Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Posted at: Dec 2, 2018, 1:55 AM; last updated: Dec 2, 2018, 2:42 PM (IST)

Beyond the Great Wall of China

Natural landscapes, architectural marvels, a data storage hub and presence of 54 of the 56 Chinese ethnic communities, the Guizhou province has lots to offer

Travel tips

  • How to reach: As there’s no direct flight to Guizhou, one has to reach Guangzhou and then take connecting flight to Guizhou capital Guiyang (two-hour journey). Travel to Anshun, Pingtang and Libo can be planned accordingly.
  • Food: Guizhou has lots to offer to non-vegetarians while vegetarians can be left a sulking lot.Guided tour: Language is a major barrier, so having a Mandarin-speaking guide is imperative. For those who can’t afford one, language translator app can prove to be of great help.

Vikram Kanwar

Boys in ethnic attire playing traditional musical instruments and a few girls clad in striking-red gowns dancing to tribal tunes as well as making guests hurriedly gulp some warm home-made brew from bowls held in their hands—expect such customary welcome at the gate of certain eatery hubs in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province in south-west China.

Fairly unknown to foreign travellers, mountainous Guizhou boasts of a rich habitat of waterfalls, lakes, caves and some breathtaking natural landscapes. Home to 54 of the total 56 Chinese ethnic communities, the province offers a unique blend of culture and modernity. The fusion, however, is most visible in the wide range of food delicacies that locals enjoy.

A visit to the provincial museum in Guiyang becomes a must if the rich heritage is to be grasped further. Opened in 1958, it has around 2 lakh artifacts, including some priceless remains of jewellery and clothes that the ancestors here wore. Drinking horns with animal engravings are an alluring possession!

The museum also has a replica of an ancient Chinese house (comprising hierarchical slanting roofs with wooden edges curved upwards), reminiscent of the ones viewed in Sino action movies. The construction style, however, is hardly seen in the capital city as it has preferred to grow the modern way. High-rises dot Guiyang and a copy of the landmark New York ‘Twin Towers’, which were brought down by terrorists during the 9/11 attack, have come up here too. 

The Big Data Centre lives up to its name in terms of vast infrastructure and technological advancement. The provincial regime is hard-selling it to global IT giants—Apple joined in last year—as a “safe” and “cost-efficient” (less power consumption owing to low temperature) haven for keeping data servers. 

A three-hour drive through an impressive hill expressway mostly tunnelled or passing over bridges takes one to Anshun. On the city’s gateway lies the 1,564-metre-long Baling Bridge which, when built, was China’s largest single-span steel suspension bridge and the sixth biggest in the world.

The world-famous Huangguoshu waterfall, a cluster of 18 waterfalls with combined width of 101 metres (widest in Asia), is the next destination. But the best experience of the giant fall’s deafening roar can only be had from Wang Shui Ting viewing platform. Reaching there involves a few-km up-and-downhill trek along the Baishui river. Hard to miss en route is the wooden pedestrian embankment, designed in a way that it looks integral part of nature. The steep uphill escalator, that spares one of the arduous walk to starting point, is worth the experience too.

Next after Anshun is Pingtang—the base camp for China’s Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), which is the world’s largest single-dish marvel. Its several technical firsts apart, the astronomical wonder deserves credit for the design amid a natural depression between hills. Nicknamed ‘Heavenly Eye’, it is out of bounds for travellers, who can view it only from a hilltop where carrying of smartphones and other gadgets is strictly prohibited.

Scientists claim FAST has already discovered 44 pulsars (rotating neutron stars). The buzz is that FAST, due to its massive size—has a diameter of the size of more than 30 football fields—and extreme sensitivity, will soon engage with aliens. Aamir Khan-starrer ‘PK’, which too was based on alien life, was also a major hit in China. ‘PK’ was released in 2014 while FAST was launched in 2016. "But the celestial masterpiece could not have aped ‘PK’ as its foundation was laid laid in 1994," insists a Chinese official.

The last on the itinerary is Libo which, unlike Guiyang, has taken pride in preserving old architecture. Even toll plazas have adorned the primitive roof style. Libo is famous for Xiaoqikong seven-hole bridge, a UNESCO heritage site, a 68-step waterfall and an adjoining forest park, attracting lots of tourists round the year.

Like Libo, most parts of Guizhou boast of an average annual temperature of around 15 degrees Celsius. With tourism its mainstay, the province, considered relatively lesser developed, has laid special emphasis on preserving and developing its abundant ecological resources, about 92 per cent of which are mountains, hills, lakes and caves. Perhaps this effort has earned the land-locked Guizhou the sobriquet of ‘China’s Switzerland’!

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