Guilin, Yangshuou and the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces (July 2010)

31 Jul

Today I am back in Guangzhou, in my apartment, for a vacation from my vacation.  The past week was beautiful and fun, but the last 48 hours was tiring and awful.  Lack of sleep and sinus congestion provided the answer; rather than go on to a new city, we just decided to come back to Guangzhou before heading off elsewhere later this week or early next week.  This might have proved to be a wonderful decision for reaching our next destination because Guangzhou is such a hub for transit.  And, as spoiled by my surroundings as I am sometimes, I know I sound like I’m bragging when I say that moving to China by itself seems like a vacation sometimes, so I feel as if I’ve been going at the whole new and unusual thing for almost two months now.

But, that aside, it was surreal to finally get out to the countryside.  Parts of China are so beautiful; I can see why three different cities in the country all claim to be the real Shangri-La, or the paradise city written about in a famous book years ago.  I visited one of those areas in Guilin and Yangshuo, two cathartic tourist destinations that don’t fail to knock the socks off, even if you’re prone to avoid tourist destinations.  Getting out into the countryside is always rewarding, and China’s jewel, Yangshuo, can easily make you never want to leave.

We set out on Thursday and arrived Friday morning via train in Guilin.  Finding our hostel was easy enough, and the place was decent (even though they sold us a botched tour and a the world’s worst 12-hour bus ride, for which we’ll be writing a scathing review).  We explored the city the first night and had some amazing food.  Here’s a picture of one of the tourist attractions in Guilin, the sun and moon pagados.

We also went to a cheesy little park that puts on a light show and has ethnic tribes dancing, but it was all very artificial and a little boring.  Here are pictures of the park and one of the city during daytime.

The second day was perhaps my favorite.  We caught a bus to Longsheng in hopes of seeing the famous Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in Longji.  We thought we’d only have to get to Longsheng, but once there, we soon found out that we actually needed to go another hour to Ping’An, a small ethnic minority village (the people are called the Zhuang) that is the center of some of the best preserved and maintained (for they are still in heavy use) rice terraces in China.  The village is fully of friendly, smiling people, but it is definitely a tourist destination; everyone wants to sell something and can speak enough English for that purpose.  The women in that town grown their hair out very long; they must never cut it because they wear it wrapped around their heads like turbans and it reaches down to their calves.  But, the best part of Ping’An is the terraces themselves.

It’s of course an amazing engineering feat that the Chinese came up with the idea of rice terraces, but to see them is something else entirely.  They literally cover every inch of land possible; nothing is wasted.  In fact, if you drive from the city to the countryside here, you will see a progression of small patches of rice fields, some no bigger than a living room, scattered wherever possible.  As you get to mountainous areas that are too steep for terraces, you see strips of them in between the mountains in each valley area.  Here are some pictures of the village and surrounding terraces.  The light or “smooth” pieces of land on the surrounding mountains are more terraces.  You can tell just how high some of them go.

I’ve included a few pictures here, but there are so many to choose from that I’ve also made an album on another site.  You can find the albums for all of my vacation photos here.


3 Responses to “Guilin, Yangshuou and the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces (July 2010)”

  1. Gorakh Nath July 31, 2010 at 20:28 #

    Hello Guilin Ji,

    Those Pagoda pictures are awesome. Especially the contrast that you have created by putting the day and night pictures together.

    The Jhoom cultivation pictures reminded me of the north-eastern states of India. Have you ever visited that part of our country?

    Gorakh Nath.

  2. pier4rk August 1, 2010 at 20:31 #

    No, I have only been to Bangalore, and for a very short period of time (2.5 weeks). I met some people from north-eastern India while there who told me a lot about that part of the country. I hope to go back and see more of the country in the next few years.

  3. Gorakh Nath August 3, 2010 at 00:47 #

    Guilin ji, if you are interested in Delhi (Northern India), I think you might be interested in visiting my blog:)

    I am now off to view your Chinese picture gallery.

    – Gorakh Nath.

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