The Longsheng Rice Terraces

Longji Titian or Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces 龙脊梯田

Amazing Electric Green Rice Terraces
Amazing Electric Green Rice Terraces

The Longsheng Rice Terraces are a real marvel. These stunning rice terraces also known as the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces offer travellers a great opportunity to do some hiking and visit some fascinating minority villages. The main ethnic group here are the Zhuang, but there are also a number of Yao villages in the area.

Many of the Yao ladies still wear traditional, colourful clothes and heavy jewellery and they pride themselves on their hair, which may well be some of the longest you’ll ever see.

Long haired Yao Lady
Long haired Yao Lady

The Zhuang Village of Ping’an is the main village of the area, as well as the most easily accessible.

Ping'an before development
Ping’an before development

It’s is a pretty collection of wooden houses, connected by stone paths and set right in the middle of the rice terraces. When we were there, a new road was being built  and a couple of new hotels were under construction, fortunately in traditional style.The Longsheng Rice Terraces:

Yao Lady with amazing ears
Yao Lady with amazing ears

The Longsheng Rice Terraces: Hiking

Hiking in the Rice Terraces
Hiking in the Rice Terraces

Many small paths leave from the village, going off in all directions. One of the nicest is to head up above  Ping’an and walk around the high ridge, passing smaller settlements which offer spectacular views over the terraces. The contrast between the green rice paddies and the ubiquitous red chillies adds to the beauty.

The Longsheng Rice Terraces: Minority Villages

The walk from Ping’an to Dazai village makes for a great day trip. According to locals, the rice terraces at Dazai are even more impressive than those around Ping’an but, unfortunately, we never got to see them.

We were heading in that direction when we were waylaid by a local Yao lady who insisted on taking us to her village, about two thirds of the way to Dazai, for lunch.

Yao lady who kidnapped us on the way tp Dazai
Yao lady who kidnapped us on the way tp Dazai

The Longsheng Rice Terraces: Kidnapped for lunch goodbye Dazai

Most of the meal she picked straight from the mountainside and the bushes along the path, as she escorted us to her house, a large, rambling wooden structure on stilts.

Here we squatted on low wooden benches, scrutinised by the curious members of her family and with chickens pecking at our feet, while the lady prepared our lunch, for which we had agreed to pay 30 Yuan.

The Yao Village where we stopped for Lunch
The Yao Village where we stopped for Lunch

The food was not bad at all, especially the wild mountain vegetables. After lunch, we went for a walk around the village, which was very poor indeed.

Though the houses were huge, they were virtually empty, with only the most rudimentary cooking and farming implements.

Moreover, the streets and the open spaces underneath the houses were filthy and covered in garbage.  The wealth gap between the richer Zhuang villages, such as Ping’an, and the poorer Yao villages was quite evident.

Such was our delay over lunch that we decided not to push on to Dazai. This turned out to be a wise decision because, just as we were arriving at Ping’an, a huge summer storm engulfed the entire rice terraces and the torrential rain didn’t remit until late the following day.

However, for those who wish to do the whole walk, the stone path is quite easy to follow and extremely attractive, passing through deep forest,  beautiful flowery meadows and, of course, plenty of rice terraces.

 Practicalities:

Accommodation and food:

We stayed and ate in a small family-run hotel in Ping’an, aptly called the Ping’an hotel. It had clean rooms, a nice dining room and veranda and shared bathrooms, all for 25 Yuan a night.

Electric Green Rice Terraces
Electric Green Rice Terraces

There were already several such hostels in Ping’an and more were going up all the time. Entrepreneurs from as far away as Yangshuo had started competing with the local family hotels.

Local house Ping'an
Local House Ping’an

We found that at weekends, the place was very popular with Chinese tourists from Guilin who enjoyed large, rowdy dinner parties and played cards until deep into the night. (see the article on the degradation of the Longji rice terraces).

Ping'an Village
Ping’an Village

At the time, Ping’an was the only village with accommodation, though nowadays Dazai 大寨, and other villages such as Tiantouzhai 田头寨, have guesthouses and hotels too; some with amazing views.

Yao Lady arranging her hair
Yao Lady arranging her hair

Transport:

Small buses run regularly throughout the day from the bus station at Longsheng to the parking area, a 20 minute walk from Ping’an village.

In 2003 all vehicles had to be left here and an entry ticket to the whole rice terrace area had to be purchased. All this may now have changed, as the new road we saw being constructed, was meant  to go right up to the village.

Spiders in the Rice
Spiders in the Rice

Guilin to Longji High Speed

Guilin is now firmly on the high speed network so getting to the Longsheng Rice Terraces is pretty easy.

It still takes around 2.5 hours by bus from Guilin to the terraces and you still have to walk the last part if you come by local bus from Guilin.

Onward Travel: It takes about 2 hours from Longsheng to reach Songjiang and then another 20 or 30 minutes to get to Chengyang and its marvellous bridges.

