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Longji Rice terraces

semi-overcast 14 °C

The next morning, we slept in and had breakfast at the hostel. We could see the beautiful harvested terraces out the window in the lobby area. Cats wandered in and out of the front door, leaving rodent treats for their owners. The hostel girls weren't too impressed. Construction rang out next door.
We used the free map to plan out our day of visiting the sights at Ping'an village and maybe the neighbouring one with the oldest rice terraces. The girl working at the front confirmed that it was possible to do.


We started up toward the viewpoint of the Nine Dragons and Five Tigers. I wasn't sure I could do the whole hike with the uphill sections not letting up, but we eventually made it to the top. The view was pretty incredible every time we took a break. Our cameras got no rest during that climb.
The first crop of rice had been harvested and now the second crop was coming in slowly. Many of the terraces in this area were flooded, giving the spectacular views for miles. An impressive irrigation system was in place to transport water from one terrace to another via a dug channel or bamboo or cement open pathways. Small streams ran down the side of the rock path.

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At the viewpoint, the flooded terraces blended, one curve into another. Even with the overcast sky, the reflection still gleamed. A man at one of the shops at the top offered to take our picture with the Nine Dragons view in the back and we took him up on the offer. He had clearly done that a few times before. It was a bit odd to see the commercial shops up at the top of these beautiful terraces, although the terraces weren't naturally occurring either.

We walked to the next view point Seven Stars with the Moon, which took a bit longer than our first climb, maybe an hour. The green terraces rewarded our efforts along the now mainly flat trek. We passed larger bamboo forest as well as bamboo chopped and split in half that showed off the different segments.
This viewpoint had more shops and restaurants that the previous one had had, but luckily, there were enough Chinese tourists ahead of us to keep the vendors occupied. Some of the women would pay to get dressed up in ethnic-wear from the local tribes, like the Yao with a reputation for their incredibly long hair, and take pictures at the viewpoints.


The visibility was starting to improve, the fog lifting and almost showing the mountains opposite us. We continued down the path to Old Zhuang village where the first rice terraces were a hundred or more years ago during the Qing dynasty. Our first attempt at reaching it got interrupted by us taking a random turn to marvel at more terraces at our level, but we soon realized the path would take us back to Ping'an, the village where we were staying.


The real walk to Zhuang was pretty short and each viewpoint required a fair number of stairs. We walked on many concrete stairs and narrow paths through the village a bit to find the second viewpoint. There would be no way to bring a car up to any of these points which was why we saw everything hauled by people or animals. Chickens wandered the paths and dogs too. I couldn't help but pet an adorable one on the way down.


We finally found the second viewpoint, a bit trickier when half the signs were uprooted and lying on the ground and we had to pick them up, reorient them and then find our way. The views again were nice, but I think the ones near Ping'an were probably the best.

The way back to the hostel was equally tricky. From our entrance point last night, we thought the town was small, but from the other side, hundreds of hotels, restaurants and other wooden/concrete buildings crawled the hillside. As we walked by, many had been locked up or were under construction. I read that during peak season, this village could hold up to 6,000 guests. A far cry from the current maybe hundred around in mid November.


Eventually after climbing and descending many staircases, we found the road with some construction that we had walked up yesterday and we followed it down to the hostel. It was quite the trek yesterday, looking at it in the daylight. It was crazy how the body could just power through.
We settled in for a late lunch/early supper. I tried veggies and mushrooms, since they had such flavourful mushrooms around here but wished there were more of those and less greens. Ryan had his heart set on the sweet and sour pork (off the western food menu) as a French woman had recommended it to us yesterday.

Posted by Sarah.M 18:30 Archived in China Tagged dog village rice hike terrace longji zhuong Comments (1)

On the train to Guilin

semi-overcast 18 °C

Despite almost missing our train, the whole ride was a great experience. We slept soundly on our bottom and middle bunks. Trains in the hard sleeper class (still not as hard as my mattress in Thailand) had three bunks, the top one being the most cramped and cheapest, requiring quite a climb. It was nice to enjoy the bottom bunk where we could actually sit up and have a conversation in the morning.

We bought some snacks for breakfast which turned out to be expired dried yam and we could really tell that those weren't fresh. Quite the chewy affair. I also snagged expired orange juice that thankfully didn't make me sick. It was carbonated and sugary enough that I figured it'd be okay. The dates also could be packaged dates but based on our expired chocolate we couldn't be too sure.

We kept watching the countryside migrate become less and less urban as we headed away from the coastal areas. The landscape became more rocky, and mountainous. Ryan spotted some rice terraces as well.

The captain of the train -- perhaps just a worker, their uniforms were so official looking -- was quite intrigued with our presence. Although he spoke no English and we no Chinese, he kept trying to have conversations with us. Our short sleeves were too provocative for his tastes and he was quite concerned we'd be cold. He checked out Ryan's luggage tags on another visit too. When I finally changed into a shirt with three quarter length sleeves, I gained his approval.


A few hours later, one of the woman working helped us get off at the right stop at Guilin. From the train station, there were tons of vendors calling out for tours to Yangshuo or to the rice terraces, but we wanted to find our bus station instead to avoid getting scammed. Once we walked the street, passing many fruit vendors -- selling oranges, bananas, pomelo, rambutan and even one that was yellow and appeared to have fingers called Buddha's hand -- and restaurants, we made it to the train station. We were happy to find a woman who spoke English at the ticket counter, but less thrilled that we still weren't at the right ticket station. Luckily, she wrote us out directions to the next one in Chinese to show the driver along with the bus driver.

At the other bus station, another woman spoke English at the ticket counter. We were getting spoiled in Guilin and we boarded a bus to Heping that left about twenty minutes later. The driver really gave our nerves a workout with a driving practise that's less common in North America: driving into the oncoming lane to pass even when there's oncoming traffic, as well as honking the horn when the other cars, in their own lane, refuse to move over. It really got the heart racing and I was surprised they still had functional horns on their vehicles.

We didn't arrive at our transfer spot, the town of Heping, until after five. All the public buses had gone, but there was one guy willing to take us up for 40RMB each. It seemed steep but he was the only game around so we hopped in, got our rice terrace entry tickets at the office, and he drove up the mountain as the sun began to go down. We could still see the terraces climbing the side of the mountains as we drove. The driver stopped at one point on the mountain and Ryan got ready to fight him, unsure of his motives. It was just nature calling and the man came right back.

When we arrived at the gate, I figured out why our driver had been texting people along the drive. Woman and men with large baskets offered to carry up our bags for us but we declined. Others were trying to sell us rooms. A woman followed us for a few kilometers advertising her hotel, but we knew of a hostel we wanted to stay at, since they would have some English to help us plan, and we told her we had already booked a place. It was another kilometer or two up the road, past construction, but luckily the hostelling international sign helped reassure us that by pure luck we were in the right place.


The room was alright, thin wooden walls and a bit cold, but the right price. The floors creaked like nobody's business to go down to the third floor to use the washroom. But they had free laundry facilities, aka a sink and clothes line, and a restaurant with an English menu so we could eat supper: noodles and beef for Ryan and bamboo and egg for myself.

Posted by Sarah.M 15:59 Archived in China Tagged train rice fruit hostel terrace expired longji chewy Comments (1)

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