Miao villages around Kaili are best visited on market days or during one of the many annual festivals. Markets operate on a five-day cycle, with the busiest at Chong An and Shidong; most festivals take place in early spring, early summer or late autumn and attract thousands of people for buffalo fights, dances, performances of lusheng (a long-piped bamboo instrument) and horse or boat races. The biggest event of the year is the springtime Sisters’ Meal, the traditional time for girls to choose a partner: don’t miss it if you’re in the region. Just note that Chinese information sometimes confuses lunar and Gregorian dates – “9 February”, for instance, might mean “the ninth day of the second lunar month”.
If there’s nothing special going on, head south of Kaili to the picturesque villages of Langde Shang and Xijiang, though easy access means plenty of other visitors. Kaili’s CITS can suggest less touristic alternatives, where it’s possible to end up sharing lunch at a farmer’s home (usually sour fish or chicken hotpot) and being given impromptu festival performances by young women in their best silver and embroidered jackets – you’ll have to pay, of course, but it’s worth the price. Beware the hospitable Miao custom of encouraging guests to indulge in their very drinkable but potent sticky rice wine.
Most villages are connected by at least daily bus services from Kaili, and also make possible stopovers on the way out of the region. Return transport can leave quite early, however, so be prepared to stay the night or hitch back if you leave things too late. There are no banks in any of the villages.