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Introducing Déhāng

In a seductive riverine setting overlooked by towering, other-worldly karst peaks, the Miao hamlet of Déhāng (admission Y60) to the northwest of Jíshǒu in western Húnán province offers a tantalising spectrum of treks into picturesque countryside. Rising into columns, splinters and huge foreheads of stone, the local karst geology climbs over verdant valleys layered with terraced fields and flushed by clear streams. Side-stepping the bovine traffic and the occasional cowpat could be the only thing distracting your eyes from the gorgeous scenery.

The village itself has been partially dolled up for domestic tourism, but on its fringes the feeling survives of a pleasant riverside minority Miao village where wood-constructed and highly affordable hotels turn Déhāng into an inexpensive and alluring retreat. Avoid the inauthentic, tourist-crowd-oriented Déhāng Miáozhài () hub where evening shows are staged, and keep to the narrow lanes and riverside views of the old village leading to the arched Jielong Bridge (; Jiēlóng Qiáo), where old folk decked out in blue-clothed Miao outfits and bamboo baskets cluster and cows and water buffalo wander quietly around chewing the cud. Occasional Maoist slogans from the Cultural Revolution make an appearance, old men thread together baskets from strips of bamboo and Miao weavers sit hunched over mills, creating colourful cloth for attractive cotton jackets (Y80).