XishuangbannaChina's gateway to Southeast Asia, Xishuangbanna Prefecture borders Laos and Burma (Myanmar) and is not far from the border with Vietnam and is about as close as China gets to Thailand. Like Laos, Xishuangbanna is landlocked, but also like Laos it shares the amazing culinary culture of the Dai people. The prefectural capital, Jinghong, is the place to stay. It's a small town, but the biggest there and a good place to start exploring the province. Live large at the Empark Grand Hotel Xishuangbanna or stay for less (starting from RMB 120) at the Yuntel Inn Jinghong, both with good locations in town. From the airport, hop in a cab and say, "Mei Mei Café." Your cabbie will know what to do (the English and Chinese pronunciation are virtually the same). Plop down with a cup of pu'er (originating from the eponymous county nearby) or Wild Elephant Valley, stroll through tropical gardens at the Tropical Plant Research Institute and Tropical Flowers and Plants Garden or trek to Dai minority villages like the one near Mandian Waterfall. Save some cash by flying to Chengdu or flying to Kunming before your flight to Jinghong.
DaliAnother smaller town in Yunnan, Dali has long been a popular backpacker destination for it's small size (Dali Old Town, that is) and nearby Cang Shan and Er Lake. Rent a bike on Bo'ai Lu (Bó'ài Lù, 博爱路) near Renmin Lu (Rénmín Lù, 人民路) and get exploring. Check out Xizhou Village and, if you're really feeling like a longer ride, bike around the entire lake. Like Jinghong, the best part of staying in Dali is getting out around the town. Aforementioned ChinaTravel.net blogger Luis made his own trip to Dali recently and learned well the somewhat contradictory values of curious wandering and careful planning, both of which come in handy in Dali. If you're looking for four or five star accommodation, get out of town to the pristine Linden Centre, check out the Dali Old Town or aim for accommodation in Dali New Town. There are also plenty of budget hotels in Dali as well as hostels like the Jade Emu. Get there on the cheap with a flight to Kunming, then take a bus or fly to Dali.
Honghe PrefectureHonghe is more for the rugged, off-the-beaten path China traveler. This Yunnan minority prefecture may be best known for its amazing Yuanyang Rice Terraces, serpentine rice paddies turning the tumbling hills of Honghe into a stair-stepped wonderland. Also worth exploring are a number of caves in the region, like the Ancient Alu Cave, and Jianshui Ancient Town.
Guangxi and Guangdong
YangshuoYangshuo is another great getaway from the big city and the cold. Jagged karst peaks jut up around this little town beside the Li River. While the countryside is just a short bike ride away, great local food along with burritos, banana pancakes and more may be as close as downstairs if you're staying on West Street. The beauty of the countryside, Yangshuo. Getting there isn't difficult: fly to Guilin and take the hour and a half bus ride to Yangshuo.
The capital of Guangdong Province is a must go destination for lovers of Cantonese cuisine. Known in the West as Canton, this former treaty port is full of historic destinations, from the ancient but incredibly well-preserved Mausoleum of the Nanyue King to the recently gussied-up old foreign settlement Shamian Island. Guangzhou also sports a number of art galleries including the Vitamin Creative Space, Art 64 and Guangzhou Museum of Art.