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Tourist Guides for China
Shaoguan City, Guangdong (August 2010)

Shaoguan (韶关; Sháoguān) is a small city in Guangdong Province and is famous for its surrounding nature and the hot springs.

Shaoguan City is an ancient historic centre and this guide refers to the whole of Shaoguan City District covering some 7, 000 square miles. Shaoguan is known as the Gateway to Guangdong Province, and features the only overland mountain pass connecting Guangdong with northern China. Meiguan pass was so treacherous in olden times that it was deemed unsuitable for mules!

Shaoguan region can be dated back to 129, 000 BC with the discovery of 'Maba Man', making this area one of the cradles of Chinese civilisation. Much later Shaoguan area belonged to the Chu Kingdom during the Warring States Period (476BC-221BC). The place was named 'Shao' in the Sui Dynasty (581-618), and in Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties it gained the name 'Shaoguan' for the government established passes here to collect taxes.

However, today the main industry is tourism with Danxiashan (Dan Xia Mountain), Nanhua Temple, and hot springs being the main attractions. Most visitors are Chinese as this lovely area has not yet been discovered by western tour operators.

Physical Features:
Lying in the south part of the Nanling Mountains, Shaoguan has vast areas of karst landforms. Hilly areas constitute the main land of the city. The Danxia Landform is revered for the red sandstone of Mt. Danxia in Renhua County. Generally the terrain is higher in the north and lower in the south.

Climatic Features:
Enjoying a subtropical humid monsoon climate, the city is affected by the seasonal winds all the year round. Spring is overcast and rainy, while precipitation in autumn is less. March to August is the rainy season and September to February the next year is the dry season.

When to Go:
Shaoguan has abundant rainfall and moderate weather, so visitors can get there at anytime, especially in spring and autumn.

Shaoguan does not have a civilian airport, but is linked to Guangzhou and all major Chinese cities by rail. The new Express Train to Guangzhou takes 45 minutes, whilst  through trains to Hong Kong take less than 4 hours. Ferries also provide good and cost-effective local transportation. New Shaoguan Port is a commercial centre for large container ships with connections to other Chinese cities, and especially Hong Kong Tunmen Port, and Macao. Unfortunately there do not appear to be any equivalent passenger ferries as yet.

There are two main bus stations known as East bus station and West bus station. Both service all main destinations, whilst the East bus station also services Danxia Mountain area. The main bus terminal is just next to the train station. Buses leave from here to the major sights. Locally operating buses start here, but the town centre is within walking distance. Just cross the river opposite the train station and you are almost there.

Tourist guides will occasionally offer their services to newly arrived travellers. Prices obviously are subject to negotiation.

What to Do


Shopping is mainly restricted to the modern pedestrianised thoroughfares that mark the city centre, and Fengdu Road. Here you will find an abundance of modern and entertaining shopping experiences of western standard.


Restaurants in Shaoguan are not set as densely as in Guangzhou. A good place to find many restaurants is Heping Road (和平路) at the northern end of the main shopping and pedestrian area. The choices include a McDonalds and various styles of Chinese cuisine.


Shaoguan's downtown area lies on a peninsula shaped by the Zhen River on the east side and the Wu River on the west, which merge at the peninsula's southern tip to form the Bei River. The main street, Fengdu Road, runs north-south through the centre, crossed by Fengcai Road at the north end of town, and Jiefang Rd in the south. Most of the town is functional and modern.

There are a few western bars, disco's and western restaurants; but they are not as common as in larger cities. So far we have none to recommend, but will personally research these later in 2010.


Most of Shaoguan District features standard Guangdong white and red tiled housing, along with typical and missable apartment blocks. Outside the city, and especially in ethnic towns, this becomes a softer white and orange, with a little more style and marked Buddhist influence. Meanwhile Yao structures are traditionally made of wood and bamboo, as can be seen in the accompanying photographs. There are also a few Hakka Tulou towards the east of the region.

