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Kaili is a city of music, as its nicknames testify. It is alternately referred to as "The Homeland of Music", "An Ocean of Song and Dance", and "The City of Festivals", all of which reflect the city's role as a center for Miao culture.
Kaili is a city of festivals. The Miao people celebrate many festivals during the course of a year, with song and dance as major components. This in itself reflects well on these optimistic, positively-oriented people. The festivals take place on important dates in the age-old Miao calendar. If you are fond of colorful local pageantry, then you should definitely check to see whether your visit coincides with any of the festivals. See Guizhou Festival Calendar.
Kaili is a gateway to the area's many Miao villages, scattered over the nearby mountains. These include Xijiang, the largest Miao village in Asia, well-known for Miao silver ornaments and Miao embroidery; Datang Short Skirt Miao Village, a place for visitors to enjoy one distinctive style of dress worn by Miao women; and Langdeshang, where the ancient Miao culture is well-preserved.
Kaili is at the middle of the popular ethnic culture tour route, stretching from Sanjiang in Guangxi to Dali and Lijiang in Yunnan. It’s a convenient stopping-off point for travelers who wish to explore China's ancient ethnic culture.
Miao and Dong people are fond of sour food and they pickle a variety of vegetables and meat all year round. Representative dishes are Sour Fish Soup and Pickled Fish.
Sour Fish Soup is a popular dish amongst the Miao. It’s distinctive for its hot and sour flavors, believed to help enhance the appetite and to keep you warm in winter. The exact means of preparing the dish vary, but the main ingredients are usually: chili, tomatoes, soybean sprouts, and fresh fish.
This is a traditional dish of the Dong people. Fish is pickled in a clay jar with tomatoes, hot pepper powder and salt, for about half a year. When pickled fish has been barbecued over a fire, it often looks black as carbon, but the meat on the fish is soft and tasty.
In addition to local dishes, restaurants in Kaili also serve food from other parts of the country.
Kaili is home to a subtropical monsoon climate, humid throughout the year. Half the year is rainy season; especially late spring and early summer, when the area experiences almost daily rain.
Regardless of the weather, the best time to visit Kaili and the surrounding villages is the first lunar month (late January to February), as most local festivals take place during this period. Be forewarned, however, that the weather during this time of year is freezing. Another period when the region celebrates many festivals is after the fall harvest, from late August to early November.
Traveling in winter can be very cold, so travelers are advised to take good warm clothing, including a hat and gloves.
It's a good idea to ensure you have a good pair of walking shoes. Tours to Kaili and the surrounding villages may involve lots of walking, usually on uneven surfaces, as well as on steps.
Bring an umbrella with you, as almost half the year in the Kaili region is rainy season.
Be aware of the times when tourist attractions are most crowded – the first weeks in May and October, weekends, and during July and August – and leave enough time to cope with the crowds.
Post office: You won't have any problem finding a post office in Kaili. Xijiang Miao village and Zhaoxing Dong village have also set up post offices. In other minority villages, however, there is no post office.
Accommodation: Hotels in Kaili are able to provide comfortable accommodation. Although there are lodging options in some minority villages, these mainly cater for Chinese tourists and their facilities are very simple.