Longsheng Minority Villages, Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces, Fubo Shan (Whirlpool Hill) and Night Walk in Guilin



Longsheng Minority Villages


For our first day in Guilin, we drove two hours out of the city to the Longsheng Minority Villages, known for their incredible terraced rice fields.
We're guessing dried fruits or possibly nuts for sale....
A bridge, which thankfully, we did not have to cross on our way to the rural mountainous village of Ping'an.
Our first glimpse of the famed Longji terraced rice fields on the way to Ping'an (and our first water buffalo sighting).
The architecture in the Longsheng area was much different than anywhere we've seen in China. First of all, there were no sky rise apartments. Secondly, the homes were made of wood, not cement or brick. Lastly, the homes were several stories tall and quiet large. Many of the homes almost looked like a Swiss chalet in the middle of China.
The people of the Longsheng area are mostly of the Yao and Zhuang minorities (Ninety-three percent of Chinese are Han). Since the favorite color of the Yao people is red, many Chinese refer to them as the Red Yao. Many locals set up small shops along the dirt paths to the village of Ping'an.
Nina enjoyed buying more fabric for the 100 Wishes Quilt Project.
There are no cars in the village of Ping'an. To visit the village, you must walk up a steep path or take a donkey. Local Yao women wait at this rest stop to take tourist's luggage up the hill in giant reed baskets on their backs. The Yao women are listed in the Guinness World Book of Records for having the longest hair in the world. The women cut their hair only once, at the age of 18, as part of a coming of age tradition.
We saw many terraced rice field in the distance as we hiked along the path to the village of Ping'an.
Most of the homes in the Longsheng Minority Village area just barely clung to the side of the many hills on rickety stilts.
There is one more way, for the truly lazy tourist, to reach the village of Ping'an...via sedan chair. You may choose to relax in a lounge chair while panting, sweating locals carry you up the steep trail on their shoulders. We chose to walk...
Nina trudges up the path to the village of Ping'an after our new guide, Claire. Claire was wonderful; definitely one of our favorite guides. She was very young and sweet, like a kid sister. During the drive from the airport to our hotel, she sang us a local folk song. She has a lovely voice. Her Chinese name is Wei Mei Ping or Beautiful Duck Weed Flower.
Rice plants are transported from greenhouses in June and harvested in fall around October, at the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Different sections of the rice fields are owned by different families. Often several families share one water buffalo and take turns using the animal in their fields, as well as feeding and caring for the animal.
Many ancient Zhuang style dwellings are still intact.
The village of Ping'an is crisscrossed by many different paths leading in all directions and people were busy coming and going along the way.
Even though the village of Ping'an is remote and not accessible by car, this rural village still manages to have a population of 7,000 minority people. The village has numerous hotels, restaurants and shops. We've come to the conclusion that there simply are no “small towns” in China, at least not by American standards.

The Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces


The Longji terraced rice fields of the Longsheng area have come to be known as the Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces and are praised as one of the “wonders of the world.”
There are about 66 square kilometers of terraced fields in the Longsheng district. The Longji, or Dragon's Backbone, terraces were first built in the Yuan dynasty and completed in the Qing dynasty by the Zhuang people.
Since 2006, Chinese farmers have not had to pay taxes and they get a subsidy for growing rice.
The landscape changes drastically with the seasons. According to legend, “It looks like a twisting dragon in the spring, green waves in summer, a golden beach in autumn and a soaring silver dragon in winter.”
Ribbons, flowers and hanging lanterns help to celebrate the memories of ancestors.
This local dog followed us part way for our return trip.
We hiked to the highest point and were able to view the rice fields and village of Ping'an below.
The rice fields are excavated with superb craftsmanship and imply an artistic conception and romantic charm.
During harvest season, local children receive one week off from school in order to help with the harvest.
Some farmers raise ducks in the standing water of the rice fields, since their poo helps to fertilize the earth.
This feat of farm engineering reaches all the way up a string of 800 meter peaks.
In winter, many farmers reuse the land to grow sweet potatoes.
We stopped to get our photos taken where everyone gets their photos taken!
The local dog stopped following us temporarily to guard his fields and chase something in the bushes.
Nina, enjoying the fact that she's going downhill.
The ingenious terraced rice field construction makes best use of the scarce arable land and water resources in the mountainous area. Since the fields are dependent on rain water (there is no irrigation system), they are called “sky waiting fields.”

