Hello and Welcome back to this week’s issue of “Bajan,” Chinese Style. In this edition of our Travel Exposé, we continue our mental trek throughout the mysterious South-Western Province of Guizhou, China!
As we have learnt last week, Guizhou is one of those rare gems of the Chinese landscape which offers an almost seamless combination of awe inspiring natural beauty, with the comfortable and convenient amenities which can mark the difference between a truly enjoyable travel experience and a nightmarish one. In short, Guizhou ( Re: Guizhou Province 1 0f 2) is a back-packers paradise, and has a little bit of everything depending on what you want from your trip. This week, we continue by taking a quick look at some of the major attractions which can be found in Guizhou and especially those which I myself visited during my travels throughout this province.
Let’s jump right into it and topping the list is Guizhou’s pride and joy, The Huangguoshu Waterfalls.
The Huangguoshu Waterfalls are the largest and most extensive waterfall system in China, and on a global scale, it is ranked as being the 3rd largest waterfall in the world. Impressive right? Indeed it is, and insofar as I can vouch, this waterfall is truly magnificent in its sheer proportions. Its roar, the sonorous rumble of the flowing of tens of thousands of gallons of water over high precipices and craggy rock strewn gorges can be heard from hundreds if not thousands of meters away.
The Waterfall itself is very impressive, but before we go any further lets gain some basic logistical knowledge required when undertaking a trip to this National Park. The easiest way to access Huangguoshu Waterfall is usually through the provincial capital, Guiyang, or the nearby transit city of Anshun. In terms of distance and convenience, planning a day trip from Anshun is usually the better choice, but both cities are have daily bus routes to the Waterfall.
For my trip, I decided to leave from the small city of Anshun, as it is one, closer to Huangguoshu and secondly, has it’s own airport, which makes access to the city even easier. Anshun, in terms of economic development and infrastructure is classified as a third tier city, but regardless of these classifications it still retains an air of charm. However, what is usually the main tourist attraction for the city, is that the two major natural attractions of Guizhou: Huanggoshu Waterfalls and Long gong Caves fall under the jurisdiction of the town and are also located extremely close to the town itself. Planning a day trip to either of these attractions is an easy task when leaving from Anshun, and it is made easier yet, if you decide to book a personal driver for the day (pin che).
As in my case, I booked a personal driver and was not disappointed by the service given.Usually these business vans can carry up to 6 people. The daily fare of a personal driver is 100 RNB. This means, especially if you are travelling alone, that you will always have an interesting mixture of travelling companions, which if you enjoy backpacking, only adds to the over all experience. Not only that, but also due to the sheer size of the Huangguoshu Waterfalls National Park, it is also much more convenient to have a personal driver as you can avoid waiting in the long park bus queues and travel from attraction to attraction in comfort.
The entrance fee of the Huangguoshu Waterfalls varies depending on whether it is high or low season. I travelled to the falls during mid- April which falls in the low season. Therefore, the entrance fee was 180 RNB. In high season, It seems the entrance fee is 200 RNB. The Falls park itself is extremely large, and due to this is it separated into three sections. The First section and usually the first stop made, takes us to the greater valley and cave systems of the Huangguoshu Waterfalls. High bridges over jagged gorges and treks into the deep, dank but fantastically coloured caves for which Guizhou is so famed is what awaits you in the first section of the Falls Park.
However, the true grandeur which is the Falls themselves awaits you in the third section or third attraction of the National Park. The second section of the Nationals park is usually not advised because it is off the beaten track and lacks in any truly outstanding beauty. Most drivers don’t recommend going to it because it wastes time which could be better spent and enjoying the beauty that is that falls themselves.
The third and main section of the Park is the one from which it gains its name. As mentioned before the falls are truly breathtaking in their sheer size and the sheer amount of water which constantly flows over the precipice.
However, this fame is also its greatest bane. In order to have as little as an impact as possible on the natural shape and environment of the Waterfall, the path leading up to and behind the Waterfall is extremely narrow and will ALWAYS be ridiculously crowded. In low season and especially in the high season of travel, the human traffic on the paths leading up to the falls can be backed up for 500 meters or more. When I visited the falls in low season, it was no different, as I was stuck in a sea of people, all pushing against each other, but somehow all managing to still move at the awesome speed of slow pouring sludge. It was an unimaginably slow and uniquely irritating experience, which the travel writer in me has dubbed, “An exercise in patience and a true Buddhist pilgrimage.”
However, regardless of the sloth like march towards the falls themselves, the mere image of the rushing water, the sound of pure strength and the fresh spray of clean fragrant mist went great distances to alleviating the vexation of the exasperating trek.The true magnificence of Huangguoshu however, isn’t seen until one actually walks into the fall caves to see a world of cascading shapes and refracting light from behind the curtain of water which has carved this one of a kind natural national treasure.
It is an otherworldly and humbling experience, which helps remind us of the strength and tenacity that is nature. Huangguoshu, an experience unlike any other awaits in the land of mist, caves and mountains that is Guizhou.