One day visiting Kaiping and its fortresses

Kaiping lady with broom

Kaiping is two hours away from Guangzhou by bus. We took a bus from Tianhe bus station for 61CNY per person (USD $9.80) to Kaiping as there are no direct trains from Guangzhou to Kaiping.. You can get to Kaiping from the following bus stations in Guangzhou:

– Provincial (Metro Station : Guangzhou Railway Station),

– Guangfo (Metro Station: Zhongshanba),

– Fangcun (Metro Station : Fangcun),

– East (Metro Station : Guangzhou East Railway Station) and

– South (Metro Station : South Railway Station) bus stations.

The ride takes 2-3 hours. We left early in the morning and came back later in the evening,

There are fortresses everywhere in the city, built in the early 1900s when the Chinese came back form their travels in Europe. The Kaiping Dialous are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We didn’t really prepare anything for the trip and personally,I was not very interested in visiting these fortresses, so we failed to write down the bus numbers to take to get to all the fortresses that we wanted to see.

Kaiping bus

We arrived at the bus station in Kaiping where local buses also run. We hop in a bus hoping it would take us to the diaolous. Hiring a private driver for the day might be the easiest way to visit the Diaolous as some can be up to 17km away, the cost should 300+CNY (roughly USD $48) for the day

Once again, there is Chinese confusion in the bus and I am unable to communicate the word “fortress” in Chinese to the bus driver. He drops us off in what seems to be a random place in the middle of nowhere but then we see that it is where there is the oldest diaolou in Kaiping located in Sanmenli. Well, at least that’s that. The ride cost us 8CNY (USD $1.30) per person and there were no entrance fees to visit this diaolou. Other diaolous may have an entrance fee.


The Oldest Diaolou in Kaiping is in San Men li

The Oldest Diaolou in Kaiping is in San Men li

We make our way in and see a man on his tractor, working the rice paddies. The water is green and polluted with trash…”would you like some rice with that? No, thanks!”

Kaiping rice paddy

We walk along the alley which brings us to the fortresses. Everything is calm, not a sound, the sky is grey and the air is heavy. We see four old ladies chilling right after we passed in front of a room where people of all ages were playing cards (it was called: Fortress History Exhibit Hall, it has apparently changed since). The four old ladies indicate the path to us. We enter this sort of residential area where all the houses/buildings look like little castles. The little glimpses we get of the interiors reveal piles of unidentifiable pieces of plastics, chickens in cage, and various household electrical appliances but everything seems empty. Not one person. We continue on our way, ready to get lost in the alleys.

Oldest Diaolou residence

Kaiping back alley

We finally get to the oldest fortress where there are a couple of street vendors. What are they selling? Dried garlic, spices, some peanuts. The vendors are old ladies who look tired and who, frankly, didn’t seem too eager to make a sale. Still not a sound around here. We keep going.

Oldest Diaolou saleslady

We get to a pond where the water is also green and polluted. A lady is washing her dishes in the pond….hmmm….

Kaiping washing dishes

A dog starts barking at us….well, it is time to leave this Blair Witch, eerie-feeling place. We try to interview or get a story from the four old ladies “I don’t know how to speak/ tell a story” she tells me in Cantonese. Okay. The four old ladies seem to all have missing teeth, weird eyes…almost making us think whether there is a problem with the water around here, something a la Erin Brockovich. J’s head is even spinning. Let’s leave. Only problem now, is that we’re on a highway in the middle of nowhere…Luckily Super J is here, otherwise, I would have freaked out, but like he said, I wouldn’t have been here in the first place either. Good point. We cross the highway and start walking along a random path hoping it would lead to other fortresses. Another dog starts barking at us. Hardcore.  Let’s go the other way. We walk along another random alley and we see many women working. They are sowing rice seeds in the rice paddies. Yay! They have huge smiles on their faces. The first sign of life in this super gloomy place. It felt as if we were in a horror movie. The weather definitely did not help.

Kaiping across the street

Back on the highway and we bumped into this little man, “can we take a bus from here to get back to Guangzhou?”, I ask in Cantonese. He answers in the local dialect, which kind of sounds like Cantonese mixed with something I did not recognize (Kaipingese) but he seems to understands me and says yes. He seems to be waiting for it too. The bus arrived and dropped us off at the Kaiping bus station for 6CNY (USD $1) per person where we caught the bus back to Guangzhou. Phew! It is time to go home. Not the most successful adventure of the trip and but it was pretty intense and interesting.

Kaiping back ladies

There are many hotels to stay in Kaiping such as New World Hotel (close to the bus station) and Kaiping Fujing Hotel. Both offer WiFi, hot water shower and air-conditioning for roughly USD $20 per night.


Find out where to stay and what to do in one day in Kaiping at


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