Zhuang people

the long hike back from the longji rice terraces to ping’an

Saturday, June 27:  After reaching the entrance of the Longji Rice Terraces, I turn around to return the three hours to Ping’An, taking the lower road and detouring into Longji Ancient Zhuang Village.  The view along the lower road is even more spectacular than the high road, and much less traveled by tourists.  Not that there are a lot of tourists, compared to everywhere else I’ve traveled in China, but it’s more secluded on the lower road.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The day is humid but still a bit cooler than most places in Guangxi, probably because of the elevation.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I enjoy the views of the land carved out beneath me in curvaceous patterns.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

looking down at the layers at Longji Rice Terraces

looking down at the layers at Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

up close and personal at the Longji Rice Terraces

up close and personal at the Longji Rice Terraces

water filled rice terraces

water filled rice terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

a neatly carved landscape

a neatly carved landscape

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

daisies at Longji Rice Terraces

daisies at Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I catch glimpses of farmers working on the terraces today.  These terraces are not only artistic, but are actively worked by the residents.

a Chinese farmer on the terraces

a Chinese farmer on the terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I take one successful selfie of myself; most of my other photos are a blur.

self portrait at the Longji Rice Terraces

self-portrait at the Longji Rice Terraces

As I continue on the lower road, I can see the Longji Ancient Zhuang Village ahead.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Here is one of the water sources for the terraces.  The terraces are also watered through an irrigation system much like the aflaj in Oman (The Traditional Aflaj Irrigation System).

springs that water the terraces

springs that water the terraces

I love how the terraces are filled with water at this time of year.  If it were a sunnier day, you might be able to see clouds reflected in them, as I’ve seen in others’ photographs.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

heading toward Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

heading toward Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The last time I ventured into the Longji Village, back in November, I got hopelessly lost, finally paying a little girl a small sum to take me back to the path to Ping’An (a 5-hour hike to the longji rice terraces at longji ancient zhuang village).  This time, I decide to keep heading up, as I know the road is above me and I’ll eventually find my way to it.

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

There isn’t much sign of life in the village.  Maybe everyone is napping, or maybe they’re out working in the terraces.

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces with Longji Ancient Zhuang Village below

Longji Rice Terraces with Longji Ancient Zhuang Village below

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

climbing up the Longji Rice Terraces

climbing up the Longji Rice Terraces

corn on the terraces

corn on the terraces

miscellaneous farming

miscellaneous farming

the steps uphill

the steps uphill

farmed terraces

farmed terraces

the outskirts of Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

the outskirts of Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

outskirts of the village

outskirts of the village

corn

corn

strutting his stuff

strutting his stuff

It’s a long walk uphill to make it back to the road that will lead to the path back to Ping’An, and it takes me well over an hour.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

I like watching the farmers working on the terraces.

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a farmer working the rice terraces

climbing the mountain to return to Ping'An

climbing the mountain to return to Ping’An

Finally, I leave the houses on the outskirts of the village behind and I’m back on the path through the woods.

the path back to Ping'An

the path back to Ping’An

There isn’t much to photograph in the woods, so I just keep walking, even though I’m worn out by now.  I still haven’t eaten a thing all day because I didn’t want to have any stomach problems.

the hike back through the woods to Ping'An

the hike back through the woods to Ping’An

the long walk back

the long walk back

Before long, I’m back at Seven Stars with Moon on the outskirts of Ping’An.  My legs are so tired!!

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

At long last, I’m back in Ping’An and I decide to look for a place to sit down so I can have a late lunch and a beer.

back to Ping'An

back to Ping’An

a vendor selling colorful earrings

a vendor selling colorful earrings

Ping'An

Ping’An

the Zhuang ladies of Ping'An

the Zhuang ladies of Ping’An

shredded something

shredded something

I head directly to my hostel, where I take a cold shower, which feels good as I’ve been sweating like crazy on my hike.  I relax a while and then head out to the inviting Green Garden Hotel, where I decide to stop for a Tsingtao beer and a Hawaiian pizza.

the village of Ping'An

the village of Ping’An

I sit on the balcony where I have a great view of the village.

taking a rest with a view

taking a rest with a view at the Green Garden

view over Ping'An

view over Ping’An from the Green Garden

The light is amazing as is seeps through the clouds. It spreads like melted butter over the mountains.

view over Seven Stars with Moon

view over Seven Stars with Moon

mountain light

mountain light

ethereal light

ethereal light

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

view from Green Garden

the Green Garden Cafe

the Green Garden Cafe

view from the Green Garden

view from the Green Garden

The proprietor has been very friendly.  He walks me out the door and tells me to come again.

owner of the Green Garden

owner of the Green Garden

I walk back to Seven Stars and Moon, so I can take pictures as the sun goes down.

