Colourful Guizhou – Huanggang(黃崗)

We arrived in Guizhou during the colourful harvest time in October.

We have always wanted to go to Guizhou (貴州) but did not get round to it during the pandemic time. Guizhou is a magnet for tourists – not only does it have a high concentration of ethnic minorities which makes it exotic, its mountainous landscape also offers breathtaking scenaries.

We stopped one night in a village in Hezhou (賀州), Guangxi. Many rugged hills dotted all over the area – Karst landscape which can be found in southern China in Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan.

After an eight-month hiatus in Hong Kong to spend time with families and catching up with friends, we went back to Guangzhou in early September. We spent a week getting our van in order and to see relatives and former colleagues before setting off again. We stayed put in Zhaoqing (肇慶) to avoid the National holiday rush and then headed northwest to Guizhou via Guangxi.

In the midst of rice fields and trees, we momentarily forgot our urban identities.
The Dong people (侗族) drying the grains and chillies during harvest time.

There are 56 ethnic minority tribes which make up 36% of the total population of Guizhou. The better-known tribes include Miao, Dong, Hui, Yi and Bai (苗、侗、回、彝和白族). Their cultures and traditions are relatively well preserved and shielded by the mountains. Each of these tribes has its own language, customs and clothes. 

We walked uphill into the forest that overlook the Huanggang village (黃崗).

Our first destination in Guizhou was a small Dong village called Huanggang (黃崗) – its name means yellow little hill. It is still primitive and not at all well-developed for tourists yet. There were only two guesthouses and we chose the one right next to the Drum Tower (鼓樓). Our room has the perfect view of the tower.

Our room faced one of the drum towers in the village. Daisy loved crouching on the window sill and felt the breeze and listened to the lively buzz of the village.
I noticed one of the drum towers has an interesting drawing of the drunken husbands being dragged by the wives. These drum towers depict the way of life in the village.

The next morning, we woke up to an array of noises from the village as the locals started the day preparing food, feeding chickens and the roosters crowing. When we had breakfast, we heard distinct banging noise reverberating all over the village.

We noticed many elderly women have hunchbacks. It’s both due to the hard physical work they did when they were younger and the humid and cold weather in the mountains.
Clusters of ripe rice are hanged in these barns all over the village during the harvest season.

We were not sure where the noise came from until we went for a stroll in the village. We saw a few women sitting in front of the house banging hard on a flat rock. Upon closer look, we realized that they were hammering a piece of cloth.

The women hammered against the Dong cloth (侗族亮布) for hours to get the glossy texture. We heard them hammering away most of the day.
After hammering, the cloth was hung dried.

It was the cloth making time as the villagers had finished the harvest. They make a unique type of Dong cloth which is quite stiff and has a subtle shiny gloss. They make it from scratch – sorting out the raw cotton, weaving, boiling and fermenting the plants gathered from the fields to make dye.

These leaves were gathered to be soaked, boiled and fermented to make dye.
Since these cloth were handmade, each piece has a different texture and shade of colour. I bought 1 metre for RMB90.

Life is very basic here. There are hardly any shops except one tailor, one small grocery shop and three restaurants at the centre of the village located within a 100 metre stretch of the main street. This is also the mobile marketplace. A fruit truck and two meat trucks came daily. One could hear them from a distance with their loudspeakers blasting what they are selling.

Apart from rice, they also grow chives which are delicious. Chives with fried eggs had become one of our favourite dishes when we were here.
The top on the far right is made of the Dong cloth. It’s quite rigid when it’s new and gets softened over usage and washing.

One morning, we saw a truck full of piglets and a bunch of locals picking the ones they liked. Another morning, we saw a man in a white coat examining a local man’s teeth. And another man treating an old man’s eyes. As there is no hospital in the village (we did see a Red Cross office in the main street but it was closed during our stay), the villagers rely on this kind of rudimentary medical service.

The villagers buying piglets at the village centre.

The guesthouse we stayed is run by a young couple. The wife is very capable and every day I saw her busy checking in the tourists, cleaning the rooms, washing bed sheets and looking after two young daughters at the same time.

The wife who runs the guesthouse.

The husband is talkative and has a very angelic laugh. He invited us to their dinner gathering at the guesthouse one evening. The wife and her female friends came up to us with a cup of alcohol and sang a welcome song. Even though I could not understand what they were singing, I was captivated by their beautiful and harmonized voice. At the end of the song, one of them held the cup to my mouth to let me drink. They told me that I should not touch the cup, otherwise I would have to drink one more cup.

Preparing dinner for twenty people.