Where to Stay

Dongyuan Hotel (东园招待所; Dōng​yuán​Zhāo​dài​suǒ​), (Next to the river at the junction of Jianguolu (健国路) and Dongdinanlu (东堤南路)). Rooms can be bargained down to ¥50 per bed and night.

Hot Spring Hotel (泉景酒店; Quán​jǐng​jiǔ​diàn​), 1 Huanyuan West Street (环园西路1号; Huányuánxīlù), ☎ +86 751 8186068..

Danxia Hotel (大丹霞酒店; Dà​dān​xiá​jiǔ​diàn​), 128 Jiefang Road (解放路128号; Jiě​fàng​lù​), ☎ +86 751 8188206.

City Sights and Tourism:

City sightseeing is limited, but worth visiting are: Fengcailou Mansion, Mausoleum of Zhang jiuling, Mt. Furong and Maozifeng Peak. However, the soul of this area lies elsewhere, as described below.

Nanhua Temple (南化神寺; Nán​huā​shén​sì​ ). The former temple of Huineng (the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism) and the location of his mummified remains. As such, the temple is an important pilgrimage site for practitioners of Zen Buddhism.

Nanhua Buddhist Temple lies on the side of Caoxi, six kilometres away from Maba Town, Qujiang County. The temple was first built in A.D.502 and is situated some 22 kilometres (14 miles) from the Shaoguan downtown. It is a famous Buddhist site, where the sixth founder of the Buddhism generation in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Hui Neng, established the southern sect of Zen. With a history of 1,500 years, the temple keeps many national treasures, including the Da Zang Sutra, decree and cassock of thousand years ago.

More than 300 national first class historical relics such as gold-silked cassock with one thousand Buddha's, and the Decree by Wu Zetian, wood-carved arhat of the Beisong Dynasty, copper clock of thousand Jin's , pan of thousand people in Yuan Dynasty, steel tower of thousand Buddha in Qing Dynasty and Dazang Sutra written with gold, The temple is surrounded by ancient trees, several of which are over 40 meters in height, and are rare species in world today.

Danxia Mountain (丹霞山; Dān​xiá​shān​ ). A canyon like valley carved into the stone. The main attractions include an old monastery on top and various formations with sexual characteristics.

Male stone is the natural pillar which looks like male genitals. It is 28m in height and 7m in diameter. Titled as “the first grotesque stone in the world” and “the first unique scenery in the world”, the stone pillar has experienced a history of 300,000 years.

Female stone is the natural cavern which looks like female genitalia. It is 10.3m in height, 4.8m in width and the cavern is approximately 4.3m in depth.
These two stones integrate Yin and Yang, hardness and softness, largeness and smallness. These vivid and lifelike portrayals are coincidently located in the same scenic spot.

The mountain boasts of the largest scenic area and the most beautiful scenery in Guangdong. It is also a world famous geopark. The Danxia Landform is the name given to this area, as exemplified in Danxia mountain. The area contains nearly 700 crags of large red glutenite and many grotto temples. Some are hidden and can only be seen from Jinjiang river.

Jinjiang River Cruise is something we came across simply because of Lamy Chan's excellent photography. By datestamp we conclude this is an optional part of the standard 2-3 day tour of: Nanhua Temple, and especially Danxia Mountain. Whilst many of Lamy's pictures are fascinating, we note he was not particularly impressed with the hot spring resort = looked great, but standards internally appear low in reality.

That stated, the river cruise itself looked excellent value from his photographs, and we would consider this to be a 'must-do'!

Hot Springs - one quarter of all Guangdong hot springs lie in Shaoguan, making this an ideal destination for those seeking warm water and mud therapy. The promoted one is called Caoxi Hot Spring Holiday Village, and is part of the Nanhua hot spring region. This lies adjacent to Nanhua Temple, and also very close to Maba Man grotto.

