Monday, August 5, 2013

The Dragon’s Backbone - Longji Rice Terraces (China trip, part 2 of 6)

We continue our story on the 2nd day after our arrival in China (7July). We arrived in Guilin after a 3 hour flight from Beijing (link to previous post).

However, on exiting the airport one member of our party sustained a small foot injury after a minor stumble. Luckily Zheya arranged for a car with a driver and we were able to quickly find a pharmacy before continuing to the Longji rice terraces.

From the airport to the rice terraces was a 2 hour drive and we had our first experience of driving habits in China (more on this in part 6). The last 40 minutes we traveled on a single-lane dirt road with sharp bends, which took us deep into the mountains.
En Route to Longji rice terraces
After the somewhat unnerving drive we arrived at our next stop, the Wisdom Inn ( This beautiful hotel is situated in a small village surrounded by mountains covered in rice terraces. All the buildings in the village were connected with wooden walkways with rice paddies occupying every possible open land in-between buildings. The view from our room was most probably the nicest hotel room view we ever had.
Small stream that flows by in front of Wisdom Inn
View from room in Wisdom Inn
Bridge in front of Wisdom Inn
We left the injured individual in the hotel while the rest of us went scouting for a late afternoon snack. Close to our hotel we found a small shop with many interesting things to eat. All the transactions were calculated on an old abacus. We returned to eat, take a short break and were soon re-energised and ready for our next outing. Luckily the injury appeared to be minor and the full party set out to climb the surrounding rice paddy hills and mountains.
Purchasing snacks
Drinking a very refreshing drink - Milk tea
(Very tasty and available everywhere from different brands - wish it becomes more international)
Our climb started out on a small path, that winds up through terraced rice paddies and gradually climbs higher into the mountain. The views were awesome and became even more so. It was very interesting to see how the rice paddies looked close-up and how the irrigation down the terraces function.
Close-up of a rice paddy
Starting the climb
Narrow rice paddy terraces and irrigation
Climbing higher and higher
Quite tiring in the hot and humid conditions
Beautiful views
Halfway there
Locals working the rice paddies
Almost there
After a steady climb in very hot and humid conditions, we reached the top, and were rewarded with even more amazing views. The rice terraces on the surrounding mountains are called the Longji rice terraces, translating to the Dragon's Backbone ( From the top, the rice terraces resemble a dragon's scales, while the summit of the mountain range looks like the backbone of the dragon.
View from the top - The full party of five
The tour leader :)
Cable car down
There were several clusters of houses on the paths with the families tending the rice paddies close to their settlements. We were greeted by the friendly local Yao people ( Yao women never cut their hair and wears it in a knot on their foreheads.
A local Yao woman
After taking in the scenery and having a refreshing drink at the snack shop on the summit, we took the cable car down. We were a bit worried about getting on the cars, since the cable cars does not stop and you have to jump into them while they pass through the station. Everything worked out fine though and the views of the paddy-covered hills passing below and the surrounding mountains were awesome.
Cable cars passing continuously in the station - had to jump in quickly
View from cable car - Mats and Olga in the car in front
Short video of the Longji Rice Terraces:

After the quite active afternoon we were more than ready to eat and we walked over to the restaurant opposite the Wisdom Inn. We sat on the restaurant porch, looking across the rice paddies at the dusk activities of the village-locals, with the sound of croaking frogs in the background. Zheya ordered a feast for us, including; rice cooked in bamboo, frogs (locally caught in the rice paddies), whole chicken cooked in bamboo, bacon and vegetable stir-fry, omelet, pork liver soup, herbal tea and locally made wine. Comments on the more unique dishes: The rice cooked in bamboo was excellent with a very nice, grassy/nutty/wooden, flavour of the bamboo. It was very interesting how the whole chicken (head and feet included) is cooked in a bamboo tube. The bamboo lends its unique taste to the chicken and the flavour was excellent. We never had pork liver before, but the pork liver soup was very nice with a deep, rich liver flavour. While hearing their brothers croaking in the background we, hesitant but bravely, sampled the frog meat. It was extremely delicate and very tasty, akin to chicken but soft, delicate and delicious (not at all slimy and rubbery as I imagined it to be). Overall this was an absolutely excellent dinner and my (Carina) favourite of the whole trip. With the surrounding scenery, background sounds and tasty local cuisine the atmosphere that evening was magical and we were truly in another world.

View of the Wisdom Inn from porch of our dinner restaurant
The whole chicken being poured out of the bamboo in which it is slow cooked over the fire. To the right - rice cooked in bamboo
Enjoying ourselves
Almost finished - what is left of the frogs (on the left) and chicken (on the right)
Frog Remains
The next morning the aim was to climb the other side of the mountain to see the sunrise over the Dragons Backbone. We got-up early and mastered another mountain before sunrise. However, the weather let us down and clouds covered the sun rising over the mountain peaks across the valley. We still had very nice views and another very good workout.
Conquering another mountain before sunrise
Awaiting the sunrise (but....a no-show)

Beautiful views going down again. The small village with the Wisdom Inn visible below.
We replaced our expended energy with another “small” Chinese breakfast of locally made rice noodles, fried egg and pork broth with various vegetables.
Helping ourselves to local vegetables, beans and noodles
Breakfast - Home-made local rice noodles, vegetables, fermented bamboo shoots, beans and pork broth. In the background, peanut milk to drink.
After breakfast we spent the rest of morning strolling through the village, shopping and sitting on the hotel “stoep” (porch) watching the locals go by. We noticed that most of the people who passed us, while we sat outside on the floor, were staring at our bare feet and giggling (some of the children actually pointed to our hairy toes). We are still a bit unsure if we made a cultural faux pas but we were informed it is just unusual for foreigners to be sitting on the ground, outside, without shoes.
Displaying our very interesting feet to passing local villagers
Visiting the Longji rice terraces was an amazing experience and we could happily have spent more time in this beautiful valley. However, our transport arrived at 11am and we left on our journey to see more of China (link to map).
To be continued…

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