With the difference in time back with the home office, we were able to take advantage of the down time between the end of the day and start of the next to do some site seeing. Our colleagues in China organized a trip to a place called Huangguoshu Waterfall, which is a two-hour drive (take or give) west of Guiyang.
The waterfall is part of a National Park and is the largest of its kind in China, as well as one of the largest in the world. What was amazing with this waterfall was the fact that you could walk behind it... peering out through the rushing water was quite an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. According to the park's Web site, 20 cubic meters per second of water flows over the falls, and that goes up to 1500 cubic meters per second during peak season. The park is quite a bit away from any civilization, but it was obvious that it was a touristy place, what with most of the parking lots being filled with buses and the souvenir stand "gauntlet" entering and leaving the waterfall area.
The drive itself to and from was also memorable. I was reminded (once again) of previous experiences on the roads in China. The highways are very similar to those in the US (they must have been designed with MicroStation and Bentley products), but that is about where the similarity ends. There are not that many vehicles on most highways once you get out of the cities (where gridlock is everywhere), but the dynamics of the traffic on the highways borders on the extreme... cars and trucks travel at different speeds (between 20 and 180 KMH) in the same space. Plus, you often see people (even children) walking or cleaning up on the berm or median. I am not quite sure why paint striping exists, as weaving or even straddling the center line is a common practice -- any skiers would certainly be reminded of giant slaloms. Two additional directional signals are often used... the horn and the brights. There appears to be a subtle difference when which of those two are used, but I believe the former is for "Get the beep out of the way", where the latter is "I am blinking coming through." I have noticed that personal space is much, much smaller in China than elsewhere, and it appears that holds true with traffic. Passing happens with very little room to spare -- in fact, it always amazes me that the vehicles have hardly any dings or dents in them.
On the way out and back, we observed quite a number of smallish hills (less than 100 feet tall). They all appeared to be made of sand and limestone, although the vegetation that covered them hid what was underneath. It was a unique site... most of the hills looked like inverted cones. We also passed a number of fields (mostly rice and corn) and small communities -- the latter consisting of a number of shanty-style shacks (many with satellite dishes on the roof, visibly confirming that infrastructure did exist) and unfinished and abandoned buildings/construction. That struck us as sort of odd, since not too far away (in the city) there was so much active construction going on. We noticed that some of the houses had flat roofs and water was pumped onto them -- we could not figure out why that was done (some speculation was to heat the water, or to be used for washing...)
One other thing... when we first arrived at the waterfalls, we decided to grab some lunch and found this (literally) hole in a wall place. It was by far the best meal that we have had on this stay. The meats had a grilled flavor to them and everything seemed very, very fresh. There were some things that we were not able to identify, but since we were all not picky eaters, most of everything was consumed. I even picked up some genuine green tea leaves from the "cafe", although I am checking to see what US Customs has to say about that.
In any case, we returned to the hotel after it started raining and got right back to work in preparation for our next stop, Tokyo.