Longji Terraced Fields

longji

When I read about the rice terraces in Longsheng, I was so stoked I couldn’t let it go. I just had to adjust my already tight Guilin itinerary to make way for that much anticipated trip up the hinterlands. One that I nearly missed because I forgot to book a seat for the overland coach travel. (Note: you have to buy the ticket at least a day before your intended travel date). Luckily, the hostel staff from where I lodged was able to make last minute arrangements for a trip on the very same day. She said it was indeed sheer luck as buses are normally fully booked hours before departure. It was one of those moments when I felt the stars were perfectly aligned to light my path. Luck is even an understatement!

With excitement I hurried to Guilin Railway Station where the mini coach bound for Longsheng are parked, showed my reservation ticket to the driver, hopped on and took a window seat. After an hour’s ride from the city, we arrived at the Ticket Office of Longji Terraced Fields. A staff member got on the bus/van to sell tickets, so it was quite convenient. We had a quick stop there, just enough to stretch and use the toilet. Afterwhich, we drove further into the mountains passing by cliffs and waterfalls, rivers and ravines. The final stop was at the base of Dazhai Village of the Yao minority.

I headed straight towards Tiantou village where I was booked for the night, confident that I would be there in no time. But I was wrong. The 45-minute walk wasn’t an easy one. The load on my shoulders (overnight pack on one and a tripod on the other) and the challenging path (steep stone steps) slowed me down. I had to take frequent stops to catch my breath and rest. But it didn’t matter if I was behind schedule. Those stops provided fun opportunities for people-watching: tourists taking selfies and group shots; horses carrying goods; ambulant vendors advertising their native products; and best of all, Yao women humpbacked by tourist luggage effortlessly trotting by with animated chatters. Priceless!

Despite having had a step by step graphic map instruction on hand, I was still unsure which way to go once I reached a confusing junction. That’s when a fellow traveler passed by. I took my chance and asked for help. As it turned out, we were bound for the same youth hostel! Talk about luck! Together we figured out the way and arrived at our accommodation with still enough daylight to go on a hike. Of course, being foreigners alike on a solo trip, we were happy to be billeted in the same room. It was a welcome change for me to have a travel companion, even for just a day.

So, what is there to do at the mountains? Watch the short video below and read on for some points that might interest you and help in your plan.

Pingan village is home to Zhuang minorities and is a more famous destination compared to Dazhai, catering most of the day tours. For some who want to avoid the crowd of tourists, Dazhai isn’t a shabby alternative. But an overnight stay is highly recommended. And if you go further up to Tiantou village, you will be treated with panoramic views of the whole area of Longji Rice Terraces. It offers a quiet respite from the frenzied rush of the city.

At Tiantou, there is easy access to three view points: 1) Music from Paradise, 2) Thousand Layers of Heaven, and 3) Golden Buddha Peak. The third view point can be reached directly by a cable car from the base of Dazhai village. But if you are the more adventurous type and you’ve got time in your hands, you will definitely enjoy the hike more.

Upon check-in, the staff at Dragon’s Den showed us how to go to these three points with the hostel as the base. I took photos of the instructions, and as soon as I stuffed my luggage in the room and had my super late lunch, I left for view point number 3. It is a moderate climb and took about an hour to reach. It can be a lonely and scary walk, too, as you pass through narrow paths with tall grasses. I actually chickened out because of my fear of the creepy crawlies. And as I turned back, there were others headed my way aiming for Golden Buddha Peak as well. So, I joined in. Somehow, there is a sense of protection in number.

longji1

The Golden Buddha Peak offers a mesmerizing panorama.
The sun was playing hide and seek –
one moment bright but more often hidden behind the mountains.
Looking down, layers of rice fields surround the area
like a grand staircase that connect heaven and earth.
A thin curtain of fog slightly blurs out the distant mountains and villages
creating that enchanting classic highland mystique.

Dragon’s Den usually conducts sunrise viewing walking tours to viewpoint number 1, Music from Paradise. So I made a mental note to wake up early to join the group. Unfortunately, there was a heavy downpour at dawn, so it was cancelled. After breakfast, I ignored the drizzle and braved the route to viewpoint number 2.

longji2

There, the world appeared to be a huge open air theater
with a panoramic lush green backdrop, and I got the best seat in the house.
I watched in quiet wonder as the morning mist slowly rolled away
and the mountains bathed in the warmth of the sun,
waking the village from its peaceful slumber.

If I had followed the route further on from the viewpoint, it would have lead me back down to Dazhai valley. But I didn’t. I went back to the hostel, picked up my overnight bag and retraced my steps to the bus terminal. And with me was a new tiny luggage filled with treasures from this short but memorable journey.

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miSyel’s quotes

"The beauty of the truth is that it need not be proclaimed or believed. It skips from soul to soul, changing form each time it touches, but it is what it is."— Mark Helprin