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Ancient Village, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

a 5-hour hike to the longji rice terraces at longji ancient zhuang village

Friday, November 21:  After I finish posing for photos wearing the traditional costume, I climb back up to the Seven Stars with Moon viewpoint, all the while looking for a path to Longji Ancient Zhuang Village and the Longji Rice Terraces.  I climb all the way to the top, and having seen no paths at all branching off of the main path, I walk back down again. This is only the first time I become what some might call “misplaced” on my long day’s hike.

rice terraces on the way from Ping'An to Longji

rice terraces on the way from Ping’An to Longji

Curvaceous terraces

Curvaceous terraces

ornamental grasses and rice terraces

ornamental grasses and rice terraces

Finally, I find a path about midway down the mountain that appears to head west.  I had passed this path before but a sign said the path was for farmers only.  However, this time, I notice that the path actually splits in two.  One is just a dirt path; I believe that to be the farmer’s path. The other one is paved with stones, and that seems to have no sign at all.  I think this may be the path to Longji.  I go ahead and take the gamble because I’ve seen on the map that the path to Longji should branch somewhere off of this main path toward the west.

the trail to Longji

the trail to Longji

I walk for quite a while along this path, maybe 15 minutes, admiring the beautiful rice terraces along the way.  I come to this little covered bridge where I sit for a spell.

a little covered bridge

a little covered bridge

I continue along the path.  Sometimes I’m flanked by steep banks to the right and forest to the left.  I love all the ornamental grasses and some of the autumn colors I see along the way.

continuing on the trail

continuing on the trail

terraces along the path

terraces along the path

the trail continues

the trail continues

grasses galore

grasses galore

ornamental grass frame of the mountains

ornamental grass frame of the mountains

a resting place along the way

a resting place along the way

views along the way

views along the way

During my walk in the woods, it would NOT have been pleasant had my stomach acted up. However, it would have been convenient.  I could have easily stepped off into the ornamental grasses without a soul seeing me.  But it behaved itself during the entire hike in the woods, much to my relief.

pretty fall colors

pretty fall colors

the path ahead

the path ahead

Finally, after about a half hour, I begin to spot signs of human habitation.  Most of the time, I’ve had this path to myself, although I did pass a couple of small families headed in the opposite direction. They seemed to be tourists, as they were dressed up as the Chinese usually are when they travel; they definitely didn’t look like farmers.

coming to the edges of the village

coming to the edges of the village

Finally I seem to be on the outskirts of Longji.  The houses are still spread far apart, but the further I go down the road, they congregate into increasingly close-knit huddles. I pass this woman working along the roadside, but she doesn’t even look up.  I guess she’s used to seeing tourists in these parts.

a farmer working

a farmer working

Soon after I pass this farmer lady, while on the outskirts of the village but not in the thick of it, suddenly I feel my stomach churning. It is letting its mind be known and I begin to panic.  I look around at my options.  I see a woman walking across the road close by; she’s carrying two baskets on a bamboo pole.  I’ve found the Chinese don’t often understand the word “toilet” but they more often understand “WC.”  I say to the woman, my voice probably sounding desperate.  “WC?? WC??”  She waves me off, though I don’t know how she does it when balancing that bamboo pole over her shoulders.  She obviously doesn’t want to have any interaction with a foreigner.  She walks behind a building along the side of the road and quickly disappears.

By now I’m calculating whether I can run back to the deserted path through the woods and fields, or if I can find a bathroom VERY SOON on this village road.  If worse comes to worst, I may have to crouch down right on top of one of the rice terraces, behind whatever tuft of grass I can find.  I look at the building nearest me.  It doesn’t look like a house; it looks sort of like a warehouse of some kind. I think maybe I can sneak behind the building.  I go to the backside of it and HALLELUJAH!! It’s a bathroom!  It’s not marked as such on the side facing the road, but on the backside, there it is, two doors, one male and one female.  I’m saved!

