Mention any of China’s southwestern provinces and fellow travellers will pelt you with tips, advice or looks of envy. Tell them you’re going to Guìzhōu, however, and you’ll most likely receive a blank look and the question, ‘Why?’
Despite blockbuster development and government efforts to turn the province into a kind of southwestern transport hub, complete with new expressways and airports, Guìzhōu can’t shake its reputation as a backwater, and it remains one of the country’s poorest provinces.
But there are several reasons why Guìzhōu should make it into your itinerary. The countryside is a mix of dense forests and cascading waterfalls, terraced hills and karst cave networks. There’s a lively mix of people: almost 35% of Guìzhōu’s population is made up of over 18 ethnic minorities, including the Miao and the Dong in the southeast and the Hui and the Yi in the west.
The Miao’s traditional wooden homes dot the mountainous areas of the province, often perched at precarious angles overlooking sloping rivers. The Dong’s wooden drum towers and intricate wind and rain bridges – constructed without a single nail or bolt – characterise the southeast region. Other minority groups include the Bouyi, Shui (Sui), Zhuang and Gejia. Together, they contribute to Guìzhōu’s lively social calendar, which enjoys more folk festivals than any other province in China.
And for intrepid travellers looking to get off the beaten track, more often than not you’ll have it all to yourself. Though getting to Guǎngxī via Guìzhōu’s southeast villages is an increasingly popular trip, it’s still possible to wander the rest of the province for days, and not see another foreigner.