More of the Longsheng Minority Villages


The village of Ping'an clings precariously to the side of a hill. Apparently, the Zhuang minority people designed and built the houses with no nails!
For being in rural China, and inaccessible by car, the village of Ping'an is populated, thriving and busy.
We had a wonderful lunch in the village of Ping'an. We shared sticky rice baked in a piece of bamboo on an open fire, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, mushroom soup (we ate a lot of mushroom soup and this was the best), chicken with bamboo shoots and beef with carrots and celery. All of this was served on a giant lazy susan decorated with a dragon and a phoenix in the middle of a huge round table. It was enough food to feed an army. Thankfully, we learned that the leftovers are given to the area farm animals.
Sticky rice, in bamboo containers, roasting on an open fire in the village. The dish is a local specialty.
An outdoor eating establishment filled with tourists only.
A new Zhuang dwelling under construction. We wonder if they still don't use any nails?
Wild mountain chickens stop for a drink from an open tap.
A local farmer and his horse are hard at work, climbing the steps to the village of Ping'an.
A local farmer works the fields, using a large woven basket.
Nina and our guide Claire get ready to cross the bridge and return to Guilin.
Nina has a new found relationship with her once beloved tofu after seeing this tofu making machine. Tofu is very popular in China, however, the local tofu tastes a lot different and stronger than what we've grown accustomed to in the States.

Fubo Shan


In the afternoon, we visited Fubo Shan (Whirlpool Hill) in Guilin. But first we had to drive two hours from the Longsheng district back to Guilin, stopping to use an Eastern toilet at the most disgusting, albeit memorable, roadside gas station restroom. The bathroom consisted of three stalls with partition walls, but no doors. A “canal system” ran along the floor in the center of each stall from the first stall to the last. Therefore, as each person squatted over the canal, they got to watch the waste of the person in front of them float down the canal. It definitely pays to be in the first stall and not the last! And there was no toilet paper or soap, of course.
This ancient banyan tree at the entrance to the Fubo Shan needed a little help. One of the attractions at Fubo park is a large ornate bell. We learned that you never give a bell as a gift to a Chinese person, because the Chinese word for “bell” sounds very similar to the Chinese word for “death.”
A side view of Fubo hill. General Fubo worked for the emperor in 209 BC. He dug many canals to help the people and is a much loved hero of Guilin.
An old viewing platform that looks like it's straight out of the movie, “The Jungle Book.”
The giant cave entrance to the underground world below Fubo hill.
On the hill's southern slope is the Returned Pearl Cave (Huanzhu Dong) and the Thousand Buddha Cave (Qianfo Yan).
A 1,000-year-old Buddha image is etched into the cave wall, along with more than 200 other images of Buddha, most dating from the Song and Tang dynasties. According to Claire, Buddhism strives for harmony of the mind, Taoism strives for harmony with nature and Confucianism strives for harmony with society.
According to legend, rubbing the bottom of this giant stalactite is good luck. The stalactite is known as the Sword-Testing Stone.
In the cave there is a portrait and autograph by Mi Fu, a famous calligrapher of the Song dynasty, as well as many other poems and quotes. Just for the record...It began with the Tang Dynasty, followed by the Song, Yuan, Ming and lastly Qing.
Nina had to stretch her arm through a hole in a rock in order to rub Buddha's knee for good luck. China is full of superstitions and good luck charms!
A man out fishing on what the Chinese consider a boat... four or five pieces of bamboo strung together.
The path leading to the top of Fubo hill is pretty steep. We had a rather active day of climbing steps!
The bustling city of Guilin lives in the shadow of incredible green hills.
Situated in the northeast part of Guangxi province, Guilin is beset with lush green hills.
It's truly incredible how the thriving metropolis of Guilin simply tucks itself into the nooks and crannies between the rows and rows of gorgeous green hills and peaks.
Claire and Nina descend the steps down Fubo Shan.
A local man practices calligraphy on the sidewalk with a giant paint brush, with a foam tip, dipped in water.
Not your everyday variety of bamboo!

