Qiandongnan, mon amour. Zhaoxing and the Dongs

There is a saying about Guizhou: there aren’t three days without rain, three miles without a mountain or three coin’s in anyone’s pocket.

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Guizhou is one of the those few forgotten Chinese provinces, it is a land of ethnic minorities and many of its youngsters work as migrant workers in other richer provinces. Guizhou is also a land of beautiful landscapes, strange food and rice wine. Yes, they love their rice wine there. “If you don’t drink you don’t respect your sisters”, one woman told us. “You can’t be a Dong if you don’t drink”, said another one. “Come to my house for a drink, I have the best rice wine!” said many others.

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Qiandongnan prefecture, in Guizhou’s south-east, is home to the Dong and Miao minorities. They make up around 70% of the population, making it quite a special place in China. We started our holiday from Zhaoxing area. Zhaoxing is known as the Dong’s capital, being the largest Dong settlement in the world. It’s gotten more and more touristic with time, but did not lose its charm, especially the hills and villages around the town. We got there right before the public holidays, making us the only tourists (we think) that first night. After finding a place to stay (there’s a plethora of guesthouses, some of which allow foreigners), we had a walk around the town’s 5 drum towers and ‘wind and rain’ bridges trying to find a place to eat.

oh, we had grilled rat too

We saw many groups of locals eating around the drum towers all together, we had a closer look to see if we would get invited. A man pointed us a direction, he did not say a word, an old man. We thought he was crazy, but for some reason we followed the direction that his finger pointed at. In a matter of seconds a drunk guy grabbed us and threw us into his wedding party. Good start, 7 pm, various shots, large shots of rice wine, food, Dong’s drinking songs (yes, not only they love drinking, they adore singing too) and more rice wine. Welcoming to say the least. It all continued in Cantonese, since these guys worked in Guangdong and were back only for the holidays. After the groom and bride, along with some friends, had to be taken home before collapsing, we and other guys from the party went out in the streets. More drinks, shao kao and firecrackers everywhere. It felt a bit like being thrown into a war zone with people throwing firecrackers from their windows. A very welcoming first night.

downtown Zhaoxing

downtown Zhaoxing

I am not gonna bother you with more details of the festivities. Rice wine, food, beers, firecrackers and nice people. If you like this, Zhaoxing may be the place to go for your next Chinese New Year. Every night, people would gather under the drum towers to sing, other would play Lusheng (a pipe instrument made of bamboo) and others would throw fireworks up to our heads, and close to our feet…

In Xiage

In Xiage

Note: there is enough stuff to do at least for a couple of days around Zhaoxing. Jilun, Xiage and Tang’an are very nice villages with their own welcoming people (you got me) and just a few km away, on roads that have sublime landscapes (rice terraces on top). You are more likely to be the only tourist in those little villages.

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