Guiyang (贵阳; Guìyáng) is the capital of Guizhou province, China. While not the most spectacular of Chinese cities, it has much to offer as an introduction to the history, culture and natural splendor of Guizhou and China's southwest. Moreover it is drastically cheaper than the more touristed and developed provinces. It makes an excellent base for exploring mountains, caves, rivers, and minority cultures (including traditional Han Chinese culture lost in many areas) of the province.
Guiyang is relatively easy to get to by air with multiple flights daily coming in from Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing as well as other cities in Southwest China, particularly Kunming and Chengdu. The airport (KWE) is officially an international airport but options are extremely limited. There is weekly service to and from Hong Kong, Macao, and Bangkok and perhaps Singapore and Malaysia. Travelers flying in from abroad will most likely transfer to a domestic flight to Guiyang in Kunming, Guangzhou, Shanghai or Beijing. From the airport, taxis (¥60 flat rate) or the airport shuttle bus (¥10, drops off in a few locations around town) take fifteen to twenty minutes to reach downtown. Those interested in saving money may opt to catch a taxi from the bus stops in town rather than directly from the airport. Doing so brings the total for a solo traveler to ¥20 from airport to hotel.
Guiyang straddles the trunk rail line linking Chongqing (12 hours) with Kunming (overnight) and points south. Train tickets to Chengdu are also readily available (17 hours). Train tickets, including for hard sleepers, are relatively easy to acquire, given the size of Guiyang's population and its significance as the commercial hub of the province. Heading in from Hunan, the train passes through Kaili before arriving in Guiyang. Tickets to Zunyi (hard seat only) cost ¥17 for the three and a half hour trip.
The area outside the train station can be a bit chaotic, but taxis are readily available. There is an officially recognized taxi queue across the street from the station, although some taxis will stop in mid-traffic to pick you up. Guiyang police have tried to crack down on picking up passengers in crowded areas where it will obstruct traffic, so the queue is probably the best (and safest, given Chinese driving standards) option. The train station is also the terminus for many public bus lines.
The long distance bus station (金阳汽车站) is now located in the new JinYang development area. Buses to Jinyang leave from the train station and pass by peoples square, opposite the school. From here you can get buses to several destinations, including Guilin and Guangzhou.
Long distance buses arriving in Guiyang will likely stop at a different station near the airport where you can take a taxi into the city. The driver will probably not use the meter and will take as many passengers as he can, bargain for the price.
The long-distance bus stations are also the best location to get buses to Anshun (60-90 minutes), the gateway to Guizhou's signature Huangguoshu Waterfall. Buses north to Zunyi (two hours) depart every 30 to 60 minutes.
The highway infrastructure in Guizhou is undergoing continual upgrading as part of China's Western Development Effort. Once completed, an expressway will link Guiyang to Chongqing, allowing relatively easy travel and an alternative to the train. The highways leading west and east out of Guiyang are modern and well maintained making for easy access to the western reaches of the province or east to Kaili. It is possible (although expensive, so it may be better to take the bus or train) to hire a car and driver between Guiyang, Zunyi, and other cities.
Guiyang has a well developed bus system, although it is entirely in Chinese and takes some getting used to. A local can help you if you know where you are going. All bus fares cost ¥2. Small local buses pick up passengers at various points around town and can take you to Huaxi or more distant districts of the city for ¥3 per person. These buses can get crowded and are forbidden (technically) to carry standing passengers. As a result, all of the standing riders are asked to duck when passing the police.
Guiyang taxis charge ¥10 at flagfall. Short trips within the city should cost ¥10. This is an excellent way to get around, as taxis are everywhere. Note that taxis charge extra late at night (¥12 starting rate although for short trips the driver may let you off with the ¥10 flat rate). Taxis heading into or out of the city center may pick up extra passengers.
As elsewhere in China, motorcycle taxi services are available. Large intersections or areas with concentrations of bars or restaurants will attract a crowd of motorcyclists. Negotiate a price in advance (¥5-10). Unlike in other areas, the driver is unlikely to have a helmet available for you. Hold on tight.