Night Walk in Guilin


For our second night in Guilin, we took a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Lijiang River to the downtown shopping area and night market, centered around Zhongshan Road. It was one of our nicest evenings (even though we ended up eating at KFC).
When it comes to Guilin and its stunning topography, there's good news and bad news. The good news is the beauty of this scenic city, celebrated for generations by poets and painters, more than lives up to its lofty reputation. The bad news is that rapid economic growth and a booming tourist trade have made it a bit challenging to enjoy Guilin's charms.
However, when strolling casually along the Li River, you might as well be a million miles away from the city of Guilin. It's hard to believe when strolling through this lovely park that there's a huge metropolis surrounding you!
Chris took this artistic shot of a small boat framed by tree branches. The green hills, crystal waters, fantastic caves and spectacular rocks of Guilin are often referred to as “the finest under the Heaven.”
A zigzag pathway with arched bridges leads to an island in the middle of Rong Hu (Lake), which has a lovely tea house. The lake is named after an 800-year-old banyan tree on its shore.
Nina poses for a photo in front of a decorative column on the zigzag bridge. Zigzag bridges can be found throughout China and were created out of the Chinese belief that ghosts and evil spirits walk in straight lines and can't turn corners.
The foliage was in full bloom along the banks of the Li River. According to Claire, Guilin is the home of the ginkgo tree. They are called “Grandpa and Grandson” trees, because according to legend, a grandfather planted a ginkgo tree which didn't grow until his grandson was born. Ginkgo reduces blood pressure and promotes a healthy heart. However, there wasn't anything we ate or drank while in China, which someone didn't try to convince us led to medical miracles. The leaves of the ginkgo tree look like tiny fans. Claire said she and her classmates used ginkgo leaves as bookmarks in primary school.
While we chose not to buy an overpriced cup of tea at this lovely tea house, we did take a photo of it.
We might have to send this stunner off to National Geographic! The poet, Han Yue, referred to the hills as “emerald hairpins.” Another poet, Fan Chengda, from the Song Dynasty, described the hills as “jade bamboo shoots.”
The Chinese love a good rock garden.
This charming pavilion style bridge has got to be one of the most stunning bridges in Guilin... although there's a lot of competition for most beautiful bridge in Guilin!
Chris took pictures of Chinese characters on rocks, while Nina had a great time shopping in a local mini-mart. We did most of our shopping in mini-marts and grocery stores, because no one harassed us, we didn't have to haggle and the prices were clearly displayed. Nina added a second souvenir alcohol bottle to our growing collection. A ceramic bottle shaped exactly like Elephant Trunk Hill, Guilin's most famous landmark, which unfortunately tasted terrible.
Zhongshan Lu (Road) is the “main drag” in Guilin and it runs parallel to the Li River on the west side.
Another glass pyramid sits in front of this shopping mall on Zhongshan Road, just like the glass pyramid in front of a shopping center in Xi'an.
The road is lined with giant shopping malls, electronic stores, fast food chains and tons more shopping.
The word “bustling” does not do justice toward describing the streets throughout China. The amount of activity on major Chinese streets is mind-boggling!
Guilin's Twin Pagodas are a stunning sight to behold, especially when lit up at night.
The pagodas sit upon lovely lotus flower bases.
Even the tree looks incredible!
Everything along the river is lit up...trees, bridges, pavilions, pagodas...just beautiful.
The pavilion style bridge, lit with white lights, looked like it could have dropped down from heaven above.
Night-time tour boats zip past the tea house in the middle of Rong lake.
A beautifully lit pavilion casts a bright glow upon the lake.
We had high hopes for the night market in Guilin after visiting the fascinating Wangfujing Night Market in Beijing. We were disappointed to discovered that Guilin's night market is solely for souvenirs, clothes and domestic goods. There was absolutely no food.
We ended up eating dinner at KFC, the most popular and commonly found American food chain in China. We saw plenty of McDonald's and a few Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, Dairy Queens, Starbucks, Subways and even a few Papa Johns; but KFC was everywhere. The Chinese version of KFC was far superior to its American creator. We ate “dragon wraps,” consisting of chicken tenders wrapped in a tortilla with a spicy brown “dragon” sauce. And, the “dragon wraps” had vegetables, including cucumbers and carrots! Plus, the mashed potatoes weren't ridiculously salty. We also tried McDonald's in Shanghai and the beef was much spicier and the hamburgers had cucumber slices.

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