Oh sweet relief!  I, who have traveled through some of the most notorious countries in the world for causing stomach problems, including India for 3 weeks, have hardly ever had this kind of problem while traveling.  I guess I’ve been lucky so far.  Let me tell you, it is NO FUN to have to worry about this when you’re far from home.  At this point, I begin to wonder if I should have stayed in bed another day.

As I cannot allow myself to choose turning back, I continue on. I think I’m good for a while, and I have come all this way.  I come upon some new and being-constructed buildings along the road, but I can see the Old Village down the hillside.  I can also see a long curvy road upon which a lot of tourists are walking.  I keep walking ahead.

pretty wooden building on the outskirts of Longji

pretty wooden building on the outskirts of Longji

Now the terraces are becoming more dramatic.  There is a deep valley and lots of mountains with terraces cut into all of them.  Of course my camera won’t capture the ones on the opposite side of the valley because it’s too foggy and cloudy.

terraces in Longji

terraces in Longji

I pass a pretty little stream along the way.  I’m loving all the ornamental grasses I’m seeing today.

a little stream

a little stream

approaching the main viewpoint in Longji

approaching the main viewpoint in Longji

rice fields

rice fields

Finally, I reach the hugest rice terraces I’ve seen here.  They look like slices of turkey layered on a huge platter.  Of course the rice has all been harvested, but here the terraces are filled with water, and that gives them a different look altogether.

the main viewpoint of terraces in Longji

the main viewpoint of terraces in Longji

I keep walking along the upper road, but I can see there is a lower road where people are walking.  I determine that after I go to the end of this road, I’ll return on this lower road.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The landscape is amazing!!  I just can’t believe how gorgeous it is.  The only thing that would make it better is if it were BEFORE the harvest and the sky were blue.  Or if it were sunrise or sunset.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

The beauty of it takes my breath away.  I’m stunned by the amount of work that has gone into building these terraces over the centuries.  According to China Highlights: Longji Terraced Fields, the terraces were first built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) and were completed in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) by the Zhuang people and Yao people.  The irrigation methods used make the best use of the scarce arable land and water resources in this mountainous area. There are about 66 square kilometers of terraced fields in southeast Longsheng County.

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Longji Rice Terraces

Rice terraces and house

Rice terraces and house

the Longji Rice Terraces

the Longji Rice Terraces

Eventually, after takings scores of photos, I begin to walk back along the lower road.  I assume it will lead into the Longji Ancient Zhuang village and then back up the hillside to the road, where I can retrace my steps back to Ping’An.

As I’m walking, two beautifully dressed young Chinese ladies ask me if I’ll take their photograph.  When people ask me for this favor, I don’t hesitate to ask for the favor in return.  This is the picture they take of me.

Me taking a rest along the way to the Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Me taking a rest along the way to the Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

I get closer and closer to the village.

Approaching Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Approaching Longji Ancient Zhuang Village

Getting closer to the village

Getting closer to the village

Approaching the village

Approaching the village

Before long, I’m at the edge of the village.  I know the road back to Ping’an is up the hill, so I venture into the village, knowing that I just need to go uphill when I’m ready to leave.

the wooden houses of the ancient village

the wooden houses of the ancient village

clothing corn and bamboo

clothing corn and bamboo

I make my way out of this ancient village easily enough, and I walk uphill through more terraces and farmland.

Terraces

Terraces

walking up from the village

walking up from the village

admiring the views

admiring the views

looking down on the village and farms

looking down on the village and farms

I sit on the stone steps to take a breath and this is my view of the farmland.

farming terraces

farming terraces

As I get higher, I see I’m about to enter another village.  I figure again that I’ll once again head uphill when I’m ready to leave this village.

almost back to the road

almost back to the road

The problem is that once I’m in the village and surrounded by the buildings, I can’t tell what is up and what is down.  I pass by some ladies chatting around their motorbikes and I head off in what I think is an upward direction.  After walking and walking and walking around and about on convoluted walkways, I return right back to the point where the ladies are talking around their motorbikes.  I’ve come full circle.  By this time, I’m exhausted and I really want to get on the path to Ping’An.

