China #6: Longji Rice Terraces in LongSheng (龙胜龙脊梯田)
Sights: Longji Rice Terraces (龙脊梯田)
Region: Longsheng County, Guilin Prefecture, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Longji Rice Terraces is one of the more spectacular rice terraces in China and is the most well-developed. It began constructions in the Yuan Dynasty some 750 years ago and is the effort of the Zhuang (壮族) and Yao (瑶族) ethnic minorities. Be amazed at how the wisdom of these people turned the hillsides into tiered paddies.
Longji (龙脊 means Dragon's Backbone) has several sites of interest, including two major scenic areas for travellers — Ping'an Terrace of the Zhuang people (平安壮族梯田观景区) and Jinkeng Terrace of the Red Yao people (金坑红瑶梯田观景区). A third terrace of the Zhuang people (龙脊古壮寨梯田观景区) is also opened for sight-seeing and is a cultural site of the Zhuang minority — it is also the most original. All three terraces are accessible with a single ticket.
There is also a Huangluo Long Hair Tribe Village (黄洛红瑶长发村) where ladies of the Yao tribe kept very long hairs and are the longest in China — tickets sold separately.
Ping'an Terrace is popular among tour groups as there are lesser grounds to cover. The village is on higher ground with a road leading to it from the main entrance. This allows tourists to check out the sights without having to walk up and down the hill slopes. It is naturally the most touristy and crowded.
Jinkeng Terrace is less touristy as it has the largest area to be covered on foot. The road from the main entrance will lead to Dazhai Village (大寨) at the foot of the hills. To see the various sights around Jinkeng Terrace, one will have to hike up and down the hills. There is also a cable car station for tourists to get to one of the peaks without having to hike. For backpackers, Jinkeng is the obvious choice.
Getting From Guilin City to Longji Rice Terrace
Longji Rice Terraces is about 75Km from Guilin City. If going by public transports, one will have to go to Guilin Bus Station and change to a bus bound for Longsheng (龙胜). The bus will actually pass by the entrance to Longji Rice Terraces. To get to Ping'an Village or Jinkeng Village, you will have to wait for the local bus.
The better alternative is to go for private transport services that will send you from a pick-up point in Guilin City directly to either village — which I did by booking through the friendly staff at This Old Place International Hostel in Guilin.
Hiking to Tiantou Village (田头寨)
After arriving at Dazhai Village, it took me about an hour to hike up a hill with my backpack to Tiantou Village, where the hostel that I booked was situated.
Above was a Wind & Rain Bridge (风雨桥) common to the ethnic minorities. Everyone would need to go through it to get into Dazhai Village. And a view of Dazhai Village from a higher point (below).
Staying up on the hills would be easier to move around on the higher grounds to check out the scenery of the rice terraces. It would also be easier to head back to the hostel if it rained heavily.
Where I Stayed
I stayed at Dragon's Den Hostel (rightmost building in the photo)
The hostel had a magnificent view of the rice terraces right from the dormitory's window. They have beautiful rooms too.
The best time to visit Longji Rice Terraces would be during springtime when the fields are all green on clear days and also in early autumn with golden fields. As I was there in late autumn, it was misty in the hills and it rained during my 4 days there. But the mist was not able to conceal the natural beauty of the rice terraces.
Jinkeng Terrace of the Red Yao Tribe (金坑红瑶梯田观景区)
Below are photos taken at the designated scenic spots in Jinkeng Terrace.
1. Seven Stars Chasing the Moon (七星追月)
2. Thousand Layers to Heaven (千层天梯)
3. Music from Paradise (西山韶乐)
This is also the spot for sunrise — but not in autumn — and close to Tiantou Village, which is another reason to stay in the hills.
And I was lucky to have met another Singaporean traveller, Joyce, who stayed in the same dormitory as me. But she was in Longji Rice Terraces for a night and had to leave the following day.
4. Golden Buddha Peak (金佛顶)
That was the cable car from the foot of the hills to Golden Buddha Peak. It was not yet in service in 2012.
And wide views of Jinkeng Terrace from the peak.
Even on a misty day, I could still see the 4 villages in Jinkeng Terrace and Seven Stars Chasing the Moon.
Ping'an Terrace of the Zhuang Tribe (平安壮族梯田观景区)
There were 2 ways to get to Ping'an Terrace from Jinkeng Terrace. One was to hike through the hills and taking in the scenery along the way. It would take about 4 hours and non-locals would probably need a local guide. As I would need to be back in Jinkeng by the end of the day, I opted for the less-strenuous but tedious way.
I descended the hill from Tiantou Village after a heavy rain and reached Dazhai Village at 11am — already quite late. I took the only local bus to a road intersection and waited for another bus to Ping'an Village. The whole journey took more than 2 hours due to the bus schedules — Ping'an had more buses than Jinkeng.
My ticket to Longji Rice Terrace (CNY80) was purchased 3 days back but I was allowed to enter Ping'an Village — they probably knew I was staying in Jinkeng from the inspection stamps on my ticket.
As expected, Ping'an Village had more people and more commercialise. The contrast between the two rice terraces were drastic. Anyway, I had a quick lunch and walked out of the village into the terraces. I had little time to explore the place.
One of the scenic sights in Ping'an Terrace was the Nine Dragon & Five Tigers (九龙五虎). "Nine dragons" were the slopes of nine hills spreading out from the valley in Ping'an that looked like dragons flying out the valley. "Five tigers" were because the bunds of the terraces made the hills looked like tigers. It would be easier to picture that sight without the mist.
Due to the heavy mist and light drizzle, I was not able to reach another spot for the Seven Stars with the Moon (七星伴月). Time was also running out for me.
As it would take some hours to get back to Jinkeng, I had to leave Ping'an by 4pm to catch a local bus to the road intersection and catch another bus to Jinkeng.
By the time I reached Dazhai, it was already dark although it was only 6pm and I was not able to get to Tiantou Village without a torchlight. With the help of a Yao granny, who owned an eating place in Tiantou Village, she led me up the hill and I gladly tried some local specialties at her place.
I tried her home-brewed sweet local rice wine and, bamboo-grilled rice and also a whole pot of braised hill chicken (农家土鸡) — I could not finish the chicken so I invited granny to dine with me.
I left Longji Rice Terraces the following day. I was there for 4 days and it rained all 4 days, so I decided to continue my journey to Sanjiang County for Chengyang Eight Villages with its large and famous Wind & Rain Bridge (程阳风雨桥).
The rain stopped on the day I left Longji...