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Guizhou Province, 184km (110 miles) E of Guiyang

As the capital of the Qian Dongnan Autonomous Prefecture of the Miao and Dong nationalities in eastern Guizhou, Kaili is the gateway to some of the most fascinating minority villages you're likely to encounter in China. About 65% of the prefecture's population is Miao, clustered to the east and northeast of Kaili. The Dong are to the southeast. This entire region hosts more than 100 festivals each year, with the greatest concentration around February/March and October/November, making these excellent months to visit. Be warned that travel around the Miao areas can be difficult due to their narrow, winding roads, but this is often light-years ahead of traveling through some of the Dong region's backwaters, where a farmer's truck or your own feet might be the only means of navigating pothole-ridden mud paths. In truth, half the fun of traveling in this part of the country is getting there in the first place, so bring your sense of adventure and don't forget the seat cushion.