my father came in the afternoon to share some information about southwestern china, a place my parents have been to before. we further defined my route based on transportation option, whether riding on tracks via trains or roads via bus. i've sort of blocked out my trip into areas where i'll be spending at least a week exploring (so a minimum of 5 weeks):
1) the area around guilin and yangshuo (guangxi province). i hear it's much like the karst formations i saw in northern vietnam (it makes sense, since guangxi province borders vietnam). most visitors take a ferry ride between guilin and yangshuo: my father suggested i should walk it instead, following the course of the river for 30 miles, with more opportunities to explore.
2) the area around guiyang (guizhou province). not a lot of travelers come to guizhou, it has a reputation for being one of the poorest chinese provinces. that can only mean more authentic sights, free from the usual tourist trappings.
3) xishuangbanna (southern yunnan). the only part of china where there are pristine tropical jungles. wild animals like elephants and tigers still roam the forest. here i plan on indulging in a bit of naturing.
4) the area between dali and lijiang (northwestern yunnan). from the photos i've seen, being in lijiang is like being transported back in time to some ancient chinese village. it's so picturesque, i can spend days just wandering the streets taking photos.
5) chengdu and chongqing (sichuan province). come for the pandas (there's a panda breeding center), stay for the food (spicy cuisine). there's also the sanxingdui museum featuring non-han artifacts and the dazu carvings.
approximately 10,000 miles of traveling! if i can fly directly into guilin however, i can cut off 400 miles from my trip (i wouldn't have to traverse guangdong province which would take a day or two).
(china map "borrowed" from frommers site)