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Hidden deep in mountains in western Hubei Province, Enshi, the seat of Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, is well-known for its natural attractions such as picturesque scenery and elaborate caves, as well as singular customs.
Among the natural attractions, Tenglong (Galloping Dragon) Cave is probably the best known. It is actually a cave network consisting of a group of both “dry” and “wet” caves, with a primary cave smooth and spacious enough for 15 trucks to park abreast at the mouth.
Stalagmites, stalactites, and other formations in the shapes of flowers, curtains, screens, humans and monkeys can be found spread throughout the cave. Subterranean currents full of fish and shrimp can be seen now and then. While some sections of the river flow very slow, others are much faster. This is a scene that is rarely found in other caves. Luoshui (Water Dropping) Cave, within Tenglong Cave, is notable for both a waterfall and a river that enables visitors to take a boat trip. A wealth of stalactites and various sculptured formations compose the environment of Tenglong Cave, while waterfalls and rivers provide thunderous accompaniment now and then.
Enshi is also known for the rich customs of the Tujia ethnic group. Pavilions, platforms, and buildings with upturned eaves can be found everywhere, especially in Tusi City, a local scenic spot featuring many Tujia styled buildings. From primitive hanging houses to elaborately embroidered costumes, Tusi City is immersed in the strong ambience of the ethnic group. Nearly everybody in Enshi can dance and sing as well. At the annual Tujia Young Ladies’ Party, also dubbed Eastern Lover’s Day, visitors can witness local singing and dancing customs to celebrate the occasion.
Tujia people are very hospitable, and according to local customs, they entertain guests with large bowls of meat and wine. After hosts and guests clink bowls to toast each other, both parties will empty the bowl in one long gulp and drop the bowls to the ground with a crash to show sincerity to each other. They will then drink and drop again until there is no wine left and all participants are drunk.
How to Get There
Enshi civil airport is about 4.5 kilometers from the downtown area. Each week, more than 20 flights shuttle between Enshi and Wuhan, Yichang, Chongqing and other cities. Visitors can take a bus to the airport, but taxi costs only about 10 to 15 yuan. Visitors may also visit Wuhan first, and then travel to Enshi by train or bus.
What to Eat
Enshi cuisine is a combination of Sichuan and Hunan flavors - spicy, hot and salty. Tujia and Miao snacks, such as “Gege,” a kind of steamed meat with rice and pepper powder, bacon and dried potatoes, are served everywhere in front of small restaurants. There are many mid-range and budget restaurants and snack bars, where the average cost is about 10 to 15 per person.
Where to Stay
A two-star hotel room for about 100 yuan will provide clean and comfortable accommodation. Compared with many other tourist cities in China, this rate is more than reasonable.