Updated: Jul 5, 2020
This post is the beginning of a series of "photo story" on beautiful and interesting places in South China during my 84-day backpacking trip that began in the autumn of 2012 — well, don't dismiss these stories because it was 5 years ago, I am sharing photos and information on how I travelled around those places (with new info as well).
I will share the beautiful places on that trip only, not minute details on everything I did. I call them "photo stories" as they are mostly photos — a photo speaks a thousand words — but I will elaborate when necessary, such as how I travelled to the places and what are the things to do. At the end of each article, there will be a link to the next city or place of interest that I visited until the end of the whole journey. Or, use this post as a "menu" to jump to any of the places that interest you.
Get tips from someone (like me) who had been there if you are planning to do something similar — regardless of whether you are joining a tour group or travelling alone. Otherwise, enjoy the photos as though you are travelling there.
The China trip started from Hainan Island (transit) to Guangxi, mainly in Guilin and around, then to Yunnan Province, from Kunming to as far as Shangri-la, and swung around to Xiamen in Fujian Province before crossing the sea to Kinmen Island, Taiwan, where I continued for another 23 days in Taiwan — a total of 107 days.
It was a solo budget travel where I spent about SGD 3,600 in China and SGD 1,560 in Taiwan — that's about US$4,000 in total, average of US$40 a day. And that included all airfares, travel insurance and China visas. Check my stories and see how I did the long journey and controlling budget at the same time.
Tip #1: To control costs, use budget airlines, domestic flights, public transports to get around whenever possible. For long trips, take up an annual travel insurance plan. Stay in international youth hostels in China (apart from dormitories, most hostels have rooms) and eat local food. Lastly, do your homework before visiting any tourist attractions — make sure you are really interested in what are in those places and the ticket prices are value-for-money.
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (广西壮族自治区)
I took a budget airline flight from Singapore to Haikou on Hainan Island (海南岛海口) with a 2-month visa for China. After spending a couple of days in the small island city, I flew to Guilin (桂林) where the real adventure began.
Tip #2: Switching to a domestic flight in Haikou cuts my airfare by up to 25% and allowed me to explore Haikou city as well.
Starting from Guilin City, I went one round to Xingping and Yangshuo (still in Guilin Prefecture) and as far as Huangyao Ancient Town in Hezhou Prefecture before doubling back to Yangshuo and, subsequently, Guilin City. I will start the photo stories with the more interesting journey from Guilin City to Xingping and sum up the sights in Guilin City in Story #5.
After exploring the southeastern corner of Guangxi, I headed to the northeastern corner from Guilin City. This part of the journey took me deeper into the ethnic minorities' territories to learn more about their cultures and wisdom and also to check out famous landscapes and ancient architectures.
I visited the villages of the Zhuang (壮) and Red Yao (红瑶) minority people in Longji Rice Terraces and Dong (侗) minority people in Chengyang.
After Chengyang in Sanjiang County, I rested for a day in Nanning before taking a train to Kunming in Yunnan Province. I had spent almost 3 weeks in Guangxi and left with 5 weeks' visa to get to Shangri-la and then out of China.
A list of all local food specialties in Guangxi
Yunnan Province (云南省)
Starting with Kunming, I travel to the major cities of Yunnan, such as Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-la and several beautiful places around them. There were also more opportunities to check out the lifestyles of the ethnic minorities in Yunnan.