Destination: Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces
Number of Days Spent: 1
Where we stayed: Wanjing Lou (万景楼) located between the Panorama Hotel and Tiantouzhou – the room was clean and reasonably comfortable with welcome hot showers but no western toilet was available…only a squat toilet. Plus, just a scrap of material for a towel! Still it boasted a really lovely view and was only 15 minutes away from a fantastic sunrise point, definitely a keeper if you can deal with squat toilets (and traveling through China you should get yourself acquainted with them)! This was our first for a hotel room but not our last!
Best restaurant: The stir fried egg & tomato dish at Wanjing Lou was really yummy…skip the fish though, it was bony and disappointing. A “bing pijou” aka a cold beer was a must have after trekking up and down the rice fields all day long. The steamed bread at breakfast looked delicious but we opted for the tasty “mi fen” noodle soup instead. Enjoy the view while you eat, the porch boasts a fabulous view of the rice terraces!
Best of: The sunrise from Tiantouzhou was simply stunning! It’s hard to imagine that these rice terraces were hand carved out of the hills 600 years ago!
Worst of: Somewhere near the little village of Zhongliu we got a little turned around and the residents of town were a little overly concerned we wouldn’t make it to our destination by sunset…they wanted us to stay the night with them and were rather persistent. Really it wasn’t so bad, just a little annoying because we kept getting turned around and being pointed in the wrong direction. Staying would have have been interesting but we had our heart set on seeing the sunrise from Tiantouzhou.
Most Memorable: After spending so much time in India it felt great to get out and really stretch our legs and breath in the fresh countryside air. It’s was refreshing to walk in peace and quiet with the beautiful setting of the rice terraces in front of us.
Useful Tip: Leave your backpack at the left luggage office in Longsheng, trust us, you don’t want to carry it up and down the rice terraces. Just take a small bag of necessities and your camera for the overnight stay. If you don’t heed our advice and need assistance carrying your bag or if you need a guide the Yao ladies meet all of the buses and are happy to help for a small fee!
Getting there: You can take a bus from Yangshuo to Guilin (it’s recommended to take the first one of the morning if you want to hike from Ping’an to Tiantouzhou the same day for sunrise the following day), from Guilin to Longshen and from Longshen to Ping’an. You can buy your ticket into the terraces (50 RMB) on the bus. Getting to and from was surprisingly easy even though the buses were really busy due to a huge Chinese holiday the week we were there. Just remember to get someone from your hotel or a Chinese friend to write down the city names in Chinese characters so you can show them to the ticket agent at the bus terminal. This helped us out a lot!
Hiking the Dragon’s Backbone
Resembling the dragon’s scales, and the summit of the mountain the backbone of the the dragon, the Longji rice terraces were built nearly 600 years ago by farmers with the simple need to grow more rice. So what do you do when your farmland is a bunch of hills? You make the best of what you got. Chinese ingenuity kicked in, carving these stunning terraces into the mountains, allowing the farmers to grow more rice and at the same time creating some of the most gorgeous scenery in all of China. But don’t take our word for it! Check out the photos below from our hike!
The hike began in Ping’an…
Halfway there, we stopped in the village of Zhongliu, complete with a charming, tiny waterfall! These ladies were walking through the terraces with the food they gathered and struck up a conversation. They wanted to chat with us, show us their hair…cook us a meal…invite us to stay…all for a price! They were actually pretty funny so we decided to go for it, not something we would normally do but it was pretty interesting and well worth the $1 we tipped them.
We made it to our hotel about 4.5 hours after starting and right after sunset! We settled in for a few cold beers and dinner with a view of the terraces! The next morning we woke up before the crack of dawn and headed up to the viewing platform near the Panorama hotel. I think the results were worth it!
After sunrise we started making our way down from Tiantouzhou to Dazhai. The fields in this part of the terraces were flooded and they were beginning to transplant the baby rice! Beautiful!
Finally we arrived in Dazhai, caught a bus to Longshen and connected to Chenyang for our next stop in China: the Wind & Rain Bridge!