Llama Land

adventures and madness

Guiyang, China

In early March, I was in the midst of another business trip to China. I had a weekend free, and decided to fly out to the city of Guiyang. Why Guiyang? Truth be told, that wasn’t my first (or even 2nd or 3rd) choice. I was originally planning to go to Zhangjiajie, but the airline screwed around with flight times such that I wouldn’t get back to Shanghai until well after midnight (and then have to deal with some horrific non-English speaking taxi). So I had just over a week to find somewhere else in China that wasn’t ridiculously expensive to fly to for a weekend, and was accessible via a non-stop flight from Shanghai. Unsurprisingly, a week in advance, that limited my options significantly, and Guiyang (a city of over 4 million people) suddenly because an appealing choice. Guiyang has no internationally famous attractions. It doesn’t have any internationally famous food. Nothing noteworthy has happened there (at least that someone from outside of China would care about). On paper this seemed like a horrible choice, but in reality it turned out to be the most enjoyable place that I’ve been in my limited travels throughout China. The sheer lack of tourism (particularly foreign and western tourism) meant that many of the things that grate my nerves about China simply weren’t a factor here. I never ran into the typical scammers looking to cheat me out of my western wealth, the locals were not jaded (or perhaps annoyed) by throngs of foreignors doing obnoxious things, and the overall lack of a tourist infrastructure (tour guides, busses, etc) meant that I wasn’t jostling between huge groups of Chinese tourists (all wearing identically colored hats, following a loud obnoxious screaming guide around with a huge colored flag).
Instead, I had a fairly enjoyable experience. I literally never saw another western tourist the entire weekend (Friday night through Sunday evening). I often got that look from the locals that I had previously only seen in some of the more rural parts of South Korea. The look that says “wow, its a westerner, i’ve never seen one in person before!”. It was kinda cute in a way. Of course the fact that I was out in the boonies meant that finding people with even basic rudimentary English skills was exceedingly rare. And the few random times that I did run into people who spoke English, it was in the most bizarre surprising places (usually some local who approached me clearly wanting to practice their English). This also meant that I saw some of the most amusing & creative Engrish of anywhere that I’ve been in China (see below for some of the gems).
I’ll let the pictures show what I did, ate & saw that weekend. All of them are clickable, so you can see larger versions if you’re interested.

Seen around Guiyang.

Engrish FTW.

I spent much of the first full day wandering around the Qingyan Ancient Town, which is this old walled city which dates back to the early 17th century. Actually getting there was a minor adventure. I knew the general area that I needed to walk in Guiyang to catch the hour long bus down to the walled city, but finding the bus stop itself was not easy. I found what I thought was the right bus stop (literally dozens of other busses were stopping there every few minutes), however the one bus that I needed, wasn’t showing up after I waited over 30 minutes. I tried asking random people for help, but no one understood anything I was saying. Finally in utter desperation, I started to walk further down the street, and around a corner. As soon as I turned that corner, I saw the bus that I needed just sitting there. I paid my 5Y (about 16 US cents), and took a seat. I knew that I was on the right bus, but I was never completly sure when or where I needed to get off. I knew it was about an hour, and supposedly I would see the entrance to the city from the bus stop, but there was no obvious way to signal to the bus driver that I wanted to get off. Thankfully this kind older man sitting across the aisle from me tapped me on the shoulder and gestured when we were approaching the stop.
The city itself was really fun to explore. Tons of narrow alleys with old buildings. Many small shops selling trinkets, food and other random stuff.

Grilled tofu absolutely coated in fiery red pepper powder. My mouth and lips were literally burning for an hour after eating this stuff. It was tasty though.

After much discussion with some coworkers in the Shanghai office, I figured out what this was. Its lotus flour (suspended in hot water), with a huge mound of rice & sugar, and sesame seeds & peanuts. It was sweet, and very thick, with a mucusy consistency. It wasn’t half bad, but I had absolutely no clue what I was eating at the time (granted, that applied to 90% of what I ate in China).

Breakfast on saturday. Dough filled with ground meat, onions and other seasoning, all deep fried. It was damn tasty, although I should have stopped after two, as the 3rd one sat in my stomach like a ball of lead. It started to rain (hard) as I was walking down the street while eating them, and I ducked under a shop awning. While there this woman came out and handed me a cup of water to drink. I was very pleasantly surprised, as I’d never experienced a complete stranger in China doing anything like this before. Usually they want something in exchange, and she was just being nice (and spoke no English). I thanked her profusely (in Chinese), and I’m sure she wondered what kind of weirdo American gets so excited over water.

Breakfast of champions on sunday. Dirt cheap freshly made wontons. I had 20 for 7.5Y (so about US$1.19). They were delicious.

I spent most of Sunday exploring Qianling Park which sits on the northwest edge of Guiyang. The park is rather mountainous, with several large lakes, a few Buddhist temples, and hundreds of wild monkeys.

The terminal at Guiyang airport. This was one of the nicest airports I’ve been in all of China. What made it so nice? They had an area setup with tables, power sockets and free, unlimited wifi. Yes, the standard Chinese firewall nonsense still applied, but the fact that they provided a free & convenient service for travelers was a very pleasant surprise. Most other airports either didn’t provide any free wifi, or there was never any place to recharge devices, etc. Also the airport had relatively decent seating areas.
Many more pictures are posted HERE.

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