Read this article about the problems the Longsheng Rice Terraces face: Killing the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs

Back to Guizhou Province

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Yangmei : Guanxi’s Ancient Banana Town
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Province
Yangmei: So near yet so far!
Yangmei

Yangmei: So near yet so far! Only 30 kilometres separate the modern, green and dynamic city of Nanning, capital of the Zhuang Autonomous Province of Guangxi, from the ancient village of Yangmei. However, the differences between the two places are so great that they might as well exist on other planets.

The smart motorway leaving Nanning runs out after about 10 kilometres, when the buses takes an abrupt turn into a country lane. The rest of the journey takes an incredible 2 hours, as the bus passes through local markets, gets stuck in a traffic jam of three-wheeled motorcycle rickshaws, makes a slow river crossing on a rusty ferry and stops at every village on the way, delivering passengers and parcels.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Yangmei: So near yet so far! It takes a long time to get there

The scenery is rural and pretty. Most of the people in this area belong to the ethnic group of the Zhuang, which is virtually indistinguishable from the majority Han Chinese, both in physical appearance and dress. They earn their livelihood from the cultivation of sugar cane and bananas. You can see ample evidence of the latter as the bus makes its way through the endless plantations that stretch along both sides of the road for as far as the eye can see.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Yangmei might have been like many other rural villages in China, abandoned by its population, heading for the cities, and fallen into oblivion. Fortunately, Yangmei has been saved by its incredible collection of Ming and Qing courtyard houses in grey brick and its fantastic setting on the bend of a river, amidst sub-tropical countryside.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!
Yangmei Venacular Building

What is even more incredible is that so far it hasn’t been converted into some kind of Qing-Ming dynasty theme park, like so many other, once beautiful and charming villages in China.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Yangmei: So near yet so far! Authentic Character

For the moment, the village preserves its authentic character; local people still live in many of the buildings you can visit and the majority of the population is involved in agriculture, rather than the tourist trade.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

A couple of grannies selling hand-sewn miniature shoes and stuffed, cloth butterflies and a couple of open-air restaurants by the river, seem to be Yangmei’s main concession to tourism.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

The village has no great sights as such. It is just a nice place to wander around for a few hours and soak up a bit of the old China. Wooden signs show visitors where to find the old Ming and Qing dynasty mansions, tucked away down narrow alleys, or set around lotus ponds. Many of Yangmei’s early residents came from Shandong Province which is why a lot of the old Ming and Qing buildings were built in the sturdy northern style.

Yangmei: So near yet so far!

Local people, most of them advanced in years, congregate in the courtyards or the village’s small flagstone squares, where they smoke pipes and play Mah-jong. Some try their luck at fishing in the ponds.

Yangmei Temple

Apart from the mansions, there are also a number of temples scattered around, most of them undergoing serious restoration, as they were badly damaged during the Cultural Revolution.

Imortalizing our names in Yangmei
Imortalizing our names in Yangmei

Being Imortalized in Yangmei

The Confucian temple, just outside the village, seems to have discovered a novel way of collecting funds for its renovation, by offering visitors the opportunity to be immortalized on its memorial plaques.

Imortalizing our names in Yangmei
Imortalizing our names in Yangmei

For ten Yuan you can have your name and country engraved in a slab of black marble by a venerable old grandfather in a blue peasant jacket, Mao style, and thick spectacles. These plaques are then used to cover the walls and doors of the temple, providing a kind of stone visitors’ book.

Crazy Statues in Yangmei's Temple

After a few hours of wandering around, one tends to get a bit peckish. Near the river there are a couple of family-run restaurants that specialize in local products.

Crazy Statues in Yangmei's Temple
Crazy Statues in Yangmei’s Temple

Yangmei: So near yet so far! What to eat

River fish is the favourite and can be cooked in a number of ways. The tasty food, cold beer and shady riverside location all make for a pleasant way to while away the rest of the afternoon, until it’s time to catch the last bus back to Nanning at four o’clock sharp.

Margie in Yangmei

If you like bananas, you should do what all visitors from Nanning do and stock up on a couple of bunches! Another famous local product are the pots of homemade pickles that can turn the ride back to Nanning into a rather pungent experience.

Bananas Yangmei

Coming and Going:

Buses for Yangmei leave from an obscure small local bus station in Nanning, about ten minutes from the train station. Walk down Chaoyang Lu, go past the Yinhe Hotel, go down one block, take the first street on the right and then turn right again, into Huaqiang Lu: the bus station is next to house number 198. Buses seemed to leave every 1½ hours, with the first one at 8.50. The last bus back to Nanning is at 16.00. Count on about two hours for the 30km trip.

Adam in Yangmei

Places to stay:

We saw at least one basic local guesthouse that would probably be okay for a night. Moreover, a new small hotel, in keeping with the local style of architecture, looked as if it would be opening soon.

Places to eat:

The restaurants by the river offer the best eating possibilities. Good fresh fish, taken straight from the tanks, is the best choice. Meat eaters might like to try the local chickens, all of which looked pretty big and healthy.

