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Huashan Cliff Paintings (Huashan Bihua)

Adorning the cliffs that rise alongside the Zuo River are what are alleged to be the largest Shamanic murals in the world. Although buses leave Pingxiang station for Ningming every 15 minutes, starting at 6:50am and costing ¥10 ($1.30/65p), a more interesting alternative route utilizes the daily slow train to Nanning, which leaves at 10:07am and covers the 40km (25-mile) journey in 70 minutes and costs just ¥2.50 (35¢/15p).

From Ningming station, head out of the main door and walk 200m (656 ft.) down to the Tuolongqiao bridge. Invariably a boat tout will stop you on the way and escort you down under the bridge where a number of decidedly troll-like fellows keep some poor excuses for boats. From here to the best paintings are almost another 40km (25 miles) and will take a good 6 hours there and back. There is a visitor's lodge at the site but at ¥300 ($39/£20), it is inordinately overpriced for a night of discomfort and mosquitoes. Hold out for ¥80 ($10/£5.20) for the round-trip getting back to Ningming around 6pm. The first hour is spent acclimatizing to the incredible din of the outboard engine, which is only occasionally drowned out by dynamite blasting from some of the local limestone quarries along the riverbank. It takes about 1 hour to reach the first few examples and then approximately another hour to reach the main viewing area, with the best spot being on the East Bank of the adjoining Mingjiang River. Although these paintings are claimed to be some 2,000 years old, I find it rather suspicious that they have not faded over time, nor have the rock faces been darkened and weathered.

The last train from Ningming leaves at 3:25pm, but for ¥2 (25¢/15p) one of the little converted Moto taxis will take you to Ningming bus station, where buses for Pingxiang leave every 15 minutes, costing ¥10 ($1.30/65p).

Friendship Border ( Youyiguan)

Rather a strange name for the site of one of the worlds' bloodiest pyrrhic victories of recent times. At the end of the 1970s, the Chinese government decided that Vietnam was cozying up far too nicely with the Soviet Union and deserved punishing for such disloyal behavior. Deng Xiaoping then boldly announced that PLA troops would be sent across the border and of course the Vietnamese were waiting patiently for them, mowing down the first 20,000 with heavy machine guns. There is a museum is located at the border that conveniently makes no reference to this face-losing episode.

Buses leave Pingxiang station at 7:30am, 10:20am, and 1:30pm with the 20km (12-mile) journey costing ¥10 ($1.30/65p). While the natural surroundings are truly spectacular much of the valley is still a half-finished parking lot. A ticket office charges ¥30 ($3.90/£1.95) admission to gullible tourists, but foreigners can safely stroll by, as if they are walking up to the border. The gatehouse consists of three floors of propaganda stating how the brave imperial forces (a mere 5,000 Zhuang peasants without modern weapons and heavily outnumbered) under the leadership of Feng Zicai held out against the French colonists, a defeat that eventually bought down the French government, but unsurprisingly makes no mention of the 1979 incident. Crumbling stone steps lead up on either side to fortifications, tunnels, and gun emplacements and despite the numerous signs asking visitors to "take care of the cultural relics please," they are in such appalling condition that the entire site would be closed for safety reasons if it were in the West.

Taxis and motorbikes loiter conspiratorially back down near the ticket office, asking ¥30 ($3.90/£1.95) to go back to Pingxiang.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.