Because they live near forested hills, the Dong people are skilled carpenters. Their villages’ drum towers (鼓楼) and Wind and Rain bridges (风雨桥) are extraordinary structures that will enhance your travel itinerary in China and enhance your experience of this diverse and multicultural country. Visit my photo galleries ‘In The Land of the Dong‘.
The itinerary below (or parts of it) can easily fit into a longer journey through southwest China. Pull out your map of China and take a pencil.
Note that the bus information and schedule relies on my recent travel in the region. There are for indication only. Do not take them for granted. The high-speed train network that links Guangzhou, to the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou and Hunan will make your journey fast and easy.
Location : Congjiang 从江 is a small town of Guizhou’s prefecture of Qiandongnan (in Chinese 黔东南 which literally means ‘Southeast Guizhou’).
What to see or do : two Dong villages, Gaozeng 高增 and Xiaohuang 小黄 as well as Basha (岜沙), a Miao village home to the last gun-hunter tribe. With a new highway, high-speed rail linking Guiyang to Guilin and plan to open the region to mass-tourism, Congjiang area is changing very fast.
Where to stay : stay in Congjiang at the Aoyuan Hotel (奥悦酒店) – phone number on my Gaozeng article -or go at the Gufeng Zhai Qingnian Lüshe (贵州从江岜沙苗寨‘古风寨’青年旅舍) in Basha. Note ‘Basha’ is often misspelled as ‘Biasha’.
Getting around : there are direct buses from Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou (5 hours from the East bus station), and Kaili, an area of eastern Guizhou known for its Miao ethnic villages (5 hours from Kaili bus station).
From Congjiang, there are regular buses to Liping (黎平), if decide to skip Zhaoxing (肇兴), and decides to head south there are buses to Guilin (6 hours) or Sanjiang (one departure every 1h30, 2-3 hours) if you want to stop in Chengyang (程阳). From Chengyang / Sanjiang area you can either go directly to Guilin or stop over at Longsheng rice terraces (1h30 from Sanjiang).
Location : in southeastern Guizhou, between Liping (黎平) and Congjiang (从江).
What to see or do : Zhaoxing (肇兴) is a large Dong ethnic villages, home to five different clans and around 1000 household. It was one of the first village in the region to be opened to tourism. If you have been to the Miao village of Xijiang near Kaili, and if you are on a budget and don’t want to pay the 100 RMB fee to visit the village, you may want to skip it.
Where to stay : there are plenty of basic guesthouses in the village that charge around 100 RMB for a room. Avoid the peak periods, or what I call the ‘three black holiday periods‘ at all costs.
Getting around : Zhaoxing is a small village and buses leave in the morning only. No departure from Zhaoxing after 11:30 AM. Villagersgo to the nearby towns of Congjiang and Liping in the morning and head back in the afternoon. Zhaoxing is more a tourist group or independent travelers with car destination.
Most buses go to Liping (1 h north via the new motorway), but there is a bus or two to Congjiang (1h30 southwest). From Liping, there is a 7 AM bus to Tongdao (通道) and if you are fed up with the Dong country there connection at 8:20 AM, 11 AM and 2 PM to Huaihua (怀化) in Hunan (4-5 hours) which is your gateway to Fenghuang (highly commercialized, but very popular).
If you are stuck in Liping, you must visit the historical Qiao street and if you have enough time, head to Longli (隆里), an ancient Ming garrison just 20-30 km north.
Location : north of Guangxi province. 2 hours from Congjiang if you come from Guizhou. 3 hours from Guilin and 1h30 from Longsheng scenic area.
What to see or do : Chengyang’s Yongji bridge built in 1912 is the main attraction. Beyond the bridge, Chenyang is a cluster of nine Dong hamlets. Walk from a village to another and get lost in the narrow streets or hike to the paddy field and get an impressive view of the village (there are signs and a stone stairway near the bridge, before you cross it). Chengyang (程阳) is on the map of tour groups and there are several performances of Dong traditional dances every day.
Personally, I enjoyed Chengyang better than Zhaoxing. Zhaoxing is very dense, but Chengyang is more spread out and the entrance fee is cheaper : only 60 RMB.
Getting around : to get to Chengyang (程阳), you will have to transit in the town of Sanjiang (三江). There are two bus stations : Hedong (河东 literally ‘East of the River) and Hexi (河西 ‘West of the River). At both bus stations, there are mini-van to Chengyang (10 RMB – 30 km, around 45 min), in the afternoon, they tend to concentrate near Hexi bus station. Take a tuk-tuk or taxi in town to go from one station to the other cost 5 RMB.
Mini-van to Chengyang leave when they are full, or you can negotiate a fare with the driver to leave immediately.
For more info on how to get back from Chengyang to Sanjiang, read the article.
From Sanjiang Hedong, there are only two buses to Tongdao in Hunan (8:20 AM and 12:35 PM – 2 hours). There are also regular connections to Longsheng, Guilin and Liuzhou.
Location : southwest Hunan near the Guizhou – Guangxi border.
What to see and do : hire a taxi driver in Tongdao (通道) and negotiate a fare with him. There is a number of villages to see : Yutou Zhai 芋头寨 (zhai means village), Huangdu (黄土also written 皇都) home to the impressive Puxiu Wind and Rain bridge (普修桥). Between Huangdu and the villages of Pingtan (坪坦) and the town of Longchuan (陇川), the landscape is dotted with Dong ethnic village, in the middle of which thrones a drum tower, and Wind and Rain bridges, most of them are at least one century old.
Where to stay : the best options are the few hotels in front of the new bus stations. Other hotel in Tongdao do not accept foreigners (I was kicked out of the 通道宾馆 Tongdao Binguan for not being Chinese).
Getting around : The new Huaihua – Tongdao highway has open in December 2013. The travel time between Huaihua and Tongdao is now three hours instead of seven. There are regular buses to Huaihua (every 1h30 from 7:30 AM). From Huaihua West bus station (西站) you can catch a bus to Fenghuang, and north Hunan if you want to visit Zhangjiajie national park, Changsha or even back to Guizhou via Tongren.
From Tongdao to Congjiang, there are only two buses, but it seems there is a more frequent service to Guilin.