A traditional saying describes Guizhou as a land where there are “no three days without rain, no three fields without a mountain, and no three coins in any pocket”. This is sadly accurate: Guizhou records the highest rainfall in China and has a poverty ensured by more than eighty percent of its land being covered in untillable mountains or leached limestone soils.
Still, ethnic identity and romantic landscapes have become marketable commodities in China, and Guizhou is beginning to capitalize on its two major assets. The province’s most visible minority groups are the many branches of Miao, concentrated in the southeast around Kaili; and the Bouyei, who are based around the provincial capital, Guiyang, and the westerly town of Anshun. The Miao in particular indulge in a huge number of festivals, some of which attract tens of thousands of participants and are worth any effort to experience. As for scenery, there are spectacular limestone caverns at Longgong and Zhijin, both accessed from Anshun; impressive waterfalls at Huangguoshu – again near Anshun; and everywhere terraced hills, dotted with small villages. Naturalists will want to clock up rare black-necked cranes, which winter along the northwestern border with Yunnan at Caohai Lake; and at least have a stab at seeing the reclusive golden monkey, which lives in the cloud forests atop Guizhou’s single holy mountain, northeasterly Fanjing Shan.
While Guizhou’s often shambolic towns are definitely not a high point of a trip to the region, the one place worth a visit in its own right is Zhenyuan, over on the eastern side of the province, which features some antique buildings and temples squeezed along a beautiful stretch of river.