Back to Guangxi Province

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam

Detian Waterfall

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam
Detian Waterfall Detian Pubu 德添瀑布

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam is definately a curious and out of the way place and getting there can be quite a hassle. So why not take a Chinese tour from Nanning for the day? Or maybe not!

Detian Waterfall 德天瀑布 (From our Diary 10/9/2006)

First with an expression of horror, then a polite nod of the head, and finally a beaming smile was how the young lady in the travel agency attended us when we asked about taking the Chinese tour to the Detian Waterfall.

Nanning Botanical Garden

The Horror: Enter Two Foreigners

The Horror: Enter two foreigners in a Chinese travel agency, asking about joining a Chinese tour. “I don’t speak English, do they speak Chinese? What am I going to do?”, was written all over the poor girl’s face, as we sat down in front of her.

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam
Vietnam & China Border at Detian Waterfall

The Polite Nod: “I think the foreigner is speaking something that resembles Chinese and I think I can just about make out what he is saying”.

The Beaming Smile: “The foreigners want to join a tour to the Detian waterfall tomorrow and wish to pay now!”

Zhuang Minority Lady Detian Waterfall
Local at Detian Waterfall Detian Pubu 德添瀑布

“We don’t usually take foreigners on our tours, due to the language barriers”, the young lady said apologetically.  I replied that we didn’t normally take tours either, but we were short of time and needed to be able to visit the falls in one day and return to Nanning the same day. Language, I said, wouldn’t be a problem. “Miss Chen will meet you in the lobby at 7.00 am tomorrow”, she answered.

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam
Detian Waterfall Detian Pubu
德添瀑布

Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam

The Detian Waterfalls, situated in China’s Southern Guangxi Province (Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), are among of the most spectacular in China, if not Asia. Their location alone, a remote area populated by diverse ethnic minorities, interspersed by winding rivers, karst peaks and Continue reading “Detian Waterfall Separating China and Vietnam”

The Hua Shan Rock Paintings / 花山岩画 & 左江风景区

Hua Shan Rock Paintings: From Our Diary 2006

The Hua Shan Rock Paintings
The Hua Shan Rock Paintings

Rock Painting Hua Shan

The Hua Shan Rock Paintings are found in Guangxi Province China home to the Zhuang Minority ethnic group.

Who are the Zhuang?

The Zhuang are China’s largest ethnic minority with about 15 million of them living in Guangxi province alone. In fact, the Zhuang are so numerous in Guangxi that the province is officially known as the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The provincial capital Nanning, or ‘the Green City’, as it tries to promote itself, is a good place to base yourself for forays into the Zhuang heartlands. 

Zuo Jiang River Scenery
Zuo Jiang River Scenery

In appearance, the Zhuang are almost indistinguishable from the Han Chinese, though some Zhuang sub-groups, such as the black Zhuang, continue to wear their distinctive ethnic clothing. The Zhuang do, however, have their own language, which has been transcribed in a curious Romanised script.

Zuo Jiang River Scenery
Zuo Jiang (Zuo River)

The rock paintings at Hua Shan are not only situated in the Zhuang heartlands, but they also mark the cradle of their civilization, as they are reputed to be at least 2000 years old. Thus, these paintings and other nearby archaeological sites provide evidence that the origins of the Zhuang can be traced back to Continue reading “The Hua Shan Rock Paintings / 花山岩画 & 左江风景区”

The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces: Longji Titian

Killing the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs (Longji Titian/ The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces)
Yao Lady Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces
Yao Lady Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces

The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces: Longji Titian how will these incredible teraaces survive? This piece looks at the issues raised in the article “Drinking Their Fields Dry”, written by Xiong Lei and published in the China Daily on 12 -7-2007. The article focuses on the effects tourism is having on the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces (Longji titian) near Longsheng in the Zhuang Autonomous Region in Guangxi province.

Working  the  Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces
Working the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces

The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces: Longji Titian

On that beautiful late summer’s evening in 2003 the dynamite went off at regular intervals, with a thud that echoed around the entire valley, shattering the silence of an area without cars and very little electricity. I looked on as a crowd of local Zhuang from the village of Ping’an gathered to watch how huge swathes of the beautiful terraced mountain side were blasted to pieces to make way for a new road that would eventually arrive at the very centre of their village.

Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces
Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces

I wondered then what changes that road would bring to their lives. I never imagined that they would be so quick and so damaging.

Continue reading “The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces: Longji Titian”

Detian Pubu (Waterfall): Photo of the Week

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Detian Waterwall The border between China and Vietnam

The thunderous Detian Waterfall doesn’t respect borders. It spans the Chinese and Vietnamese frontier making life hell for border guards trying to keep nosy travellers from going where they shouldn’t.

Adam-at-the-border

 

 

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Rice Terraces Under Threat (Killing the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs)

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Longji Titian Rice Terraces T

This piece looks at the issues raised in the article “Drinking Their Fields Dry”, written by Xiong Lei and published in the China Daily on 12 -7-2007. The article focuses on the effects tourism is having on the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces (Longji titian) near Longsheng in the Zhuang Autonomous Region in Guangxi province.