Ping'An - The Longji Rice Terraces

Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
Trip End May 31, 2010

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Flag of China  , Guangxi,
Friday, October 9, 2009

Ping'An – The Longji Rice Terraces

After the relaxing time in Yangshao we decided to venture out of the city and head up the Longji Rice Terraces. The rice terraces were built hundreds of years ago into the hill sides to make use of the scarce land and remarkably they are still manually tended by the various minority group tribes that live in the nearby villages today.

Not wanting to view this magnificent scenery from a coach we decided to travel there independently and spend a few nights in the hill towns. The journey involved taking a local bus for two hours to the town of Longshen, and changing onto a smaller local bus for the next two hours to make our way to the town of Ping’An – the four hour journey costing approximately 80p in total!

Aside from the scenery change, we knew we were in the countryside on the second bus as it filled up with more and more locals... some carrying bags of rice, others transporting chickens. It was great, although we thought it was getting a bit silly when a Simon helped a lady manoeuvre a large heavy box onto the bus that took up the whole isle, this turned out to be an industrial air-conditioning unit.

We made it to the village of Ping’An mid-afternoon, leaving just a couple of hours of daylight to find a nice hostel before going for dinner.  We had made friends with a great Irish couple on the journey in and decided to go hostel hunting together. The village is amazing, built on the side of a hill amongst the rice terraces, all the buildings are made of wood and set on stilts. We trudged 500m up the hill to the foot of the village, and then up and down the narrow paths between the buildings to check what was available. After looking at just three places we soon realised it would be too much to expect a place with Western toilets... we would be squatting here! For 6 GBP we settled on rustic inn with amazing rooms (Simon had to convince Ali that sharing a toilet would be fine, even if the shared shower facility was above this self same toilet!!!! )

We set out to explore the village, loving the maze of paths and alleyways in the peaceful setting –  minding we didn’t tread on any of the ducks or chickens that roamed around. It was so quiet it seemed like we were the only people there.  As the evening drew in we found out the first quirk of the village, the electricity was very temperamental and tonight would be without electricity. Not being able to see anything we were not picky about where we ate – we found what we think was a nice restaurant and had a lovely candle lit meal together.  It was a great evening, until Simon found a spider the size of his hand ... (what is it with boys and creepy animals!?!!)

The next day we set out on a long trek to the next village in the Longji area, Zhonglu. We set out early, well around 11, and started the walk up through the steep terraces. The minority group that lives in this area are the Yao, and the distinguishing feature of the Yao women, aside from their vibrant pink clothing, is the fact they only cut their hair once in their life.  The women all have the same hair style depending on their age and stage in life, which is only cut on their 18th birthday.  We were not far into our walk before one of these women accosted us. Knowing how these people pray on tourists, as we experienced at the Great Wall, we were keen to shake her off. It wasn’t long however before we had a whole troop of them following us, at one point I think there was half a dozen of these small, long haired women following us jabbering away in their Chinese dialect.

We managed to shake most of them off except for two determined women, and it was not long before we started to warm to them. They were so friendly and keen to talk to us, despite the language barrier one was so keen to communicate with us that she started imitating animals and making noises to explain what she meant. She was great! Our admiration for her trebled when we reached her part of the rice terraces, and she started carrying straw bails on a stick on her back to the village we were heading for. We would have loved to help her but even with our backpack training we could not run up and down the steps with it as well as she managed!

Of course, all this friendliness came with a price and as we approached the village she started fumbling through her belongings and offering us postcards and belts to buy, which we were more than happy to purchase, but only after Simon had undertaken some friendly bartering.

Before leaving she took us on a tour of their village, which was a collection of wooden houses built on stilts in a similar fashion to our guesthouse in Ping’An, but in this village they had cows roaming the alleyways as well, and into the houses too if the doors were open! (Remind us to tell the story of the cow in the house when we get back – It was very funny)

We returned to our village 6 hours later without our new Yao friends. Back at our rustic inn we were delighted the electricity was on for the evening, (although we must admit that the bathroom wasn’t great and it was in fact better going there in the dark!). There was a group of 10 German tourists in the village this night and a special show was being put on for them by another local minority group of girls (the Mao women). As we were the only other couple in the restaurant we managed to gatecrash the entertainment for free, so watched the girls dancing with sticks and singing strange songs for a couple hours while we drank our beer... it made no sense whatsoever but it was a great end to our time in the terraces.

The following day we had to leave to make our way back to Guilin for the night train to Hong Kong...
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