Although not the smallest town in China, many of Guiyang's neighborhoods and sights can be seen with a little patience and footwork. This is also a great way to experience life in a still emerging town. The city abounds with small workshops (often in what would normally be locations for small shops or restaurants), delightful street-side restaurants, and small shops selling everything from local handicrafts to new business cards (next day availability) and sheet metal.
- Qianling Park (黔灵公园). This large city park is well worth an afternoon. Sample local food and crafts from vendors, see curious and very brave wild monkeys (accustomed to people), as well as take in the view from the hilltops near Hongfu Temple. Qianling Park also includes a zoo and small amusement park as well as tea gardens.
- Hebin Park. This park is by the side of the river. There is an Egyptian feel to the square in the park, which has towering pillars lit by yellow light at night, and a gigantic UFO-shaped restaurant in the centre, help up by both bamboo and metal pillars--an apt symbol of the fusion of Chinese culture and modernity. Near the restaurant, there is a recently built bridge across the river, shaped like a Helix, and lighted up a brilliant red. Take a romantic stroll through this peaceful square at night.
- Hongfu Temple (宏福寺) (It is 40-60 minute walk to the temple, but there is also a cable car (stops at 5:00PM), and sedan chair rides.). The temple, built as a monastery in the early Qing Dynasty, is comparable in extent to the Lama Temple in Beijing. Surrounded by woods, the buildings have elaborate ornaments (roof corners and eaves, etc). There are several large deity figures, a pond with carp, water well for coins for good luck, incense burning pits, a large bell you ring, some shops, and a restaurant there.
- Tianhetan (天河潭). An easy day trip from Guiyang, Tianhetan is a pleasant cave, canal and waterfall park in Huaxi township. The park includes flooded caves which guides take you through in boats, canals which weave through minority farm areas and a spectacular cascade through a narrow opening in the mountain. Following the trail into the mountain leads to a massive sinkhole and the starting point for the cave and canal boat trips.
If you are feeling adventurous, rent bikes for the day from Huaxi Park, and then cycle 11km to tian he tan on the country roads. It takes about 2 hours to get there, but the biking journey would be rewarding for backpackers who enjoy roughing it through and appreciate rural scenery. You can rent a motorcycle to take your bicycles back for 10 yuan each, while getting on a rented ven to get back to Huaxi Park, at the same price. Admission to the park is very reasonable although you will pay extra for the zip line across the gorge..
- Huaxi Park (花溪公园). Another popular day trip south of Guiyang in Huaxi township, Huaxi Park is an excellent escape from the heat and bustle of the city. The park with its streams, pavilions and tea gardens is popular for Guiyang residents who enjoy setting up their own barbeques and enjoying a picnic. Of historical note, former Premier Zhou Enlai and his wife visited Huaxi Park in the 1950s. A billboard sized photograph of the couple enjoying a boat ride graces the main entrance to the park.
- South River Grand Canyon (南江大峡谷). Grand Canyon area with typical development, the majestic Karst Canyon scenery and a variety of types, different attitude waterfall group features, the magnificent, majestic and grand, for aesthetic value and tourism value of the scenic area high. The canyon span more than 40 km, steep peak, the depths of three hundred and ninety-eight meters.
- Maotai Liquor (茅台酒) - produced in Maotai Town of Renhuai County in Zunyi Prefecture, Maotai holds itself to be one of the world's three most famous distilled liquors. In 1915, Maotai won global fame at the Panama World's Fair. According to Maotai lore, the booth at the fair was largely overlooked by the liquor judges because of the cheap labels and black bottles. In frustration one of the attendants smashed a bottle of Maotai releasing the distinct aroma attracting the judges who later awarded the drink a gold medal. Since 1949, it has won 14 international gold prizes and has been exported to over 100 countries and regions. It is officially known as China's national liquor and served at state banquets. At 106 proof (53% alcohol by volume) or stronger, it is not for the faint of heart. Maotai is clear and offers a lingering mild and mellow fragrance some liken to soy sauce. For foreigners it can be a bit of an acquired taste but no visit to Guizhou would be complete without trying the province's most famous product.
