Tribal Festivals of China & Vietnam

Dear Adventurer’s

Along the border of southern China and Vietnam, where spectacular limestone country meets mysterious forest-clad highlands, live welcoming tribes-people who have kept alive traditions unchanged for thousands of years.

 

Known as the Miao in the north and the Hmong in the South, their mountain homeland is a cultural stronghold that has survived turbulent times across Southeast Asia, from the Vietnam war to a communist dictatorship in Laos. Dark times, which forced many Hmong to flee as refugees – to Australia, America and beyond.

Now, as remote China opens to Western visitors, we have the chance to witness vibrant festivals that mark important dates and rites of passage for these proud, independent people. Most influential of all is the Lusheng Festival, a lush pageant set around “Oriental Valentine’s Day”, which celebrates courtship, harvest and prosperity.

Along the way we walk amongst traditional stilted-wooden houses of China’s largest Miao community, meet the “short-skirt” Miao women, the musket-carrying mountain men, visit local arts and crafts markets displaying ancient skills of embroidery, silverwork and fabric- making, and experience spectacular performances at some of the world’s finest drum towers.

In March 2016, our 16-day trip takes us from China’s Miao regions, where we celebrate the spectacular Lusheng Festival in Kaili, travel to Hanoi, then up into cool, highland villages where we visit with Black Hmong and the Red Dao, ethnic groups named for a dominant colour in their clothing. We finish with a exquisite boat cruise amongst the limestone wonders of the World Heritage marine reserve, Ha Long Bay.

In May, our 12-day journey focuses on the Miao of China, including two days attending the unforgettable Sisters’ Meal Festival and finishing with two days enjoying the historical, cultural and epicurean highlights of Beijing.

Join us on an adventure of festivals, through some of the most tranquil landscapes on Earth.

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Lusheng Festival of China/Vietnam

 

19 February – 5 March 2016

16 days

Group size 6 to 16 people

 

Celebrate festival season in spectacular guizhou province, be warmly welcomed into miao communities and delight in performances leading up to the famous lusheng Festival

at Kaili.We call in on villages of the Dong people, to admire their carpentry, bridge-building and weaving skill. In Vietnam we explore the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the French colonial town of Sapa and Hmong and Dao villages in the remote highlands, before relaxing on a boat cruise amongst the limestone towers that soar above aqua-blue Ha Long Bay. 

 

Day 1

Land in bustling Guangzhou to spend an afternoon searching out relics of old Canton before catching an evening flight to Guiyang.

Day 2

Our festival circuit begins deep within LeiGongshan National Park, in Xijiang, the largest Miao community in China. Here, more than a thousand traditional, stilted wooden houses contour hills rising from the Baishui River. Walk amongst the red-timbered dwellings, from the recently restored to those untouched and authentic, and visit China’s largest museum of Miao culture. Overnight hotel.

Day 3

An hour’s drive takes us to Xinqiao, the “mini- skirt” capital of the Miao. Contrary to China’s conservative culture, Xinqiao’s fame comes from the “short skirt Miao”, women whose traditional dress is very short, pleated skirts, flower-ribbon corsets and veils. Xinqiao is set within a stockade that has a novel way of combining firefighting and pest control. Its granary is placed in the middle of a pond, which provides water for fighting fires, and a moat to keep out rodents and ants. Continue on to Rongjiang, home of the Dong people and visit tranquil Sanbao village to admire local architecture and culture. Overnight hotel.

Days 4 & 5

We enter a remote, mountainous region near Guizhou Province’s southern border to discover a special Miao village, untouched by modernization. Basha’s timber houses perch on a hillside, moss-tinged roofs blending in with surrounding forest. Many of its men carry ancient muskets, an oddity in a country that bans private gun ownership. It’s said that these are ancestors of the frontline troops charged with guarding their land against both bears and intruders. We enjoy displays of this “musketeer heritage”, as well as the unique dress and customs unchanged for hundreds of years. Overnight in Congjiang and the following day, enjoy a five-hour drive through terraced villages, stopping as we wish to meet local people. Continue to Zhaoxing for the night.

Day 6

A full day exploring Zhaoxing, an ancient Dong settlement renowned for its five drum towers, which display exquisite building skills. Each tower is unique and all were built without using a single nail or rivet. Colourfully-painted to depict Dong folk tales and aspects of daily life, the towers symbolize good fortune and prosperity and continue to be a local meeting place and performance space. Overnight in Zhaoxing.

Days 7 & 8

Travelling from Zhaoxing to Kaili, we join thousands of Miao to celebrate their most influential and renowned celebration of courtship, harvest and prosperity – the Lusheng Festival. Over two days, we enjoy a town alive with the dancing of hundreds of silver-clad Miao women pulsating to the sound of bamboo-pipe lushengs, played by young men, various games and the traditional horn-locking contest of water buffalo bulls. Of all the Lusheng Festivals in China, this is the most grand. Depart late afternoon for Guiyang where we spend the night.