While most tourists came for a few hours or stay one night, we kept extending our stay. We enjoyed the simple village life. Every morning after breakfast, we sat in front of the guesthouse reading and then went to lunch at the same restaurant. Then we walked around the village in the afternoon and watched the women hammering and hanging the Dong cloth. The old men would sit together outside to enjoy the sun and chat. Villagers came back from the field before sunset and gathered around a small fire pit to chit chat before going home for dinner.

Water buffalo is an important asset of the village and jointly owned by the village.
The women taking a break after a hard day’s work and sought warmth from burning logs.

One day, the husband invited us to go see a buffalo fight in another village. Buffalo fighting is a popular entertainment among the villages but I was a little anxious as I did not know what to expect and whether there would be lots of bloodshed.

The village looking beautiful in the warm hues of the late afternoon.

We got up before dawn and the husband and his friends picked us up on the main street. It took almost two hours to get to the bull ring. We were so thankful that we did not have to drive as the road was so narrow with incredibly sharp turns meandering uphill and downhill. It was still dark and I could not see a thing. I started feeling woozy and carsick after an hour’s drive and had to get out of the car to catch my breath. We also got lost and had to ask for directions.

Buffalo fight is a major entertainment and big part of village life in Guizhou.

By the time we arrived, the road was already jammed with cars and people. We walked about 20 minutes to get to the ring up a small hill. As we walked up, we saw many food stalls lined up with people eating rice noodles and barbecued satay before the fight started. The meat was very fresh as the cows were killed on the spot and blood was still visible on the ground.

Beautiful Dong costume made of Dong cloth and decorated with layers of silver jewelry.

We managed to squeeze into the top of the ring as it was already filled with people from the surrounding villages. We waited for half an hour and then the competing buffalos started entering the ring one by one to greet the crowd. Each buffalo represented a different village and was ushered by a group of young men from its village. They would hang a huge sack on the buffalo’s horn and lit firecrackers as part of an auspicious ritual for good luck. The sack contained live goose which symbolizes good luck and positive energy. There were about 20 buffalos competing and it took about an hour for all of them to greet the crowd.

The proud moment of entering the buffalo ring.

I started to wonder when the fight would begin as I was getting cramps from standing while trying my best to hold my balance as I was squashed from both sides with people constantly squeezing in from behind. Many locals brought their own stools to sit and one elderly woman forced her way through the crowd and plonked her stool right next to me. It kept digging into my calf, so you could imagine how uncomfortable it was.

Front rows at the buffalol fight are quite dangerous.

All of a sudden, there was an uproar in the crowd and I saw the first buffalo charged into the ring, followed by another one a few minutes later. The first fight lasted only three minutes as the first buffalo was strong and aggressive and won the fight in a flash. Each fight was different – sometimes it involved a lot of chasing between the combating buffalos and the whole crowd would cheer on, sometimes both buffalos’ horns were locked together and kept the crowd in suspense – if they were locked for some time, they would be untangled by the help of the respective person accompanying the buffalo and called it a draw; sometimes it could drag on as both opponents kept its distance and weren’t interested in each other – then they would be poked to provoke them to fight. Luckily, I did not see much blood shedding.

Drum tower lit up at night. In the old days, the drums were used to gather people to come to the tower for events or emergencies.

I was exhausted after all the excitement of the buffalo fight and fell asleep on our ride back. We stopped midway at a small town to get liquified petroleum gas and other supplies as the friend who drove runs the restaurant which we frequented daily.

The old men sat outside when it was sunny and warm.

After spending eight quiet days in Huanggang, we headed northwest to the city of Kaili (凱里).

Guesthouse: 月也堂民宿

Tel.: 1837 5282 607

2 thoughts on “Colourful Guizhou – Huanggang(黃崗)”

  1. Many thanks, Kin and Akie for the link to your blog here from your Reddit post!

    Wow, your travels around China during and before Covid was very impressive. Hopefully you’re having a great time now in Kunming!

    At the moment, I’m thinking of Sichuan (e.g. Cheng Du) for 1-2 weeks in June for myself. Having had a quick look at your Sichuan blog posts, it seems my idea of chilling out is much tamer than yours (Genie in the middle of nowhere)! 🙂

    1. Hi John

      So glad that you like our blog.

      We are camping in our van in a small village not far from Kunming right now. We love Yunnan so much that we have stayed for over four months already.

      Chengdu should be a nice place to chill. Funny enough, we still haven’t been there since we avoided most big cities during Covid.

      We are not that adventurous really and sure love to chill and relax whenever we can. We just spent two months in a tiny city, Puer – just chilling, drinking tea and coffee with new friends haha!

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