- Anshun Batik (安顺蜡染画) - Batiks are a traditional handicraft of the Buyi people in the Anshun region to the west of Guiyang. Traditional ethnic designs include flowers, birds, fish and insects on indigo-dyed cotton cloth. More recently artisans have produced more colorful silk and wool batiks. There are over 1,000 different types of batik products now produced including whole cloth, bedding, tapestries, caps and purses. Anshun Batiks can be purchased at expensive tourist shops in Guiyang or for more reasonable and negotiable prices in Anshun itself.
- Guiding Yunwu Tea(贵顶云雾茶) - Produced in Yunwu Mountain in Guiding County, this tea was offered as tribute to the early Qing court. The leaves resemble fishhooks, thin and soft, with whitish hairs. This green tea is much favored for its low caffeine and high catechol content.
- Yuping Flutes - These elaborately carved flutes are made of local bamboo and produce a clear and beautiful sound. Yuping flutes are traditional local products that have gone on to win international prizes.
- Ethnic Silver Articles - Two ethnic groups, the Miao and Gejia, are famous for silver smithing. Both groups produce headgear, necklaces and bracelets. Each type has its distinct shapes, patterns and motifs. Miao ornaments mainly use dog, cat, horse, insect, flower or bird motifs. The Gejia prefer sun, stars, dragon, phoenix, bat and certain plant motifs. Both styles give Huangping silver ornaments great artistic value.
- Embroidery and Cross-stitch - Miao embroidery is a traditional local handicraft. Design motifs are typically butterflies, birds and interestingly enough marine animals. Cross-stitch patterns follow the warps and wefts of the cloth and the most popular ones are colorful geometric figures.
- Exotic stones and fossils - Guizhou's limestone hills yield a wealth of valuable stones and fossils. As the province also has impressive and commercially exploitable deposits of gold, silver and other minerals, there are a wide variety of mineral stones and samples available. Fossils of Missippian Crinoids and the Guizhousaurus (贵州龙 - a small semi-aquatic dinosaur) are available in many tourist shops. The Guizhousaurus is a common fossil and often found intact and complete so there is actually a fair chance the fossils are legitimate! The buyer will likely notice, however, that the fossils are painted to show the bones more starkly against a darker background of stone.
People in Guiyang like those throughout Southwest China love spicy food. Use of red chilies of various temperatures and salty dried chili powder dips for hot pots is ubiquitous. Food can be prepared mild (不要辣 buyaola) according to your tastes but the best way is to settle in and eat the way the locals do.
With a brave stomach, you could eat something new everyday for a week just by walking along the streets of Guiyang and sampling the street foods of Guizhou's minorities around the night markets. Most of these offerings come heavily spiced by default, but you can ask for a little or no spice.
Be sure to try Bean Hotpot (豆米火祸 dōumǐhuǒguō) which is available all around the city. Just as with other hotpot styles, you choose whichever ingredients you want and cook them at your own pace. The difference is in its soup of pinto beans, bacon, and onions. You should get a bowl of spices that you can mix with the soup base for dipping.
Minority cuisines are also readily available throughout Guiyang (look for wait staff in brightly colored outfits clapping, dancing and playing oversized pan-flutes at the door). One of the most common and delicious varieties available is the Miao Minority's Suan Tang Yu (酸汤鱼) a hot pot centered around a hot and spicy broth with a large whole fish chopped up inside. Like all hot pot restaurants veggies, meats and other delicacies are purchased a la carte to be added. The dipping bowls contain the ubiquitous chili paste but also add a cube of fermented tofu (non stinky) that makes a wonderful compliment to the fish. Be sure to wash it down with Mi Jiu (米酒) a sweet purple rice wine. A row of reasonably priced restaurants specializing in Suan Tang Yu can be found on Shengfu Lu near the intersection with Fushui Lu near the Beijing Hualian supermarket.
For a Guizhou snack unavailable elsewhere try Silk Babies (丝娃娃). For a few kuai, you are given a stack of thin rice pancakes and chopsticks. You sit at a low table covered in bowls of raw and pickled vegetables with a small dish for mixing chili sauce and vinegar. Load the pancakes according to taste, spoon in a little sauce and enjoy.
