Famous Longji Terraces

Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
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Trip End Jul 20, 2015


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Thursday, May 18, 2006

This is my last week in Yangshou and I wanted to make sure I get to see the Longji Terraces, sometimes called the Dragon's Backbone rice terraces. The Longji Terraces are located in Longsheng County about 2 hours from Guilin (by express bus, 3 hours by local bus). The rice terraces are built into the hillsides and look like great chains or ribbons as they wind from the foot to the top of the hill. This ingenious construction makes best use of the scare arable land and water resources in the mountainous area. There are about 66 square kilometers terraced fields in southeast of Longsheng. The Terraces were first built in the Yuan dynasty and completed in the Qing dynasty by the Zhuang people.

I stayed in Ping'an where I paid 20Yuan for a nice little room. The weather was bit windy but I enjoyed the view tremendoulsy. Since I got to Ping'an late in the day, I decided to just walk the loop from Viewpoint 2 to viewpoint 1 and hike around the villages the next day. Many of the villages, inclduing the Zhuang village of Ping'an, have turned almost completely to the tourism industry. The villages are also known for their Long-Haired Ladies. The houses are mainly built of wood, mostly 2-3 stories high for hotels and 2 stories for individual houses. In many houses, the pigs are housed in a kind of basement and the family living quarters are above. As mentioned, the villages embraced tourism freely as it adds additional income to their family. They sell handicraft, culinary specialties and anyhting else that money can buy. Visitors also hae to pay a 50Y entrance fee for the villages. Communication with the villagers consitted of smiling and body language as the villagers speak their own local dialect. It wasn't the best time for a visit, it had just rained heavely and landslides blocked some of the walkways. Rice paddies were just groomed for the planting season and were just a pool of mud and water. It would probably take another 2 weeks before farmers started planting. I would like to visit the terraces again during the summer and expecially during the fall, when the rice fields turn golden and the afternoon sun paints the terraces as fields of gold. Sunday morning, I walked through the village to reach the other side of the river after about 3 hours. I went back to Yangshou starving as the price for food in the villages was outragelsy expensive compared for what I paid in Yangshou. I refrained from buying anything as I knew I can staff myslef in Yangsjou for 3-4Y instead of paying 20-25Y in the village. If I thinbk about the money I spent on food, I can hardly believ that I can eat well for about $1/day. Fried noodles or noodle soup fro brunch for about 3Y and noodles, rice, stuffed bread or dumplings for dinner for about 3-4Y. I throw in a fresh cucumber for 1Y and together this comes to an amount of about 8Y which is $1. Once I start to venture into ordering western food, it sets me back to about 10-25Y

On Monday, it was time to move on. Since I waited too long to buy my train ticket, I had to content myslef with hardseat, something you dont want to do for 30 hours. My friedn wrote me a little note in chinese asking for an upgrade to hardsleeper. I tread going to train stations in China; I still had nightmares about my last journey from Guangzhou to Hengyan. But Guilin was different, no horedes of people exhibiting disorderly behavior, no pushing and shoving, no smelly and dirty toiletts in the train station. It looked were organized and my hopes went up that I may be able to change my ticket immediatly as soon as I boarded the train. I handed my note to the man in charge and off we went to look for a hardsleeper. His little office was in the hardseat carriage and just looking at the mass of people squeezing 3 in a row on a seat, the smell, the cigarette smoke and the noodle slurping, burping and farting noises made me sick. The entire carriage looked like a pigstall (and there were at least 5 of these hard seat carriages). As it turned out, hardsleepers were sold out and I had to fork out big money for a softsleeper. This luxury costs me 530Y, about $65 for a 30 hour journey (a hardslepper would have cost me 350Y). I hope taking a softsleeper is going to be a one-time event, otherwise I have to start begging for money so I can continue my travels. The next time I will make sure I get my tickets at least 5 days in advance (however, as I found out in Xian, there are people who buy up a considerble number of tickets which they sell at a profit to tavel agencies. This means that 4 days before my planned travel to Urumqui, I was told that there are no hardsleepers left).

For the first hour, I had the softsleeper compartment for myself. It had 4 beds with bedding, reading lamps, a dirty rug, a little table, curtains and a hot water bottle for tea. At the next stop, a couple entered who shared their cucumbers and tomatoes with me. I was content. This was the only food I would get during the next 30 hours as I did not bother buying any food. By the time I got to Xian, I was starving. The next stop changed everything as two men carrying a sick man interupted our peaceful oasis and asked the couple to swicth beds so that the sick guy could be on a lower bed. Then they started a ruckus of getting organized and debating loudly. During the course of the journey, they slurped their noodles, gulped loudly ans spat on the floor inside and outside the compartment. I thanked God that this journey was not going to last 5 days. In 2003, Beijing implemented an anti-spitting law which means it gives it people 5 years to get rid of this disgusting and healththreatening habit , just in time to be a presentable city, free of flying phlegm, for the 2008 Olympics. Why this law has not been extended nationwide, or at least to public places, beats me.

Well, I made it to Xian where I am staying in a very nice dorm at a very nice hotel which name I forgot. I met up with Simon, a HC member who managed to get a hardsleeper train ticket for me.
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