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Exploring Guangxi from border to coast

By Morag Hobbs (People's Daily Online)    14:00, November 26, 2019

When you think of Guangxi, you usually think of Guilin, the beautiful river Li, leading on to Yangshuo. However, there are a host of other destinations in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region that are just as, if not a little more, beautiful.

The best place to start is right on China's border with Vietnam at Detian Waterfall. The waterfall itself is the largest transnational waterfall in Asia, measuring 200 metres across with a fall of 70 metres, falling within the boundaries of both China and Vietnam.

The waterfall and surrounding area look like something plucked out of a storybook, made even more unique by people selling a range of coffee and snacks from boats in the middle of the river. On the other side of the river, a mere stone's throw away, Vietnamese tourists share a similar view, although I best not get too close in case they start asking to see my my visa.

Tourism in the area is increasing thanks to investment from home and abroad. Although tourism is up 15 percent this year, it still seems quiet compared with other tourist hotspots in Guangxi.

Not only is it the largest transnational waterfall in Asia, but it's the fourth largest in the whole world. Despite its size, it only takes about 20 minutes to reach the viewing platforms on the parallel hill. It gives a perfect view over the valley to the waterfall, with peaks disappearing behind. From above, you get a sense of its scale and can see the many layers which make up one impressive waterfall.

Aside from its undeniable beauty, the thing that makes this place unique is that although there is so obviously a border, it seems unusually relaxed. From the riverbank in a less touristic area, you get a sense of how close these two countries are. A stone marker on our side reads "China" while the one on the opposite bank reads "Vietnam", with the border found somewhere in the middle of the river.

After a morning of exploration, it's time to find some local food.

Guangxi food is fresh. Both Chinese and Vietnamese styles influence the local cuisine and chicken, bamboo shoots and snails are found on most menus. Wuzhou paper wrapped fried chicken is the most famous. I've eaten snail before, but Guangxi is famed for its colossal river snails, which are either eaten on their own or as part of the very famous dish Luosifen, or Snail Rice Noodles in English.

Another dish I know from Vietnam, but see less in other parts of China, is a platter of fried bugs. They are offered up in a variety of sizes, from tiny crickets to massive, Lion King-worthy grubs. I muster the courage to try one of the smallest ones, and it tastes like pork crackling. I can only taste the salty seasoning, so it's not too bad.

After a filling lunch, it's time to hop on a train and head for the next location.

Wuzhou is small, and very different from many of the vast, sprawling cities I've come to know in China. The business district is part of the original city, with shops, restaurants and street food dotted around. In this old town, heavy metal rings line the streets. These are actually used in times of flooding so that locals can dock boats in the center. If you'd believe it, there are also rings on the second level, as the city often used to get so flooded that entire canals would appear, raising ground level to the second floor.

To my surprise, the first place I'm taken is on a tour of the town's tax office. Revellers can stop off to find out what tax rate they're on, apply for tax reductions, and print out certificates, all on the high street.

Wuzhou street food is different from other cities in Guangxi and locals here like the bitter flavour. It can be found in the menthol jelly, which is served with a sweet milky sauce, in the ginger, stewed for two months in vinegar and sugar, and in the local herbal tea.

The herbal tea is served cold, in a metal dish for just two yuan, which works out at about 20 or 30 pence in the UK. According to TCM, the herbs used are meant to help cool down the body in hot temperatures, something which comes in useful here, even in November.

After a speedy stop in Wuzhou, it's time to hop on another train to the third and final location.

Beihai lies on the southern coast of Guangxi, known for its beautiful beaches and seafood, and is easily accessible by high-speed train from all over the country.

Silver Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Beihai, so-called because of its white, almost silver sand. It's not the only beach in the city but it is by far the most touristic, so an excellent place to chill out with a coconut or a beer and watch the world go by.

I prefer Beihai to other Chinese beach destinations because the beaches are just as lovely as those found on Hainan Island, but the area is less busy and way cheaper. It still feels like real China.

I didn't have time to see everywhere worth travelling to in Guangxi, but what I have seen is a vast array of different landscapes, different foods and friendly people. Next time you're in southern China, why not skip Guilin and check out some of these lesser-known spots? 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liu Ning, Bianji)

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