Hike up to Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces

One of the symbols of China are incredible Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces which are over centuries cultivated by local villagers in hard mountain terrain in South China province called Guanxi. We were curious how they are doing there and so we decided to make a trip to Longji.

On our map it looked that the terraces are very close to Guilin. However when we asked how to get there in our hostel we found out it wouldn’t be that easy. “Only one way by local transport will take you 4 hours!” we were told at the reception and they added we would have to transfer at least twice. Easier way how to get to rice terraces would be with some tour provided by one of the hostels but it’s quite expensive option and we always try to avoid this kind of travel.


We got up already at 6 in the morning and we caught the first local bus which was supposed to take us to bus station. The problem was that we didn’t know where to get off the bus because all the station names were only in Chinese and we were not able to distinguish between those funny looking pictures. We started running in the bus with our map and we were trying to find someone who would be able to help us. Speaking English was of course completely useless but from gesticulation of one woman we understood that she would show us when our station comes. And really after a while she waved to us to get off. The bus left and we were lost again somewhere on a street trying to find the main bus station.

When you don’t understand any signs and you can’t even ask anyone it starts to be really interesting. We felt like in some adventure game where you always have to seek your way. The problem was that the bus went to rice terraces only a few times a day and it took very long to get there. We finally found the bus station and we got to the ticket office only 2 minutes before departure of the bus. We got a ticket which was, of course, only in Chinese and we were advised we have to transfer in certain village.


We forgot the name of this village even before we got into the bus and so once again we were running with our ticket in the bus trying to find out where to we get off. After two-hour ride through small zigzag roads in the mountains someone suddenly announced: “Everyone get off!” and they put us into a smaller bus which continued further. A woman got in and she sold us the tickets to enter the rice terraces so we understood that we were in the right. We couldn’t expect that the popular rice terraces would be free of charge because in China there is an entrance fee to every single hill, park or rock. Impatient we were waiting to which village we would arrive.

After another one-hour ride the bus finally stopped and the driver was showing us “Go that way up the hill”. We wanted to start in Dazhai village which is less commercial than better known Pingan and after all we really got to that village even if it was more by chance because all the way we didn’t know where we were going :-)




“Finally we are here! Let’s go!“ The way started to go up very steeply. During the ascent we were meeting women dressed in traditional colorful dresses with very long hair. We got to know that you can tell a woman’s marriage status from her hair. An unmarried woman should pack all her hair in a cloth so that you are not able to see it. A married woman usually leaves a bun on her forehead outside. Many of them work very hard every day because they carry the luggage of lazy tourists. With opened mouth we were observing how these old women with bandaged knees were carrying baskets full of various suitcases or backpacks up to steep hills. Apparently they walk up and down several times a day. Incredible!




We were walking up among the terraces and the little rice fields started to appear everywhere around us. Rice growing requires horizontal surface because the rice has to be planted into the water. To build up such terraces in that terrain had to be extremely difficult. Very hard must be also cultivating of those fields. It was the time of harvest and there were many places where the rice was cut down. On other places the rice was being processed and packed into 40 kg rice bags. We saw small men who put this large bags on their back and ran with it up the hill. We tried to pick up one of them as well but it was heavy as s..t! One of the workers helped Karel to put the bag on his back so that he managed to carry it. We climbed up to the highest point from where there was an amazing view of all the rice terraces below us.

On our way we met a group of kids that came there to have painting class. On one of the hills each of them was painting surrounding terraces on a canvas. They all wanted to take picture with us and they were calling us “Breta Pitta and Jolie” :-) After the hike we were hungry and we decided to eat something in one of the small restaurants up in the hills. We ordered vegetable soup, egg soup, beer and some rice wine. Even if we were pointing on the items in menu they finally came only with “vegetable soup” and a beer. At the end we were happy that she forgot about the second part of our order because the soup was in fact only a big bowl of hot water with some big leaves floating in it with no vegetables and no taste at all.





We still had 4-hour way back to Guilin and so we started to go back down to the village. We return back to the hostel the same way with many transfers and we got back to our hostel at night. We found out that to travel even a short distance in China can be quite difficult. However the views on Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces were definitely worth it!

 



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