Sānjiāng is notoriously humdrum, but it’s a jumping-off point to get to the idyllic Dong villages and the exquisite, 78m-long Chéngyáng Wind and Rain Bridge. This is the grandest of more than 100 nail-less bridges in the area built by the Dong (they are renowned carpenters) at the turn of the last century from fir logs. It took 12 years to knock together and is a picture of poetic engineering.
Once you get a ticket, you’ll be allowed access across the bridge into the village of Mǎān (马鞍). From here, there are signs pointing you to the surrounding network of villages. These paths make for great walks past rice fields, historic old wooden buildings and several other wind and rain bridges. Possible bike rides include the tough, three-hour climb to the remote hilltop village of Gāoyǒu (高友).
There are a plenty of places to stay in, with many offering food, some with basic English menus. Just inside Mǎān, Yang’s Guesthouse has bikes (¥30 per day), friendly staff, food and free internet.
For its great location facing lush rice fields, the Chéngyáng Āsī Hotel is hard to beat. Get a room facing the fields. Walk past Yang’s Guesthouse on the left path, head to the end and turn left. Continue another 150m to find the hotel on the right past the Hélóng Bridge.