For those looking to get out of big cities of China and explore some of the smaller villages, the Chengyang Village in southern China should not be overlooked. This wooden village has a lot to offer visitors in terms of hiking, history, and culture.
Located in the province of Guangxi, the village can be reached by bus from many of the bigger cities, including Longsheng (2-3 hours), Guilin (4-5 hours), and Liuzhou (5 hours). Many times you will need to change buses in Sanjiang. Once there, cross the river and go to the He Xi (West) station and catch a bus to Linxi (let the driver know you’re going to Chengyang).Accommodation
The most popular place to stay in Chengyang is Yang’s Guesthouse, which you can find by walking over the Wind-and-Rain Bridge. There are many amenities and features at the hotel, including Tai Chi classes, a bar/restaurant, tour guides, bicycle hire, and free internet. Credit cards are accepted, and visitors should expect to pay about Y50-Y60 per night. You can e-mail them at Yangsguesthouse@hotmail.com.
When I visited this village, I stayed at the Long Feng Hotel in the Bridge Scenic District (just tell your taxi driver the name of your hotel). This clean, wooden guesthouse includes free internet, television, guided tours, and a bar/restaurant that served the most delicious pancakes with honey. One thing people may not like is that there is a squat toilet and no sink, however, when staying in the more rural areas you shouldn’t expect for there to always be Western toilets available.
Things to Do
Unless you speak Chinese (and even then, the Chengyang villagers speak their own dialect), hire a guide. Not only will this relieve the stress of figuring out how to see all of the sites, it will also allow you to interact with locals, as the guide can act as a translator. The guide can also tell you the history of the sites you are looking at as well as give you more information on the culture of the area.
Walk through Chengyang (which is actually multiple villages in one), and take in the scenery, which includes serene streams, picturesque mountains, and ornate bridges. If you have a guide, hang out in the “Drum Room” where the men go to play games and smoke. Most of them will be excited to meet you and will ask you (via translator) about your home life as well as tell you what life was like growing up in China. You can also visit a tea house where you can see teas being made from scratch. The Oil Tea is a good choice and is made from peanuts, boiled tea leaves, puffed rice, and sugar. Along your walk, you can also see the women working to make indigo dye and sewing handicrafts. Because the village is surrounded by mountains, you can also add some difficulty to your walk by hiking up some of the nearby trails. This can also give you some great aerial views of the entire village.
Everyday at 10:30 and 3:30 in the center of the village in front of the outdoor stage, there is a Dong Minority Cultural Show. While you can expect to watch a lot of singing and dancing by villagers in traditional costumes, you should also expect for them to pull you up with them to sing and dance in the show yourself. Visitors should have no trouble catching on as long as they can do a conga line. One highlight act of the show includes a drinking song where the performers act out being drunk and onlookers take shots of rice wine.
Visiting the Wind-and-Rain-Bridge is also a must if you are in Chengyang. First of all, the architecture of the bridge is amazing, with 3 piers, 4 spans, 5 pavilions, 19 verandas, and 3 floors that include no nails. Wood, stone, and tile are all materials used in the bridges construction. It stretches across the Linxi River, and marketers sell handicrafts on the bridge. There are also small statues and pieces of art located along the sides of the bridge. If you would like to be a part of history, for Y10 you can actually have your name inscribed on the structure.