Days 9 & 10

Catch a morning flight to Guangzhou, sightsee in the afternoon, then fly to Hanoi, capital of Vietnam. The following day we enjoy the heady
blend of the Orient and Western history, from Ho Chi Minh’s Museum to the Museum of Vietnamese (French colonialism) and intriguing galleries. Hanoi retains much of its traditional culture, reflecting pride in its ascendancy from colonial oppression and war. The narrow streets and alleyways of the Old Quarter offer energetic markets, while nearby lakes provide an oasis in this teeming city. Take overnight train to Loa Cai.

Day 11

Arrive in Loa Cai early morning and catch a bus to the highlands town of Sapa, once the summer retreat of the French colonialists who left behind an architectural legacy. We visit a Hmong village in the afternoon.

Days 12 & 13

We spend two days exploring highland villages of the Black Hmong and Red Dao people, visiting a school and traditional homes of both ethnic groups, so named because of the dominant colours of their clothing or head-dress. We have the opportunity to buy handicrafts such as bags and textiles, for which the locals are renowned. On the second afternoon we transfer to Loa Cai for the overnight train to Hanoi.

Day 14

Morning departure by private bus to World Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay for an afternoon boat cruise through one of the planet’ most spectacular seascapes. Over 1600 islands, most uninhabited, provide a magical display of conical peaks, pinnacles, arches and caves. Overnight at Ha Long Bay.

Days 15 & 16

A morning bus returns us to Hanoi for our flight to Guangzhou for our final night’s celebrations before catching our return flights, or continuing on with a tour extension if booked.

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Sisters’ Meal Festival: southern China

 

19-30 April 2016

12 days

Group size 6 to 16 people

 

Experience the cultural festivals of the Miao and Dong tribes in the highlands of China’s Guizhou Province. 

Participate in the Sisters’ Meal Festival, a coming- of-age celebration that features young Miao women in elaborate silver headdress and jewelry, inviting overtures from young men through music, dance and food. We visit several Dong villages, including Basha, home to China’s “last tribe of gunmen”; Zhaoxing, where the Dong perform intriguing dramas on the platforms of impressive drum towers, before finishing in Beijing, where we visit the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and Tiennamen Square. 

 

Days 1 & 2

Arrive in Beijing, home to nearly 22 million people. The next day we fly southwest to the relaxed, subtropical city of Guiyang, on the Nanming River.

Days 3 & 4

Our private bus carries us to Shidong, a small Miao village nestled amongst forested hills, for the spectacular Sisters’ Meal Festival. This “Oriental Valentine’s Day” celebration brings together villagers from remote mountain areas in search of a mate. The “sisters”, young Miao women, wear up to 10 kilos of silver headdress and jewelry during ritualistic song and dance, while young men vie for their attention by urging on water buffaloes in a horn-locking contest. Warmly welcomed by these hospitable people, we enjoy singing, dancing and a mesmerising drum dance by more than a thousand villagers. We travel each night to our hotel in Kaili.

Day 5

Our festival focus takes us through LeiGongshan national park to Xijiang, China’s largest Miao community. We may see the energetic Golden Pheasant Dance, in which the women dress up like beautiful pheasants, accompanied by men playing the lusheng, a bamboo pipe instrument, or a Harvest Dance. Walk amongst red- timbered dwellings and visit a fascinating Miao museum.

Day 6

An hour’s drive takes us to Xinqiao, the “mini-skirt” capital of the Miao. Contrary to China’s conservative culture, Xinqiao’s fame comes from the “short skirt Miao”, women whose traditional dress is very short, pleated skirts, flower-ribbon corsets and veils. Xinqiao is set within a stockade and its granary is placed in the middle of a pond, which provides water for fighting fires, and a moat to keep out rodents and ants. We continue to Datang, where festive Miao women dance to the beat of a huge gong and finish in Rongjiang, home of the Dong people.

Day 7

We enter a remote, mountainous region to discover a special Miao village where unique dress and customs have been unchanged for hundreds of years. Basha’s timber houses perch on a hillside, moss-tinged roofs blending in with surrounding forest. Many of its men carry ancient muskets, an oddity in a country that bans private gun ownership. It’s said that these are ancestors of the frontline troops charged with guarding their land against both bears and intruders. We continue to Congjiang County, calling in on Miao villages along the way.

Days 8 & 9

Explore Zhaoxing, an ancient Dong settlement renowned for its five drum towers. Colourfully- painted to depict Dong folk tales and aspects of daily life, the towers symbolize good fortune and prosperity and continue to be a local meeting place and performance space. We spend a night in Zhaoxing before travelling to Guiyang for our afternoon flight to Beijing.

