The city is the capital of Guizhou province. Until recently it was the poorest province in China, poorer even than Tibet. Central government decided that development was needed and has taken a 3 pronged approach. Tourism, mainly domestic but hopefully international, is one prong, the discovery of epic quantities of coal and phosphorus is another and, finally, fiscal incentives to investors are sweetening the deal. They say the national bird of China is the construction crane! As we drove out of the city it was evident that there is a massive boom going on here and I swear the city was a little bit bigger by the time we got back this evening.
Meanwhile out in rural China we visited Tianlong Tunpu, an ancient town founded 600 years ago, when 300,000 soldiers of the Ming dynasty were told to stay put after a battle and bring their families with them. Today it is occupied by one of the minorities, the Miao people. The lifestage of the women is easy to identify – young women wear no headband and have a full head of hair. When a woman marries she wears a white band and plucks the hair from her forehead, when she becomes a grandmother she wears a black headband.
The Miao are famous for their handicrafts (I bought a pretty silver pendant) but also for their Dixi (pronounced dishy) or ground opera. The idea is that the performers are on a stage lower than the audience and in fact they are performing to the gods above rather than for people. They wear masks on their forehead rather than covering their faces. We watched a short performance, to drum and gong music.
Onward to Asia’s largest waterfall at Huangguoshu. As Ted (my Guizhou guide) said, “if Niagara is a strong man, then Huangguoshu is a slim girl”. It’s fair to say the waterfall is not huge, but it is beautiful and it is rather lovely to walk behind it.
It was first discovered several hundred years ago by Xu Xia Ke, the Chinese Marco Polo.
The Chinese are justly proud of their scenic jewels and I think many more westerners will come to see them if the PR gets organised. I have been absolutely blown away by everything I’ve seen and experienced and thankyou, Dad, for not going to the touristy places. If I’d stuck to the beaten track I’d have missed some amazing and wonderful things. However, they do like to ‘enhance’ the natural beauty with a fair amount of concrete walkways (why should you change out of heels to look at a waterfall?) and plenty of coloured lights (think Santa’s grotto). It’s another fine contrast – on the one hand the signs don’t say ‘keep off the grass’ they say very gently ‘make the little grass smile by going round about’ and at the same time they think nothing of brutally bulldozing through natural features in the name of tourist convenience.
I’m staying at the Trade-point hotel (located at the Guiyang equivalent of Oxford Circus, yet there is still a nearby cockerel who crows the dawn) which has the comfiest beds in China and the BBC. Bliss! The news here today is that 20 people were killed (and 140 injured) by hailstones in Dongguan, the town between HK and Guangzhou that the train stopped at on the way. Glad I missed that.