When I was visiting the Dong ethnic minority village of Gaozeng 高增 in the southeastern tip of Guizhou province, I could see, behind one the mighty drum tower 鼓楼, that huge concrete pillars were under construction. Now, high-speed trains are racing by the village, moving people faster than ever between the Guizhou provincial capital of Guiyang 贵阳 and Guangzhou 广州.
Recently, a few readers told me that it is now possible to ditch the bus and go on a high-speed train ride to visit parts of Guangxi, Guizhou and Hunan province. On the map below, we are looking at a triangle of high-speed train lines network that connect 1) Guangzhou to Guiyang; 2) Guiyang to Changsha; and 3) Changsha to Guangzhou.
This network of high-speed train lines allows travelers to go fast into rural China. In this post, I will give a brief overview of all the destinations I have already written about in this blog that have now become easily accessible from the three provincial capital of Guangzhou, Guiyang and Changsha.
If you are not familiar with Chinese train system, read my article about how to buy train tickets in China in which I explain the differences between the high-speed and regular trains and my post about all you need to know about high-speed train travel.
Guangzhou to Guiyang 广州至贵阳
On this segment of the itinerary, we follow the black line on the map between Guangzhou in the south to Guiyang. The opening of this high speed train line is cutting travel time from 18 hours to 4.5 / 5.5 hours (depending on the train you take). From Guangzhou, it will take you to the most scenic landscapes of China near Guilin and into the heart of the ‘Land of the Dong ethnic minority‘ in Sanjiang 三江 and Congjiang 从江.
There are plenty of places to visit in and around Guangzhou 广州, whether it is the city’s Buddhist temples, the art districts of Redtory and Xiaozhou, or the watchtowers of Kaiping, and ancient villages outside the city in Daqitou, Shawan, or around the town of Conghua 从.
The high-speed train station you need to get to is Guangzhou South (广州南). There are two ways to get there, either by taxi or by subway (read my Guangzhou subway survival guide).
Located in southeastern Guangxi province, Hezhou 贺州, a small town in southeastern Guangxi province that you can use as a base to visiting the Jiang clan walled Hakka village which is just a dozen of kilometers outside of town and the ancient village of Huangyao 黄姚, dubbed the ‘Garden of Dreams’, further away and more touristy but worth it during the low-season.
Famed for its karst peaks, the region of Guilin does not deserve any introduction, nor does Yangshuo and its magical Li River landscape. It’s a great place to explore the countryside on bamboo raft ride or by bicycle.
Northeast of Guilin, you will find the ancient village of Daxu and Qinshiyuan and Yangshuo, is also the starting point of a off-the-beaten path itinerary to Fenghuang in Hunan province via the cluster of Dong hamlets of Chengyang near Sanjiang.
There are regular buses between Yangshuo and Guilin and the journey lasts around 1 hour depending on traffic and route taken by the driver. In Guilin, high speed trains leave from three different stations : Guilin main train station (桂林站), Guilin North (桂林北) and Guilin West (桂林西). Going north, some trains do stop at all three stations (Guilin, Guilin North and then Guilin West), but not all. Double check train timetable and ask about travel time to the railway station you are supposed to board.
The travel time between Guilin station to Sanjiang South station is of one hour against 5 hours by bus. Sanjiang is the gateway to the cluster of Dong hamlets of Chengyang 程阳.
At the moment, the high speed train line links Sanjiang only to Guizhou province. If you are heading to Hunan on my Yangshuo to Fenghuang itinerary, you will have to switch to a bus towards Tongdao 通道 and from Tongdao you can reach Qianyang (2 hours) and Fenghuang (4 hours with change in Huaihua).
This is going to be another fast-growing region in term of tourism. Conjiang is deep in the ‘Land of the Dong ethnic minority’. There are quite a few villages to visit around like Gaozeng 高增, Xiaohuang 小黄, Basha 巴沙 and a little further, you will find Zhaoxing 肇兴, the town Liping 黎平, famous for its the historical Qiao Street and the ancient Ming garrison of Longli 龙里.
I have never visited Guiyang. Just flew there and took a bus east to Kaili 凯里 in the Land of the Miao people. If you are looking to get into Sichuan 四川, there are slow trains to Chongqing 重庆 (around 10 to 12 hours) and once in Chongqing you can switch for a high-speed train to Chengdu 成都 (1.5 to 2 hours). For comparison a regular K train from Guiyang to Chengdu would take between 18 and 20 hours.
Guiyang to Changsha 贵阳至长沙
On this segment of the itinerary, we follow the blue line from Guiyang to Changsha. The journey between the two provincial capital will take only 3.5 hours and goes through the Land of the Miao people and stops in Huaihua 怀化, main transportation hub in western Hunan and crosses the province.
With its new avenue and grey concrete buildings, the ever-expanding Kaili 凯里 is not a very attractive town, but it can acts as a base to explore the many Miao ethnic minority villages of eastern Guizhou 贵州 province. You can either choose to go by bus or hire a driver to go to Xijiang Qianhu Miao village 西江千户苗寨, dubbed the ‘largest Miao village in the world’, Langde 郎德 which was a stop on the Beijing 2008 Olympic torch relay, or Matang Gejia 麻塘革家, home to an ethnic minority not officially recognized by the government.
The town of Huaihua in western Hunan province is going to be your stop. You’ll be able to take buses to Fenghuang 凤凰, the Zhangjiajie 张家界 natural park, the old town of Qianyang 黔阳, the ancient business town of Hongjiang 洪江古商城, or the Furong 芙蓉 dubbed the Hibiscus Town (change in Jishou 吉首).
The capital of Hunan province is an important transportation hub. From Changsha South train station (长沙南) you can take a high-speed train to Shanghai 上海 (5.5 hours on average), Wuhan 武汉 (1.5 hours), Beijing (6.5 hours), or Xi’an (6.5 hours).
Changsha to Guangzhou 长沙至广州
Here we are looking at the red line on the map. The journey between Changsha and Guangzhou takes less than 4 hours. On the way, you can stop in three cities to explore the countryside before getting to Guangdong’s capital.
In this itinerary, Hengyang is not only the gateway to the Heng Shan Mountain 衡山, it is the place to transfer to a train heading towards Guilin if it’s where you are heading and arriving from the north.
Chenzhou is another common concrete town of southern Hunan. However, if you wish to go to the old village of Banliang 板梁 and explore the ancient villages of Shiren 石人 and Zhongtian 中田, Chenzhou will be your stop.
Located int he north of Guangdong province, Shaoguan is not the most exciting town, but if there is any crazy traveler who wants to follow my path to the abandoned village of Yuxian 鱼鲜 which features unique patterns carved on the centuries-old temples’ stone gates, Shaoguan is your stop. Not tempted? The northern tip of the Pearl River Delta is just 1 hour away.
You will arrive in Guangzhou South station where you can go on to Shenzhen North 深圳北, transfer to Guangzhou East by subway and take the KCR to Hong-Kong or keep going south to Zhuhai 珠海 where you can cross to border into Macau.
High-speed train : the new way to travel China
Again, if you are not familiar with Chinese train system, read my article about how to buy train tickets in China in which I explain the differences between the high-speed and regular trains and my post about all you need to know about high-speed train travel.
If you have any updates about this itinerary or tips about getting to and from high speed train station, leave a comment.