Guiyang (贵阳; Guìyáng) is the capital of Guizhou province, China. While not the most spectacular of Chinese cities, it has much to offer as an introduction to the history, culture and natural splendor of Guizhou and China's southwest. Moreover, it is drastically cheaper than the more touristed and developed provinces. It makes an excellent base for exploring mountains, caves, rivers, and minority cultures (including traditional Han Chinese culture lost in many areas) of the province.
- Qianling Park (黔灵公园). This large city park is well worth an afternoon. Sample local food and crafts from vendors, see curious and very brave wild monkeys (accustomed to people), as well as take in the view from the hilltops near Hongfu Temple. Qianling Park also includes a zoo and small amusement park as well as tea gardens.
- Hebin Park. This park is by the side of the river. There is a Egyptian feel to the square in the park, which has towering pillars lit by yellow light at night, and a gigantic UFO-shaped restaurant in the centre, help up by both bamboo and metal pillars--an apt symbol of the fusion of chinese culture and modernity. Near the restaurant, there is a recently built bridge across the river, shaped like a Helix, and lighted up a brilliant red. Take a romantic stroll through this peaceful square at night. * Tianhetan (天河潭). An easy day trip from Guiyang, Tianhetan is a pleasant cave, canal and waterfall park in Huaxi township. The park includes flooded caves which guides take you through in boats, canals that weave through minority farm areas and a spectacular cascade through a narrow opening in the mountain. Following the trail into the mountain leads to a massive sinkhole and the starting point for the cave and canal boat trips. If you are feeling adventurous, rent bikes for the day from Huaxi Park, and then cycle 11km to tian he tan on the country roads. It takes about 2 hours to get there, but the biking journey would be rewarding for backpackers who enjoy roughing it through and appreciate rural scenery. You can rent a motorcycle to take your bicycles back for 10 yuan each while getting on a rented van to get back to Huaxi Park, the same price. Admission to the park is very reasonable although you will pay extra for the zip line across the gorge.
- Huaxi Park (花溪公园). Another popular day trip south of Guiyang in Huaxi township, Huaxi Park is an excellent escape from the heat and bustle of the city. The park with its streams, pavilions and tea gardens is popular for Guiyang residents who enjoy setting up their own barbeques and enjoying a picnic. Of historical note, former Premier Zhou Enlai and his wife visited Huaxi Park in the 1950s. A billboard-sized photograph of the couple enjoying a boat ride graces the main entrance to the park.
- South River Grand Canyon (南江大峡谷). Grand Canyon area with typical development, the majestic Karst Canyon scenery and a variety of types, different attitude waterfall group features, the magnificent, majestic and grand, for aesthetic value and tourism value of the scenic area high. The canyon span more than 40 km, steep peak, the depths of three hundred and ninety-eight meters.
- Yelang Valley (花溪夜郎谷), (Huayan Rd., in university district southwest of Huaxi Park). Locally famous, this small karst-formed, ecological park is the setting of an ongoing, large-scale stonework art project by Song Peilun. With hundreds of stone-built pillars, figures, and castles, this very unique place is worth an hour or so to explore and climb around on.
- Maotai Liquor (茅台酒) - produced in Maotai Town of Renhuai County in Zunyi Prefecture, Maotai holds itself to be one of the world's three most famous distilled liquors. In 1915, Maotai won global fame at the Panama World's Fair. According to Maotai lore, the booth at the fair was largely overlooked by the liquor judges because of the cheap labels and black bottles. In frustration one of the attendants smashed a bottle of Maotai releasing the distinct aroma attracting the judges who later awarded the drink a gold medal. Since 1949, it has won 14 international gold prizes and has been exported to over 100 countries and regions. It is officially known as China's national liquor and served at state banquets. At 106 proof (53% alcohol by volume) or stronger, it is not for the faint of heart. Maotai is clear and offers a lingering mild and mellow fragrance some liken to soy sauce. For foreigners, it can be a bit of an acquired taste but no visit to Guizhou would be complete without trying the province's most famous product.
- Anshun Batik (安顺蜡染画) - Batiks are a traditional handicraft of the Buyi people in the Anshun region to the west of Guiyang. Traditional ethnic designs include flowers, birds, fish and insects on indigo-dyed cotton cloth. More recently artisans have produced more colorful silk and wool batiks. There are over 1,000 different types of batik products now produced including whole cloth, bedding, tapestries, caps and purses. Anshun Batiks can be purchased at expensive tourist shops in Guiyang or for more reasonable and negotiable prices in Anshun itself.
- Guiding Yunwu Tea(贵顶云雾茶) - Produced in Yunwu Mountain in Guiding County, this tea was offered as a tribute to the early Qing court. The leaves resemble fishhooks, thin and soft, with whitish hairs. This green tea is much favored for its low caffeine and high catechol content.
- Yuping Flutes - These elaborately carved flutes are made of local bamboo and produce a clear and beautiful sound. Yuping flutes are traditional local products that have gone on to win international prizes.
- Ethnic Silver Articles - Two ethnic groups, the Miao and Gejia, are famous for silversmithing. Both groups produce headgear, necklaces, and bracelets. Each type has its distinct shapes, patterns, and motifs. Miao ornaments mainly use dog, cat, horse, insect, flower or bird motifs. The Gejia prefer sun, stars, dragon, phoenix, bat and certain plant motifs. Both styles give Huangping silver ornaments great artistic value.
