We had quite an adventurous few days around Guilin and Yangshuo - the premier destinations of Guangxi province in China. Riding out the tail-end of the National Holiday here meant the crowds dissipated a little, prices dropped a tad, and there was an approximate 0.025% drop in spitting.
Click read more to find out how we got to, around, and back from the venerable Lòngjî Rice Terraces.
Background on the rice terraces
Here’s how it works. The ‘scenic’ area is huge, and it’s roughly broken into two areas - each area has a main village, many smaller ones, and lots of little paths going up, down and around the very hilly landscape.
Reasonably close to each village is a specific ‘scenic lookout’ point or three - these have a viewing platform, and a concentration of market stalls around them. They’re known by amusing names such as 'Nine Dragons and Five Tigers', and ’Thousand Layers to the Heaven'. Most of those 'Oh-My-Gawd' photos you've seen online are taken from these convenient viewpoints.
Most people stay in either Píng'ãn or Dàzhài - there’s plenty of accommodation at both. We just turned up and found the worlds squeakiest floorboards in a place in Píng’ãn for 128 Yuan/room.
We opted for a ‘tourist bus’ direct from Yàngshuò, booked through our amazingly friendly hostel, The Climber’s Inn (seriously - these guys are awesome). The price included the 100 Yuan entrance ticket, and left at 7am. It took 2.5 hours to arrive at the Entrance Area.
There are other ways - a bus back to Guilin, then another to the nearby town of Longsheng, then walking back down to the entrance gate, but it was far more convenient and cost pretty much the same.
A note on the tourist bus - it was full of brightly-dressed Chinese tourists, complete with a shouting guide who kept repeating himself over and over. It was one of those buses which ferries people to gift shops, lunch stops and scenic vistas - we asked the tour guide about hiking between Ping’an and Dàzhài and he just shrugged at us. It’s not something Chinese people do.
So we got out at the entrance gate and bid farewell. There is a place to leave your luggage there for 50 Yuan per item. Only snacks are available.
Getting to Ping’an or Dàzhài village.
It was around 11am, and after checking all the grossly inaccurate maps (we took both English and Chinese versions to make it easier for asking directions later on), we had to make it to the villages themselves.
The public buses come from towns outside the scenic area, and go next to the ticket area, not through it. So we waited on the road by the police dudes. The ticket office lady waved vaguely with an extremely limp hand (signifying it was really close).
The timetable isn't inspiring. The buses to Píng'ãn come roughly every 2 hours (our next one was at 1pm). The buses to Dàzhài come roughly ever 1 hour. We waited on the road and paid 20 Yuan per person and arrived at Dàzhài village about an hour later. Our entrance ticket for the scenic area was checked and stamped on the bus.
Ping’an is probably less regular, because it is far higher in the mountains - there is a very squiggly road leading up to it. Buses don’t connect between the villages. Definitely don’t get a taxi driver to drop you at the bottom for you to walk up, unless you relish in dull hours-long uphill walks along roads.
We passed the ‘Long Hair Village’ of Huangluo on our way. It costs around 60-80 Yuan to stop and visit, we didn’t bother - we saw plenty long-haired Yao women all throughout the scenic area. Their village didn’t seem particularly exciting.
It was around 1pm, so we had some fiery soup for lunch, which left us ready for some scenic terrace viewing: Two Silly Foreigners Breathing Fire Like Heavenly Dragons.
There are plenty of signposts all throughout the village - it’s very easy to get to the two scenic look-out points on your own. Local women will offer to carry your bags for you in oversized wicker-baskets strapped to their backs, and we passed lots of happy Chinese and sheepish-looking Westerners who opted for this.
It took an hour or so to walk to the top scenic points and look out over the area.
Walking between Dàzhài and Ping’an (or vice versa)
Here’s where the guidebooks tell you to hire a local guide, and we passed plenty of people offering their services (“ni hao - me take you, Ping-an?’) along the way - even when we were practically at Ping’an already.
Do you need one?
If you’re the kind of person who can read the lay of the land, and doesn’t mind back-tracking off a wrong-turn every now and then, then you’ll be fine. Just keep going straight along the stone tracks (passing Zhonglu village along the way). It took us longer than expected - more 5 than 3-4 hours, but we dawdled as always. Just keep going straight and every now and then ask a local if you’re going the right way - buy some water or snacks and everyone’s happy.
The walk itself is nice, but if you want to wear your city-clothes and ogle at the views, your time is better spent visiting just the look-out points. Each one is quite different.
We found the hike to be a great way to escape the hordes of tourists and get a slice of rural China. We only met one group coming the other way between the villages who, amusingly, we had met at the train station in Shanghai a week earlier.
It would have been sunset when we arrived if not for the overcast clouds, but the terraces here were still breathtaking. Ping’an is more closely clumped together than Dàzhài and, we thought, looked prettier. There is plenty of accommodation in all the huge triple-story wooden houses, and they serve food (and beer!) too.
Getting back to Guilin
Everywhere in Ping’an or Dàzhài will arrange a bus direct to Guilin for 50 Yuan. We had to be back by 4pm for our 20-hour train to Yunnan province.
We had to get back to the main ticket area though, to pick up our backpacks. We got a local bus at 9am (every 2 hours, 10-15 minutes walk down from Ping’an to the entrance gate). We accidentally paid half the fare (20 Yuan) without blinking an eye and were ok. We suspect that’s the local price. The trip took about 45 minutes.
From the entrance gate, we grabbed our luggage and walked 10 minutes out onto the main road, passing a lot of new development, and flagged down a bus on the main highway. We had to sit on plastic seats as the bus was full, but it was only 21 Yuan per person all the way back. It took an hour and a half.
We could easily have spent an extra day or two up at the Rice Terraces - each village is really peaceful, with plenty of photo opportunities. But with only a month in China, we had other places to get to...
One last thing
The time of year will greatly impact what the rice terraces look like - October was Golden, whereas those mirrored water-filled photos you see are more timed with January, at least in this region - it's different everywhere. Time your visit accordingly.
EMMA & PETE
We're just two Aussie's who met in London, married in Prague and travelled overland back to Australia.