This famous hot spring boasts: more than 130 villas and 600 luxurious guest rooms as well as auxiliary facilities such as restaurants, bars, dancing hall, International Conference Centre and business centre. If this all sounds fantastic, then look at Lamy Chan's photographs of the room he was given to stay in one night. You may prefer to stay at one of the smaller profile competitors?

However apart form Lamy, others who have visited these springs, including my good friend Neal from UK, state this is a very excellent place to visit and he had a great overnight stay. He particularly enjoyed the hot mud springs which have excellent therapeutic value for the body, and this was followed by great massage ... and then great nightlife. You better try it yourself and tell me about your personal experiences.

Tea Picking Opera. Quejiang country, is famous for its “Tea Picking Opera”. It has been honoured the “National Model County of Culture” and the “Guangdong's Model County for Implementation of South Guangdong Splendour Engineering Project”. Well, for tourists it is great and well worth seeing. These working songs have developed over centuries and now form a distinct heritage of Shaoguan.

Here you will also find the distinct 'White-leaf Tea', which is peculiar to this region of China only.

White Water Rafting
This sport is available on the Wu River not far from the city centre. Nine Rapids and Eighteen Beaches Drift lies along the Wujiang River, between Pingshi Town and the urban area of Lechang city. It runs 60 kilometres with 65 meters of drop. The name comes from the nine rapids and eighteen dangerous beaches. The river-rapids wind their way with peaks rising on both sides, making this a thoroughly scenic and occasionally dauntingly safe experience for 'first-timers'.

We suggest you head for Yunji Mountain, which appears to be part of the Danxia Range, but listed separately in tourist information. It is also the source of Xingfeng jiang reservoir and is to be found in Xingfeng County.

Jinji Mountain
Jinji Mountain is located in pingshi Town, Lechang City. The mountain is named because there is a huge stone which looks like the crowing cock. There are many scenic spots in Jinji Mountain,among which Yizi (dash-form)Peak, Jinji Stone,canyon and site of Hong Xuanjiao’s revolting against the Qing forces are the most prominent.

Shaoshi Scenic Spot is an important component of Danxia Mountain world geological park. This is the terminal point of “Emperor Shun’s Southward Inspection” and the birthplace of Shao music. The Scenic spot includes Shiding sightseeing area, Baizai Top exploring and sightseeing area and Jingui Rock sightseeing area. While Emperor Shun was playing music here one day, 36 surprisingly strange stones suddenly appeared.

Nanling National Forest Park
This natural reserve lies within the boundaries of Yao Autonomous County of Ruyuan, and is the only virgin forest remaining in Guangdong Province. Some scenic spots have been developed, including the highest the peak in Guangdong (Shikeng Kong, 1920m)

Cheba Ridge: eco-heritage region
This Chinese area of natural protection lies in the southeast of Shixing County, 46 kilometres away from the county seat. It is characterised by widespread virgin forest inhabited by many rare and endangered animals under national-level protection, such as Huanan tigers. The protection area, integrating scientific research, amusement and leisure, as well as exploration and body buildup, is one of the main scenic spots of eco-tour in Guangdong Province.

Ancient Buddha Rock
This large grotto complex lies 5km west of Lechang city. this large limestone cave offers stalactites and stalagmites, and there are three layers with the highest point at 30 meters.

This is what the official Tourism Bureau says "The cave is about 12000square meters with various kinds of stone bamboo speots, stone flowers, stone posts and stone curtains. Besider, there are corallites 300 million years ago and rare large-scale stone brains".

I've just got to see those 'stone brains', as I have a sneaking suspicion that many people I know are actually still using them to this very day!

