UNESCO heritage is a visual feast
What makes these villages so unique and special is the architecture and specifically the dialous. These are a hodgepodge of architectural styles taking influences from India, Europe, USA, Middle East and so on. During the 1900-1920s many of the local Chinese would move to America for work. While there they would earn money and some would even set up successful businesses. But on their travels they would encounter and see many different styles of buildings from wherever they were at the time, usually North America, and those designs would be mimicked back in their hometown village. Some even sent postcards with pictures to be copied! These towers were typically 6 floors or so with each floor housing a different family. The rooftop would have served as a watchtower because of the bandits and pirates that roamed the area with impunity during this time.
Each village has unique dialous to explore, with the interior providing a snapshot to life a hundred years ago or so. Although antiquated now, the signs of wealth are on display to see. Most are open to visit upon purchase of a ticket, but some need extra payment to the proprietor, likely a descendant of the original builders. The rest of the buildings are more of a traditional style but still beautiful in their own right. Fantastically preserved these a visual feast and a dose of well needed culture. These villages are still semi occupied so you will see the residents going about their business not giving you a second glance, a real slower pace of life compared to the Mega cities you may be used to seeing in China. There are 2 villages nearby each other with unique styles and both should be visited.
The final stop is usually Chikan Town. However this is sadly scheduled for demolition and is no longer open to the public. Its a pity because the buildings are charming and stylish. I managed to sneak through a gap for a look around, however it’s not permitted so to do so is at your own risk. This town will be unrecognizable in a few years time. Progress it may well be at in my opinion losing its charm completely.
There are numerous ways to explore the Kaiping dialous. Biking the green way is one method, but the signs are not always easy to see and some Cantonese may be required to talk to the locals.
Shuttle buses run between the villages however the schedule is hard to determine and they seem to run on their own time.
You can get the bus from Luohu bus station, it costs 110 RMB and takes almost 3 hours.
You can take a taxi which will cost around 800 RMB
You can take a train from GZ south or GZ East to Kaiping station also. Trains can be found on on http://www.trip.com Trains
Another option is an organised trip from an tour guide. I suggest China Tea Leaves
This is stress free, convenient and good value. You can enjoy the experience without worrying about planning.
I spent 4 days in Kaiping. I found a great hotel on TRIP.com:
Diaomin Tribe Boutique Hostel (Kaiping Tangkou)
55 Tangkou Street, Tangkou Town, Kaiping, Guangdong, China
This family-run guest house is actually several old houses all connected. The family is quite hospitable…they invited us for a meal…and beers later. they rent bicycles, and the small town, Tankou is right in the middle of the scenic area. You can ride all over via green paths.
The villages are mostly fairly empty, but there are still villagers who are very friendly to visitors, and will let you see their houses. Many of the old towers look abandoned…You can walk all through them without paying an admission.
I highly recommend Kaiping as a great weekend getaway.
Thanks for reading and for the nice words.