Guiyang (贵阳) 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 development provinces. It makes and excellent base for exploring mountains, caves, rivers, and minority cultures (including traditional Han Chinese culture lost in many areas) of the province.
Guiyang is relatively easy to get to by air with multiple flights daily coming in from Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing as well as other cities in Southwest China - particularly Kunming and Chengdu. The airport (KWE) is officially an "international airport" but options are extremely limited. There is weekly service to and from Hong Kong, Macao, and Bangkok and perhaps Singapore and Malaysia. Travelers flying in from abroad will most likely transfer to a domestic flight to Guiyang in Kunming, Guangzhou, Shanghai or Beijing. From the airport, taxis (¥60 - flat rate) or the airport shuttle bus (¥10, drops off in a few locations around town) take fifteen to twenty minutes to reach downtown. Those interested in saving money may opt to catch a taxi from the bus stops in town rather than directly from the airport. Doing so brings the total for a solo traveler to ¥20 from airport to hotel.
Guiyang straddles the trunk rail line linking Chongqing (12 hours) with Kunming (overnight) and points south. Train tickets to Chengdu are also readily available (17 hours) Train tickets including hard sleepers are relatively easy to acquire given the size of Guiyang's population and its significance as the commercial hub of the province. Heading in from Hunan, the train passes through Kaili before arriving in Guiyang. Tickets to Zunyi (hard seat only) cost ¥17 for the three and a half hour trip. The area outside the train station can be a bit chaotic but taxis are readily available. There is an officially recognized taxi queue across the street from the station although some taxis will stop in mid-traffic to pick you up. Guiyang police have tried to crack down on picking up passengers in crowded areas where it will obstruct traffic so the queue is probably the best (and safest given Chinese driving standards) option. The train station is also the terminus for many public bus lines.
Guiyang has two major long-distance bus stations, one on Nanming Lu near Hebin Park and the second along the road near the train station. Sleeper buses depart for Kunming and towns in Guizhou and Yunnan along the route as well as places as far away as Shenzhen. The long-distance bus stations are also the best location to get buses to Anshun (60-90 minutes) - the gateway to Guizhou's signature Huangguoshu Waterfall. Buses north to Zunyi (two hours) depart every 30 to 60 minutes.
The highway infrastructure in Guizhou is undergoing continual upgrading as part of China's Western Development Effort. Once completed an expressway will link Guiyang to Chongqing allowing relatively easy travel and an alternative to the train. The highways leading west and east out of Guiyang are modern and well maintained making for easy access to the western reaches of the province or east to Kaili. It is possible (although expensive - take the bus or train) to hire a car and driver between Guiyang, Zunyi and other cities.
Guiyang has a well developed bus system although it is entirely in Chinese and takes some getting used to. A local can help you if you know where you are going. All bus fares cost ¥1. Small local buses pick up passengers at various points around town and can take you to Huaxi or more distant districts of the city for ¥2 per person. These buses can get crowded and are forbidden (technically) to carry standing passengers. As a result all of the standing riders are asked to duck when passing the police.
Guiyang taxis charge ¥10 at flagfall. Short trips withing the city should cost ¥10. This is an excellent way to get around as taxis are everywhere. Note that taxis charge extra late at night (¥12 starting rate although for short trips the driver may let you off with the old ¥10 flat rate). Taxis heading into or out of the city center may pick up extra passengers.
As elsewhere in China, motorcycle taxi services are available. Large intersections or areas with concentrations of bars or restaurants will attract a crowd of motorcyclists. Negotiate a price in advance (¥5-10). Unlike in other areas, the driver is unlikely to have a helmet available for you. Hold on tight.
Although not the smallest town in China, many of Guiyang's neighborhoods and sights can be seen with a little patience and footwork. This is also a great way to experience life in a still emerging town in China's southwest. The city abounds with small workshops (often in what would normally be locations for small shops or restaurants), delightful street side restaurants and small shops selling everything from local handicrafts to new business cards (next day availability) and sheet metal.
Tianhetan An easy day trip from Guiyang, Tianhetan is a pleasant cave, canal and waterfall park in Huaxi township. Admission to the park is very reasonable although you will pay extra for the zip line across the gorge. The park includes flooded caves which guides take you through in boats, canals which 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.
Qianling Park/Hong Fu Si Temple This large city park is well worth an afternoon. Sample local food and crafts from vendors, see wild monkeys (accustomed to people), see the view from the hilltop near the temple. The temple, built as a monastery in the early Qing dynasty, is comparable in extent to the Lama Temple in Beijing. Surrounded by woods, the buildings have elaborate ornaments (roof corners and eaves, etc). There are several large diety figures, a pond with carp, water well for coins for good luck, incense burning pits, a large bell you ring, some shops, and a restaurant there. It 40-60 minute walk to the temple, but there is also a cable car (stops at 17:00), and sedan chair rides.
Open Hour: 8:30am-6: 30pm (15 February 2008 -- tried to find this store, not there, telephone number disconnected -- Gordon Shecket, Columbus, Ohio, USA)
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 everyday 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) near pënshuîchï and Guizhou Normal University (known simply as 师大 shǐdà). 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 and many residents have never seen the ocean) 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.
South Park (南方公园 nan fang gong yuan): This is currently the main hangout for the English teaching community and English-speaking local residents. The staff speak excellent English. Local beer starts at ¥5 per bottle and imports start at ¥40. South Park is fairly laid back and unpretentious. Newcomers are always welcomed into the community.
London Soho: This bar on Shengfu Lu remains popular with locals and expats alike. The ambiance is a cross between a bar and a Chinese coffee shop.
Guiyang has 4 main universities that host foreign teachers and students, as well as a few others. The three universities that have foreign students are Guizhou University 贵州大学, Guizhou Normal University 贵州师范大学, and Guizhou University of Nationalities 贵州民族学院。These three universities also all have foreign teachers. One other university that host teachers is Guiyang University 贵阳学院。
Guizhou, like much of central and western China lags far behind the dynamic coast in economic, industrial and social development. As a result, the main opportunities for work are teaching English. Several private schools in the area are licensed to hire foreigners: English First, Aston, Tian Tian, and Interlingua being among the most established.
For those not interested in teaching, Guiyang is home to several industrial and high-technology development zones seeking foreign investment, partnerships and experts. These include the industrial and enterprise zone in the south (Xiaohe Qu near Guizhou Normal University) and the Guiyang High-Technology Development Zone in the north. The main industries are aerospace technology and heavy industry.