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Introducing Xījiāng

Hidden in the folds of the Leigong Hills, Xījiāng is thought to be the largest Miao village and is well known for its embroidery and silver ornaments (the Miao believe that silver can dispel evil spirits). Set in a natural basin, it’s bordered by paddy fields, with wooden houses rising up the hillside.

Dawn hikes through the paddies are spectacular and for those of you looking for more than an afternoon stroll, there’s a three-day trek from here to Páiyáng (), a Miao village north of Xījiāng. This trail winds its way through some remote minority villages and lush scenery.

You will probably find accommodation with locals en route but you shouldn’t expect it so come prepared with sleeping bags, food and camping equipment.

Many families offer rooms with dinner for around Y40. Just go up the main street and ask around.

If everyone’s full, try the Yóudiàn Zhāodàisuǒ ; 334 8688; dm Y15) near the bus drop-off. Guests say the kindness of the fúwùyuán (floor attendants) more than make up for the grubby facilities.