Yao Cultural Heritage Village
for those seeking cultural exchange at ethnic level, then Bibei Yao Fastness is highly recommended by official sources. It lies in Bibei Town, Ruyuan Yao Autonomous County. The name comes from “back of turtle”. In Chinese ,turtle is pronounced as Bi in local language. Because the “鳖” (turtle in Chinese) is so complicated that the name becomes Bibei. Bibei Yao Fastness is the origin of the overseas Yao nationality. Please also refer to our notes below describing the Yao Ethnic Minority

Mantang Enclosed Building
This Hakka structure is regarded as the finest architectural masterpiece of Hakka building in all of China. It is located in Aizi Town, Shixing County. Whilst it is regarded as the very best example of Hakka residences to Chinese authorities, to the western eyes it resembles a none-de script square fortress. Tourists may find this building fascinating, but will be far better rewarded by visiting one of the open roundhouses nearby.Our Hakka section lies below...

Recommended Tour
We would advise you to spend a week in and around Shaoguan and 'Do it yourself'. By this we mean catch the local buses and do a round trip picking out the major towns around, and asking locally for their advice of what to see and do. You will be amazed at just how many people hereabouts speak very good English - and it gets you into the heart of the culture! This is ideal for independent travellers, and those with a spirit of adventure.

We plan to do this ourselves later in 2010, or you can find Mark's Travelogue presentation for CCTV 9 (Official English channel in China) where he documents and excellent itinerary.

Pearl Lane and Plum Pass
These two highly related and interesting sites lie in the extreme north of Guangdong, and concern the only land passage between Guangdong and northern China. They are of utmost importance to the history and development of Guangdong in particular, and China as a whole.

Ancient Meiguan Path
Meiguan Path or Plum Pass represents the Ancient land corridor and the main (only) traffic artery between the Central Plains of the Yangtze, and Lingnan (NanYue, Nanling, or Canton). This is the place where the only old road north out of Guangdong begins. The trail was treacherous in olden times, and not fit for mules. The Guangdong side is mainly set with pines and bamboo, and follows the Zhen River. The side in Jiangxi Province is lined with plum trees - hence the name.  There is a fortress at the top, which resembles a small fortified archway. It was was called Hengpuguan or Qinguan in the ancient times, and is located on Mei Ridge, 20 kilometres north of Nanxiong City.

The path was first built during the period of Qin and Han Dynasty's (over 2 centuries BC), and later widened under the leadership of Zhang Jiuling ,a famous prime minister and poet in the year of A.D.716. Meiguan is a beautiful place, and Ancient Meiguan path (at the present length of 8,000 meters) with plum blossoms all over the mountain has attracted countless poets from all parts of China. They have come here to pay a visit, linger, and seek inspiration for their works of art.

Ancient Zhuji Lane
This ancient town is one of the most important in the history of Guangdong, and also China as a whole. Zhujixiang lies 9 kilometres to the north of Nanxiong City. The road surface is built with cobblestones and lined on both sides by ancient homes built by fleeing officials and families. Some of these buildings are still erect today and offer shrines outside their doors for honouring ancestors. Many Guangdong residents can trace their ancestry back over millennia to this small village.

""This place is quite unique, even for China, as it became a focal point of congregation in northern Guangdong Province for all the different clans that fled south, which also included court officials during the waning years of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) (南宋朝). It consists of a lake with three gates, the South Gate (南門) which also serves as the main entrance, the Middle Gate (中門) and the Northern Gate (北門) with a cobbled lane, Pearl Lane/Zhujixiang (珠璣巷) connecting them. All the clans had official residences lining both sides of the cobbled lane and even today these old buildings have been preserved as remembrance clan shrines. Banyan trees were planted in several locations and the one identified as a “thousand year old banyan” (千年榕樹) is located beside the Double Dragon Bridge (雙龍橋) which is not far from the new Chen shrine."" Extract courtesy of Al Chinn and House of Chinn

Up until 824 this town was known as Jingzongxiang, but a gift of pearls to a leading official Zhang Chang required the town be renamed to avoid offending the Emperor who's name was also Jingzong. The town then adopted its new name of zhujixiang or Pearl Lane.

