Southeastern Guizhou – known locally as Qiandongnan – forms a landscape of high hills cut by rivers and dotted with dark wooden houses with buffaloes plodding around rice terraces. Women working in the fields have babies strapped to their backs under brightly quilted pads, and their long braided hair is coiled into buns secured by silver hairpins and fluorescent plastic combs. They are Miao, and Qiandongnan is one of the best places in China to meet ethnic peoples on their own terms. Miao villages around the district capital, Kaili, are noted for their exuberant festivals, which though increasingly touristed have managed to retain their cultural integrity. Beyond Kaili, there’s a scenic route southeast to the mountainous border with Guangxi province, where Dong hamlets sport their unique drum towers and bridges (see Sanjiang and Chengyang); northeast lies the unusually attractive town of Zhenyuan and a tough ascent into Fanjing Shan’s cloud forests. Kaili is connected by good road and rail links to Guiyang and neighbouring Hunan, with buses and minibuses providing regular services elsewhere.
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