- Embroidery and Cross-stitch - Miao embroidery is a traditional local handicraft. Design motifs are typically butterflies, birds and interestingly enough marine animals. Cross-stitch patterns follow the warps and wefts of the cloth and the most popular ones are colorful geometric figures.
- Exotic stones and fossils - Guizhou's limestone hills yield a wealth of valuable stones and fossils. As the province also has impressive and commercially exploitable deposits of gold, silver, and other minerals, there are a wide variety of mineral stones and samples available. Fossils of Missippian Crinoids and the Guizhousaurus (贵州龙 - a small semi-aquatic dinosaur) are available in many tourist shops. The Guizhousaurus is a common fossil and often found intact and complete so there is actually a fair chance the fossils are legitimate! The buyer will likely notice, however, that the fossils are painted to show the bones more starkly against a darker background of stone.
People in Guiyang like those throughout Southwest China love spicy food. Use of red chilies of various temperatures and salty dried chili powder dips for hot pots is ubiquitous. Food can be prepared mild (不要辣 buyaola) according to your tastes but the best way is to settle in and eat the way the locals do.
With a brave stomach, you could eat something new every day for a week just by walking along the streets of Guiyang and sampling the street foods of Guizhou's minorities around the night markets. Most of these offerings come heavily spiced by default, but you can ask for a little or no spice.
Be sure to try Bean Hotpot (豆米火祸 dōumǐhuǒguō) which is available all around the city. Just as with other hotpot styles, you choose whichever ingredients you want and cook them at your own pace. The difference is in its soup of pinto beans, bacon, and onions. You should get a bowl of spices that you can mix with the soup base for dipping.
Minority cuisines are also readily available throughout Guiyang (look for wait staff in brightly colored outfits clapping, dancing and playing oversized pan-flutes at the door). One of the most common and delicious varieties available is the Miao Minority's Suan Tang Yu (酸汤鱼) a hot pot centered around a hot and spicy broth with a large whole fish chopped up inside. Like all hot pot restaurants veggies, meats and other delicacies are purchased a la carte to be added. The dipping bowls contain the ubiquitous chili paste but also add a cube of fermented tofu (non stinky) that makes a wonderful compliment to the fish. Be sure to wash it down with Mi Jiu (米酒) a sweet purple rice wine. A row of reasonably priced restaurants specializing in Suan Tang Yu can be found on Shengfu Lu near the intersection with Fushui Lu near the Beijing Hualian supermarket.
For a Guizhou snack unavailable elsewhere try Silk Babies (丝娃娃). For a few kuai, you are given a stack of thin rice pancakes and chopsticks. You sit at a low table covered in bowls of raw and pickled vegetables with a small dish for mixing chili sauce and vinegar. Load the pancakes according to taste, spoon in a little sauce and enjoy.
Among Guiyang's street foods, Guiyang Style Beef Noodles (牛肉粉 niuroufen) is a staple. It can be prepared in a hot red broth or a mild beef broth according to your tastes - although not all establishments offer a choice. Fresh whole garlic cloves, crushed dried red pepper, salt, MSG and Sichuan Pepper (花椒 huajiao) can be added to taste. Don't miss this one - it really hits the spot, especially after a night of drinking! Huaxi Wang Jia Niuroufen is the best and operates a chain of franchises throughout the province but for late-night munchies, just follow the crowds.
A peculiar local delicacy (given the fact that Guizhou is landlocked) is Fried Chili Squid (鱿鱼: youyu). Chopped squid is skewed and deep-fried before being cooked on a separate metal plate in a bath of sizzling chili sauce. This snack is served hot from carts congregating along Zhonghua Zhonglu. The dish is safe to eat despite the distance from the ocean. One stick costs ¥1. The 鱿鱼 carts are often found in close proximity to other snack carts selling grilled tofu, mutton kabobs, spicy pickled radishes, and other munchies.
For excellent Guizhou cuisine at very reasonable prices try Siheyuan (四合院). The restaurant enjoys a good bit of local fame and is popular with the (very) small expat community as well. The story goes that the owners were laid off from their factory jobs some years ago. Without work, they opened a street-side restaurant with a single table. The food was so good that business boomed. Some 15 or 20 years later they serve a bustling lunch and dinner crowd in a multilevel but still rustic and homey restaurant. Siheyuan doesn't have a sign so finding it without a guide can be a bit of a trick. It is located a few feet down the alley opposite the Protestant Church on Qianling Xilu.
Night markets are popular in Guizhou for midnight munching, particularly in the warmer months although even the winter does not shut them down. Varieties of street foods particularly grilled freshwater fish, crayfish, snails, chicken, pork, mutton, cabbage, garlic greens, onions, eggplants, mutton, chili peppers and just about anything else that can be skewered is available. For the adventurous whole marrow bones can be grilled up, cracked open and served with a straw. Try the market on Hequn Lu. Vendors set up shop around 7 PM.
However, Hequn Lu charges very high prices for streetside food that is mediocre in many instances. It is perhaps a little too touristy for an authentic street food sampling experience. Locals would recommend that you take a bus to he bin park instead, and walk down the road to another night market, where the food is much cheaper, and sumptuous local food like the spicy barbequed fish can be sampled.