The town is also linked to the favoured courtesan Hu Fei, who's life became forfeit due to misunderstandings during the 8th month of the 8th year of the Southern Song Emperor Du Zong's reign (1272). Sentenced to an obscure life as a nun, she later fled and found a new home as courtesan to Huang Zhuwan in Zhujixiang town. Much later a disgruntled servant gave her presence away to Court Officials, and the town was besieged and there was bloody conflict. To spare further slaughter Hu Fei took her own life by jumping down a well. This well still exists, and is now a shrine in her honour. You can read the full story , known as Hu Fei's Turmoil here

To learn more about this area and its unique history and presence in the annals of Chinese development, please refer to the excellent website by Al Chinn called House of Chinn. His pages concerning Meiguan and Zhujixiang begin here

Highly recommended!
To take a walk on the wild side of Chinese culture, tread the trails trodden 2, 240 years ago, and experience at first hand one of the most beautiful hidden treasures of China - we suggest you stay overnight and enjoy the fullness and variety Meiguan and Zhujixiang offer.



Shaoguan is regarded as being the home of the second most widely spoken form of Cantonese (in order: Guangzhou Cantonese, Shaoguan Cantonese, Taishan Cantonese, and Hong Kong Cantonese). The modern differences are minor, and non-local people will find it difficult to differentiate Shaoguan Cantonese from that spoken in Guangzhou.

Otherwise common local languages are spoken by the Yao ethnic group and the Hakka minority. There are a few other languages spoken by other groups - too small to focus on in this general introductory guide.

Teaching English opportunities exist in Shaoguan city, and anyone interested in teaching there can contact us for more information concerning both public and private schools. In particular our good friend Sally Fan runs a private English Training Centre right in the heart of town, and would welcome additional native English teachers who hold TEFL or equivalent qualifications. Her offer is very good, so contact us for further information

Yao Ethnic Minority

Whilst the majority of the population are Han Chinese, there is a large ethnic group located here called the Yao. They maintain their own customs and traditions, native colourful dress, language, and dance. They are renowned for their 'Tea Picking Opera' and Marriage Ceremonies. They are a very welcoming people and it is possible to stay with them in their homes and join in their daily lives. However, visitors are usually required to drink a glass of the local liquor in respect of the village Matriarch before welcome is fully extended.

Whilst almost 3 million Yao live in China (Mainly in the southern Provinces of: Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan), they are a multi-country group with half a million relatives in Vietnam, and presence in Laos and Siam also.

The typical houses of the Yao are rectangular and they have structures made of wood and bamboo. Normally it has three rooms: a room and two dormitories in the lateral side. Each one of these rooms has a small oven to cook.

The men and the women cover their heads with a black or red scarf. Some women substitute this scarf by a turban that can adopt different forms.

The traditional suit of the women is of bright colours. They also decorate their shirts with decorations made out of silver.

In Vietnam, Yao people celebrate many exciting and meaningful festivals such as Nhơn chung lỉnh (literally: Red rice, Green rice"), Nhiang chằm đao (literally: Jumping Festival).

Marriage is traditionally arranged by go-between's who represent the boy's family to the girl's parents at the age of 12. If the union is acceptable, a bride-price is negotiated, typically ranging from three to ten silver bars, worth about US$100 each, a partial artifact from the opium trade. The wedding takes place in two installments, first at the bride's house, followed by a procession to the groom's house where a second ceremony occurs.


Although there are 45 million Hakka in the world today, with 60% living in Huizhou District of northeastern Guangdong Province; the Hakka are considered to be a Han sub-group, and not in indigenous ethnic minority. Over 500 years of southerly migration they are now considered widely to be one of the Cantonese peoples or Yue. This was not always an easy integration, but time heals old wounds and they now have a homeland, language, and social identity of their own. Famous Hakka's include Dr Sun Yat Sen and Deng Xiaoping. From this you may infer they are open and liberated, and do not mind having their own opinions about life!