Days 10 & 11

We explore Beijing’s most significant sites, starting in vast Tianamen Square, where we learn of its turbulent and tragic history, before entering the Imperial Palace, known as the “Forbidden City”. We visit the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, finishing in a market finding bargains in artwork, clothing and silk. A banquet in a restaurant renowned for Peking roast duck ends this stunning tour.

Day 12

To the airport to catch return flights, or continue on with a tour extension if booked.

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Dates and cost

 

Lusheng Festival of China/Vietnam

  • 15 nights  16 days

Ex: Guangzhou   19 Feb – 5 March 2016

Twin Share

AU$ 4,650
Single Supplement AU$ 452

Sisters’ Meal Festival: Southern China

  • 11 nights  12 days

Ex: Bejing   19 Mar – 30 Mar 2016

Twin Share

AU$ 4,150
Single Supplement AU$ 445

What’s included

  • Accommodation in specially selected hotels with private facilities throughout
  • Sightseeing and transfers where indicated in the itinerary
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Service charges and taxes
  • Services of Tour Leader and local bilingual guide.
  • Air-conditioned bus and air transport between destinations within China and Vietnam
  • Internal Airfares
  • Medical kit

What’s not included

  • International airfares and airport taxes to Bejing or Guangzhou
  • Passport or Visa fees
  • Travel Insurance (compulsory)
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as included
  • Gratuities to local guides etc
  • Personal expenses such as beverage, telephone and laundry bills
  • Additional transport due to an emergency

How to Book

To initiate your reservations, please contact us as soon as possible to check availability and place an option. A Booking Form is to be signed, completed and returned to Adventure Associates along with your  deposit. Reservations are established only when you receive written confirmation and acceptance of the deposit and booking form.

Deposit required per person: AU$1000 per person
balance due: 75 days prior to departure
If booking within 74 days of departure: full payment must be made.

 

For these and other reasons mentioned below, you are strongly encouraged to obtain trip cancellation & travel insurance.

We can book your air travel and any tour extensions. Please contact us for details.

Spaces are limited so please book early, and ask us about our other cultural and adventure trip.

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Ken Collins

Ken Collins operates China Expeditions with his Chinese-born wife, Guo Hua. A motivated, friendly and enthusiastic Australian, Ken is one of the pioneers of adventure and cultural travel in China. Having travelled to most areas of the vast country he has a deep knowledge of China’s history, culture and landscape and it is this keen interest that puts an edge to his hosting of international clients at some of the planet’s most remarkable destinations. He pioneered trips to remote areas of the Great Wall in Inner Mongolia, taking small groups through the vast loess district well distant from mainstream tourism, and has trekked to other outstanding locations such as the Altai Mountains straddling the border of Russia and Mongolia.

As a speaker of Mandarin he can engage with and draw out the local people, make clients and the Chinese laugh collectively at situations and secure answers on all manner of things in the country and city.

 A former journalist and author, Ken has a recreational background in trekking, climbing, diving, cross-country skiing and sailing. Curious and always absorbing knowledge he is intimately familiar with China’s social, historical, political and environmental background and talks freely and provides interpretative information on many facets of China.

 An environmentalist, Ken is acutely aware of global issues and the implications of China’s rapid urbanization and of its influence abroad and the ecological impact in China of such consumerism. He and his wife take a socially responsible role in objectively explaining to guests the many positive and negative effects of this progress. Ken pays attention to detail and manages his tours most competently, with client feedback attesting to his and his guides’ skill in delivering superb outcomes.

Guo Hua Zou

The wife of Ken Collins and a partner in China Expeditions Guo Hua is a native of Guizhou Province in southern China, the heartland of the country’s minority groups. She spent much of her early years in Guiyang, the capital, where she studied art and calligraphy. Her deep interest in history and culture drew her over the years to the districts of the minority tribes.  As a guide for our journeys into these districts it is her understanding of the minorities that adds strength in helping your understanding of the Miao and Dong tribes. She has visited many of the highland villages and towns to enjoy the culture, music and dance of Guizhou’s famous lusheng festivals.

Now sharing her time between living in Australia and China, Guo Hua, a friendly, warm and considerate person, is quite accomplished. She has many skills, as an artist and in language as a calligrapher, as a trekker, diver, sailor, and, although certainly not a call on her ability nowadays, she can even overhaul engines, learned in her youth in a Liberation truck maintenance unit. That was during the Cultural Revolution so she can tell you much about that turbulent period.

Guo’s Hua’s enthusiasm is effervescent and it shows in her love of both China and its minority clans, and of her adopted homeland Australia. She is passionate in all she attempts in life and her knowledge of Guizhou’s minorities extends our bridge to your understanding of these fascinating tribes.

 

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Ken and his lovely wife Guo Hua