Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dong Villages & Wind & Rain Bridge - Chengyang, China

Destination:  Chengyang, China (Guangxi Province)
Number of Days Spent: 1 day
Where we stayed:  Can’t remember the name but you cross the Wind & Rain Bridge and take an immediate left.  Walk past the Chengyang Bridge National Hostel and it is the next hotel.  Price was around 60 RMB/night and it had free wifi, a balcony with a view of the bridge & (yay!) western toilets.
Best restaurant:  We were not impressed with the dining options in Chengyang, craving pizza we tried Yang’s Guesthouse recommended in Lonely Planet and on wikitravel…the results were less than spectacular, in fact, probably the worst pizza we ate in China.  Plus, it took forever.  Our breakfast the following morning at the guesthouse wasn’t much better…note to self, must seek out local food :-) 
Best of:   We didn’t care all that much for the touristy village across the bridge but we had a great walk through nearby Dong villages with perfect lighting for photos.  We enjoyed watching the kids playing in the river, villagers carrying baskets through the fields and tending their rice, motorcycles being lovingly washed & workers at break on the roads. 
Worst of:    Yet another hefty Chinese entrance fee…this one 50 RMB just to get across the bridge & into town! 
Most Memorable:  Oily tea?  We’ll never forget it and while some people may really enjoy it, we are not among them!

Useful Tip:  There is much written on avoiding the extrance fees on the way into Chengyang.  We arrived in the middle of the day and the bus dropped us off right in front of the ticket booth.  I’m not sure how people are going about avoiding the fees.  They even had a guard posted at the secondary bridge before getting into town. 
Getting there: Getting here is a snap if coming from the Longji rice terraces.  Once you’re in Longshen take a bus to Sanjiang.  If you’re arriving from the rice terraces (or from Guilin) you will be at a different bus terminal and you will need to walk about 10 minutes to the He Xi terminal.  From there, buses travel to Sanjiang frequently throughout the day.  If you get there after 5pm there are vans that cost 10 RMB and will take you to Chengyang.  For onward transport double check the times for the buses as they change frequently. There is a bus that passes through that goes to Zhaoxing in Guizhou province (note that you will have to change buses at the border between Guangxi & Guizhou province). 
A brief stop on our trip through southern China, the elaborate Wind & Rain Bridge is typical of the Dong minorities that live in this rural region of southern China.  The bridge itself was a feat of engineering, built 100 years ago without the benefit of nails!  It’s 78 meters long and contains 5 separate pagoda like structures.  Walking across isn’t that interesting, it’s filled with run in the mill souvenir stands but walk away from the hustle and bustle, it’s lovely from afar or better yet, sip on a cup of Chinese tea from your hotel balcony while the suns comes up (or goes down). 
While in Chengyang make sure to take a walk through rural China through the clusters of Dong villages that make this area home.  Green rice paddies, picturesque villages set on the river, chickens clucking about, pigs crossing the road, men smoking their pipes at the drum towers, it’s a slice of idyllic rural life, best appreciated on foot!  Visiting Chengyang on its own is probably  not worth the effort but if you’re traveling by bus between Guangxi and Guizhou it’s certainly worth an afternoon stop! 
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Karen Bedsaul said...

Lovely photos, the river looks so still and peaceful. Were there birds in the air, lots of noise? Car horns,people shouting, etc, or was it as still and quiet as the pics portray?
Love you MOM

Jason and Tracy said...

The Chengyang area was very quiet, there were few cars available in the area as it was quite poor. The town itself was pedestrianized with only a few motorbikes bleeping their way through the streets. Those people that did have enough money to own motorbikes washed them lovingly in the river as they were their prized possessions.