Among Guiyang's street foods, Guiyang Style Beef Noodles (牛肉粉 niuroufen) is a staple. It can be prepared in a hot red broth or a mild beef broth according to your tastes - although not all establishments offer a choice. Fresh whole garlic cloves, crushed dried red pepper, salt, MSG and Sichuan Pepper (花椒 huajiao) can be added to taste. Don't miss this one - it really hits the spot, especially after a night of drinking! Huaxi Wang Jia Niuroufen is the best and operates a chain of franchises throughout the province but for late night munchies, just follow the crowds.
A peculiar local delicacy (given the fact that Guizhou is landlocked) is Fried Chili Squid (鱿鱼: youyu). Chopped squid is skewed and deep fried before being cooked on a separate metal plate in a bath of sizzling chili sauce. This snack is served hot from carts congregating along Zhonghua Zhonglu. The dish is safe to eat despite the distance from the ocean. One stick costs ¥1. The 鱿鱼 carts are often found in close proximity to other snack carts selling grilled tofu, mutton kabobs, spicy pickled radishes and other munchies.
For excellent Guizhou cuisine at very reasonable prices try Siheyuan (四合院). The restaurant enjoys a good bit of local fame and is popular with the (very) small expat community as well. The story goes that the owners were laid off from their factory jobs some years ago. Without work, they opened a street side restaurant with a single table. The food was so good that business boomed. Some 15 or 20 years later they serve a bustling lunch and dinner crowd in a multilevel but still rustic and homey restaurant. Siheyuan doesn't have a sign so finding it without a guide can be a bit of a trick. It is located a few feet down the alley opposite the Protestant Church on Qianling Xilu.
Night markets are popular in Guizhou for midnight munching, particularly in the warmer months although even the winter does not shut them down. Varieties of street foods particularly grilled freshwater fish, crayfish, snails, chicken, pork, mutton, cabbage, garlic greens, onions, eggplants, mutton, chili peppers and just about anything else that can be skewered is available. For the adventurous whole marrow bones can be grilled up, cracked open and served with a straw. Try the market on Hequn Lu. Vendors set up shop around 7 PM.
However, Hequn Lu charges very high prices for streetside food that is mediocre in many instances. It is perhaps a little too touristy for an authentic street food sampling experience. Locals would recommend that you take a bus to he bin park instead, and walk down the road to another night market, where the food is much cheaper, and sumptuous local food like the spicy barbequed fish can be sampled.
South Park (南方公园 nan fang gong yuan): This was once the main hangout for the English teaching community and English-speaking local residents. It has changed owners a few times. The staff is very friendly and the atmosphere is quite informal- a bit like drinking with new friends. The staff doesn't speak much English.
Although there are hundreds of bars in the city (many of them hidden away in large buildings) the main concentration is on Qianling dong lu (黔灵东路).
- Highlands Coffee (高原咖啡 Gao Yuan Ka Fei), Bo Ai Lu Liu Dong Jie No.1 博爱路六洞街1 号 (A 2 minute walk from Walmart at the People's Square. Behind Customs Building.), ☎ 0851-85826222. Monday - Saturday 10am to 11pm. Sunday 3pm to 11pm.. The only American owned and run coffee house in all of Guiyang/Guizhou. The American owner (Chris) has lived in Guiyang since 2003 and can be of help with practical information regarding the local area. Espresso based beverages, tea, smoothies, chai, as well as genuine American pastries and panini's are available. Customer service is bi-lingual (Mandarin and English) and wifi is also available.
- Nenghui Jiudian, ☎ (0851) 589 8888, fax: (0851) 589 8622. On the airport bus route, 2 bars, 2 restaurants, good staff, comfortable rooms, free in-room broadband, basic business facilities, rooms usually heavily discounted. 125 rooms, at Ruijin Nan Lu 38, website: 
- Shenfeng Jiudian, ☎ (0851) 556 8888, fax: (0851) 556 9999. A fine hotel with high service, large rooms, and a breakfast buffet. 260 rooms, at Shenqi Lu 69, website: 
- Guizhou Karst HotelNearby the Peoples Square and face the Nanming River. A new 4 star hotel with high quality service.
Telephone:(0851) 8196888, at South Ruijin Road 25.
