like the Huangguoshu or why (if they really needed to have something to go up) they didn’t create a cable car (at least we would have enjoyed the view)....
Anyhow...after a quick local style lunch we headed back to Anshun to catch up our next bus :-) Anshun
is a medium size city, not much to see as such, more about walking around and get to see how people live...lots of locals from minorities live and work in Anshun so the outfits and food reflect the diversity of people there,
As often in China, one city would have two to three different bus
stations...so it gave us the opportunity to navigate in this city, looking for the 'other' bus station :-)
One more bus ticket, this time destination Zhijin
a city located about three hours from Anshun on the west side of the province.
Didn’t know much about it except that this was the place for the largest cave that ones can actually visit in China (that s a good start..)...
Not long after we left Anshun, we started to reach a much more mountainous area, under the rain ...that does happen... and full speed ... which does happen quite often in China too...
This was a true Chinese style bus ride :-) Old Kungfu movies, people eating and chatting (and smoking occasionally too...), lots of left and right on tiny mountain roads and the classic stop in the middle of nowhere where some locals sell food (truly spicy but super tasty) and you got to enjoy the countryside style toilets (wont give more details on those...)
Took the picture of the road signage during one of those stops... picture speaks by itself!
Found out as well that this is one of the main area where you would find
some of the most massive coal mines in China... Extremely poor area (the average income in this area is about 100USD per year...), lots of tiny old villages along the roads, some of those entirely covered by the coal dust making everything black, kids walking along those roads to go back to their limestone house a few miles away from the village or going to the field to help their family, no farming machine only bulls and some basic equipment ... a whole different world far… far… away from the busting/ modern Shanghai.
Arrival in Zhijin
, an other middle size Chinese city where the coal mines clearly provide work to a big majority of the population.
Very Chinese city too where people are clearly not used to see two laowai (foreigners) walking around! Great little hotel, trip to the Zhijin cave the next day all set and time to explore the city on the look out for some local Chinese restaurant,
Ended up in a massive Mahjong open air competition where some kind of ceremonies where taking place too ... not much choice but to cross the area (taking the entire street...) and well... although
Chinese are in love with gaming and not much can disturb them when they are playing, everything stopped for a few minutes ... some smiles (in addition to ours...best way anyway!), and a mix of curiosity/ surprise ... don’t know whether it is the blond hair or blue eyes effect but clearly were not used to see laowai ...
Found a local style restaurant shortly after... guess it brought us luck! local style as after chatting with the waitress the next step was to go in the kitchen to meet the cook and pick our fish ! negotiations back and forth, a few jokes and we were all set! spicy fish hot pot, rice and a few bottles of their local beer.
The fish was amazing ... lots of local spices... well...ask my brother...hahahaha :-) started to cry about 2 mn after the first bite! but kept going...guess he actually enjoyed the dish too ! Day 3
:Early night, early wake up ... one more early morning trek...
are actually located at one hour drive heading west from the city of Zhijin ...
Two bus stations (again...) and finally managed to get to the
mini van that will take us to the caves
Beautiful sunny day, drivers waiting to get a 'full house' before leaving. Quick cig before going in and usual chat with the driver who seemed not only super happy to give us a ride, but also seemed even happier when he saw me light up a cigarette...
'May I have one?!! Never smoke a foreign brand cigarette before!' hahaha... well... guess I have been in China too long... don’t smoke foreign brands anymore (most of those are fake anyway)! The driver was a bit disappointed but finally quite happy to try one of my Zhongnanhai (Beijing brand that is not sold in Guizhou) ;-)
The road to Zhijin cave is absolutely stunning :-) or maybe it was just the fact that it was a truly sunny morning ... but the coal mines were no where to be seen and instead we would drive around the rice paddy fields, along rivers and small waterfalls ... the van would stop on request with people going in and out along the way, somehow always managing to find some space to seat (counted up to 14 people in a van that was designed
lost in translation part 2
an other good one...while exploring the Zhijin cave...everything is good when it comes to explain that one cannot smoke everywhere....hahahaha that s a good one though...
for 8 passengers...)
Managed again to reach this tourist spot before the big Chinese tour groups (most people seems to come from Guiyang for the day) ... downside...got to wait for more people to actually arrive...
Not exactly the 'free style' caves exploration trip ... one Chinese speaking guide per group of 10 guests and a pre-defined path to be followed within the cave.
Won’t see any pictures of the cave except the signage one (see bellow) ... had to take those...
On the funny side, one more thing we found out during this 'visit' was that the guide would turn off the light once you have completed one section and then turn on the next one ... well, at least that is what she did for the first few one... quickly started to understand where the switch were hidden and just kept going with our own little private tour :-)
Not too much into the take your own picture every 15mn kind of thing so obviously slightly faster than the Chinese group....
On the bright side of it, at least we didn’t handed up going up using an escalator :-) hahaha
Back to day light!
(no need to play with the switch anymore)
More free time than expected ... so decided to go for a walk toward and across the local village down the caves :-) and this was maybe one of the best part of our trip! Bright sunny early afternoon, colorful traditional village overlooking the valley, kids, lots of them smiling at us, shy and quite surprised to see us walking by but felt at ease :-) Nice walk (and not a early morning one this time...) where you truly appreciate every second.... simple things in life are quite often the most important ones ... so indeed, this very simple moment was just magic...
Kept walking down the mountain, pass by the village and start walking along the tiny mountain road ... always bus passing by so just decided to catch up one slightly further down the road... clearly pushing back the moment we would have to jump in and head back to Guiyang...
The least I can say, was that the local mini van driver was really surprise to pick up two foreigners in the middle of nowhere! hahaha!
The drive back to Zhijin was a pleasant as
the previous one (full speed, trying to break the world record of how many people you can actually fit in one van and overall having great fun chatting and enjoying the scenery). One last bus then to head back to Guiyang .... 5 hours drive, with the transmission clutch that broke half way... No comments... Now back in Shanghai ... and its cosmopolitan lifestyle :-) The memories of this trip will last long, truly love it and now looking forward to the next long week end that will allow me to explore an other remote part of China.
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