Due to their agrarian lifestyle, the Hakka's have a unique architecture based on defence and communal living, and a hearty savory cuisine based on an equal balance between texturised meat and vegetables, and fresh vegetables. Their unique round (or sometimes square) homes called 'Tulou' are considered of world heritage status by UNESCO.

There is a large Hakka community in the east of Shaoguan City District, where you can stay in a Tulou overnight and enjoy their effervescent hospitality.

Ancient Culture

Maba Man (Traditional: 馬壩人, simplified: 马坝人 pinyin: mǎbà-rén) is the pre-modern hominid whose remains were discovered in caves near the town called Maba, near Shaoguan city in the north part of Guangdong province, China.

The Maba Men lived in caves at Lion Rock, near Maba. The site is now a park and tourist attraction including the possibility to visit the cave and a museum nearby.

Although described at the site as "ape-men", the Maba Men were not really very apelike and were comparable to European Neanderthals

In 1958, a skull fossil of early Homo Sapiens (Maba Man) was found in a karsts cave in Maba area in Qujiang County, Guangdong Province. Maba Man was an early Homo Sapiens of the middle Paleolithic Age. The skull fossil found here belonged to a middle-aged man. The skull had very coarse supercilliary arches and an extremely contracted orbital surface. The frontal bone was longer than the parietal bone. All these indicate the primitive character of Homo Erectus, although the skull had thin walls and the brain was larger than Beijing Man. Thus, it has been classified as Homo Sapiens. Actually, this individual represented a transitional state from Homo Erectus to early Homo Sapiens. These remains can be dated between the Middle and Late Pleistocene Epochs -- about 200,000 to 100,000 years ago.

In the same cave where Maba Man was discovered, a large quantity of animal fossils of the Fourth Ice Age has been unearthed.

Industry and Commerce

In the 1950s, Shaoguan became Guangdong's main base of heavy industry and raw material (Shaoguan is the home to a steel factory and some metal processing factories) and it was once the 'power house' with a far-reaching economic influence in Guangdong. Today the main established industries are: steel and iron smelting, metal castings and components manufacture, metallurgy, electricity, forestry, mushrooms, and tobacco. The two remaining large industries may bring the District into conflict at some point; as Shaoguan is a major producer of construction raw materials and basic products; whilst it's fastest growing enterprise is Tourism.

Shaoguan remains an important steel producing area, and also a major source of electricity production via it's old coal fired power stations - not a pretty sight in such an area of outstanding natural beauty! However, this unsightly power station is responsible for only 30% of Shaoguan's electrical output, with 36% and 34% respectively being produced via thermal and hydroelectric generators. Thermal production is targeted to increase dramatically, as Shaoguan responds to Guangdong Province's call for more electricity.

New industry is a lot cleaner, with emphasis on new factory developments for high tech research and production in the fields of: computers, medical support industries and related advanced electronics, consumer electronics, and new materials

Shaoguan is the reputable “hometown of nonferrous metal” in China. Rich in material resources, Shaoguan ranks first in its forest resources. It is a key national forest area, acclaimed as the biological gene bank of south China. In 2011 GDP in Shaoguan is forecast to exceed 12%. It is also fully integrating into the Pearl River Economic Zone over the next five years.


Shaoguan is a fantastic destination for anyone seeking to explore local South China and its culture. Being a couple of hours by road from Guangzhou, it is a perfect retreat from modern city life.

Western tourism is not particularly well developed, but is very well supported by local communities. This in our opinion makes this beautiful area ideal for more independent travellers, and those who would like to do their own thing.

We would recommend you get here before it becomes overly commercialised, and perhaps as a result - looses some innate charm.
This information is as supplied by China Expats, as dated 2nd August 2010, and/or other reliable sources. Pictures unless otherwise stated are courtesy of Lamy Chan and, and reproduced with thanks under Collective Commons 3 Licence.

Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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