Guiyang has four main universities that host foreign teachers and students, as well as a few others. The three universities that have foreign students are Guizhou University (贵州大学), Guizhou Normal University (贵州师范大学), and Guizhou University of Nationalities (贵州民族学院).These three universities all have foreign teachers usually teaching English. Guiyang University (贵阳学院) also employs foreign teachers.
Guizhou, like much of central and western China, lags far behind the dynamic coast in economic, industrial and social development. As a result, the main opportunities for work are teaching English. Several private schools in the area are licensed to hire foreigners: English First, Aston, Tian Tian, and Interlingua being among the most established.
For those not interested in teaching, Guiyang is home to several industrial and high-technology development zones seeking foreign investment, partnerships and experts. These include the industrial and enterprise zone in the south (Xiaohe Qu near Guizhou Normal University) and the Guiyang High-Technology Development Zone in the north. The main industries are aerospace technology and heavy industry.
Huangguoshu Waterfalls - The waterfalls are on the Baishui River, 15 kilometers From the Zhenning county seat, and 137 kilometers from Guiyang. It measures 74 meters high and 81 meters wide and boasts the biggest of its kind in China and also one of the world's most magnificent. The water billows down into the Xiniu Pool, sending up great spray and creating rainbows. A visit to Huangguoshu Waterfalls is a must for all visitors to Guizhou. It has become a holiday resort where you can forget the outside world and enjoy fabulous scenes and sights, including limestone caves and stone forests. The trip is also tainted with ethnic flavor with a visit to the local Buoyei people. Local legend says that in ancient times the sky suddenly cracked open, causing part of the Milky Way to smash to pieces on the ground. The largest piece hung on the verge of a cliff and became the Huangguoshu Waterfalls, which, in the process of crashing down the cliff, broke into several dozen cascades. When the Milky Way fell, numerous stars came down with it, which were converted into stone forests, crystal-clear pools, bridges and caves. Admission to the park is steep but the scenery is spectacular. The falls can be reached by direct bus from the bus station next to the train station on Zunyi Lu.
Zhijin Cave - As the national scenic spot, the cave is located in Guanzhai Township, 14 miles northeast of Zhijin and 93 miles from Guiyang. It is a gigantic karst cave with the length over 6 miles. Although it looks still primitive in appearance, its karst landform is imposing and magnificent. Covering an area over 74 acres, its widest part is 574 feet and its height exceeds 328 feet. The cave consists of 47 halls and 150 scenic spots in its 11scenic areas.
Longgong Cave (Dragon Palace Cave) - As the national scenic spot, the cave is located in Matou Township, 130 kilometers from Guiyang. Longgong refers to over 90 karst caves linked up like a chain of beads that run through 20 hilltops. Within these 4,000-metre-long caves there are also underground karst lakes. Tourists can enter Longgong Caves at Tianchi (Heavenly Pool) by taking a small boat.
Red Maple Lake - As a national scenic resort, Red Maple Lake is located in the suburb of Qingzhen, 33 kilometers from Guiyang. Covering 57.2 square kilometers, it is the largest man-made lake on the Guizhou Plateau. The lake consists of the North and South lakes. It's renowned for the 170 isles, the numerous caves, the clear water and the quiet bays. Folklore of the Dong and Miao people is demonstrated in the resort.
Wuyang River - Lying in Zhenyuan and Shibing counties, the national scenic area consists of Zhuwan Gorge in Shibing and the Three Gorges in Zhenyuan and extends 50 kilometers. Wuyang River is famous for it picturesque mountain scenes and crystal-clear water. It flows among mountains in eastern Guizhou, creating secluded caves, gurgling springs, rugged rocks and spectacular waterfalls.
XiJiang - Ethnic Minority (Miao) village which is about an hour and a half journey from kaili. There are beautiful rice terraces on which you can stroll and climb. all the way to a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding paddy fields. Jump across huge drains, admire the rich variety of wild flowers, and take in the smell of cow dung and fertilizer along the way. There will also be daily performances, centred around wedding rituals, conducted in the morning and evening (5pm) which are free to watch. You do have to pay an entrance fee to get into the village though. Stay overnight at one of the hotels on the hill, so that you can open your windows to a vista of fog-shrouded houses on the hills opposite you stretching into the distance.