Getting Off-the-Beaten Path in Southern China

When planning my trip through China one summer, I decided that I wanted to stay out of the well-known cities and explore smaller villages and lesser known areas where I could find less tourist traps and more cultural fare. While Beijing and Shanghai are both excellent cities to visit, here is an itinerary that will take you off the radar and help you discover nature, minority villages, Chinese traditions, and more. To make planning easier for myself I did this trip through Intrepid Travel, but you can also recreate it for yourself.

First stop: Hua Shan, Ning Ming County

Before coming to China I had been traveling through Vietnam and had entered the country from the Lang Son Province into Guangxi, China. From there you can catch a train or bus via Pingxiang to the mountainous village of Hua Shan, which is located in Guangxi. The journey takes about 2-3 hours.

There is a lot to be experienced in peaceful Hua Shan, which is miles away from civilization, located in the heart of mountains, valleys, forests, and near the Dong and Zhuang minority village. I stayed at a family-run guesthouse called Butterfly Valley, which felt more like a homestay than a hotel, as the family would cook for my group, take us on hikes, and end each night playing Mahjong and singing kareoke with us. It also helps to learn a bit of Chinese as not everyone in the area speaks English.

Take a walk through the countryside and notice the myriad plants and crops, like the gum leaves that locals use to cure a stuffy nose and the various edibles like corn, pumpkin, potatoes, and rice fields. Make sure to visit the minority village, which is dominated by wooden and thatched houses and livestock running around. It’s interesting to hear and see the music, dance, and art of the people of the community who are, for the most part, quite friendly and were happy to talk to me via my translator. In fact, the people in Hua Shan in general were very friendly and excited to talk to me. Many of the young girls knew basic English and even asked me to hangout with them to help them practice their language skills. Hiking in the area is also a fun activity, and there are many trails that allow you to explore the various flora and fauna of the area. As the region is completely rural you can literally just wander towards the trees and mountains to find your own paths. If you’d like to see indigenous art, boat trips go out to Mount Huashan where a vivid rock painting of various types of people, animals, and symbols is located. The painting is about 725 wide and 131 feet high, making it a bit of a mystery how it was created…

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