A little girl standing with the women says “Hello!”  I think, “Oh boy, someone who can speak English!”  I say to the girl, “Road to Ping’An?” She points up a hill in the direction I already walked, the direction where I got lost.  She’s with her grandmother, who beckons her to lead me.  The girl runs ahead, with her grandmother following behind, and at the next crossroad, she points in one direction.  I still recognize this as the direction I walked before and got lost.  The little girl wants to stop at every crossroad, but I really want her to take me all the way to the road.  I pull out a 10 yuan bill and show it to her.  “For you, road to Ping’An.”  At each crossroad, she wants to take the 10 yuan bill, but I hold it back each time: “Road to Ping’An” I continue to remind her.  Finally, I see the road on which I came into Longji and I hand over the 10 yuan.  “Xiexie,” I tell her. Thank you!

wildflowers

wildflowers

gates

gates

Finally, I’m on the road that will lead me to the footpath back to Ping’An.

grasses and barn

grasses and barn

red flowers of autumn

red flowers of autumn

I keep walking down the road. I pass by my life-saving bathroom, so I know I’m going in the right direction. I’m looking for the trail to Ping’An off the main road but I don’t see it. The road curves sharply to the left, as in a switchback, and though this part doesn’t look familiar, I keep following the road which heads sharply uphill.  There isn’t a soul in sight to ask whether I’m going in the right direction.  Finally, at the top of the very long and steep hill, I see a woman out in her yard.  I say “Ping’An?” as I point up the hill.  She points back downhill in the direction I just came and shakes her head.  No, Ping’An is back down the hill, she gestures.  Though I’ve wasted a lot of effort walking up this hill, at least I’m glad to discover that my instinct was right that nothing looked familiar.

As I get to the switchback point, I ask a farmer: “Ping’An?” He gestures for me to follow him.  We head off on another path that I still don’t recognize but I follow anyway.  I figure he must know what he’s doing as he’s a local.  Finally, we reach a point where I originally took a picture of this sign, so I recognize where I am. The farmer leaves me at this point, taking off on another path.  Sweet relief.  By this time I’m exhausted and my legs are sore, I’m dying to get back to the hostel where I can put my feet up.

a familiar sign!

a familiar sign!

Now I’m back in familiar territory, surrounded by steep banks and rice terraces and ornamental grasses waving in the breeze, as if they’re cheerleaders encouraging me on my long walk back.

pretty grasses

pretty grasses

I’m also very thirsty at this point, as I haven’t had a drink all day.  I see this shack ahead, and thinking it’s a place I can buy a drink, I pick up my pace.  Sadly, I find it’s nothing but an abandoned shack.

on the path back, a promise of a drink, unfulfilled

on the path back, a promise of a drink, unfulfilled

I keep thinking that once I reach the covered bridge, I’ll be almost back. Not quite true as this was 15 minutes into the walk.  But I am happy to see it, and, as I did on the way out, I stop for a rest for a few moments.

back to the covered bridge

back to the covered bridge

grasses on the terraces

grasses on the terraces

Then I’m walking back around the rim of the Ping’An Terraces and I can recognize the contours of Seven Stars with Moon.

Return to Ping'An

Return to Ping’An

swirls

swirls

And I see some farmers doing a controlled burn on the hillside.

controlled burn

controlled burn

Finally, I arrive back at the hostel at 4:30 p.m.  As I started on the path to Longji at 11:30, I’ve been hiking for 5 hours, not including the walk up and down the mountain to Seven Stars with Moon and the posing for the photos in the costume this morning.

I see the Memory Board on the wall of the hostel, but I don’t add anything to the wall. I just want to go into my room and lie down for a while.

a Memory Wall back at the Longji International Youth Hostel

a Memory Wall back at the Longji International Youth Hostel

At dinner, I don’t really want to eat anything because of my stomach.  No Chinese food sounds appealing anyway. However, I figure I’d better put something into it because sometimes an empty stomach doesn’t feel good either.  I order some toast and I drink several cups of hot water, as well as several bottles of cold water.  It’s easy to get hot water at any Chinese establishment as the Chinese believe hot water is good for your health.

I’m planning to leave Ping’An in the morning. I’ll be going to Guilin where I’ve reserved a hotel room at the Guilin Sapphire Hotel.  I figure there are some sights to see in Guilin, so I’ll play tourist for another day before returning to Nanning on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Sadly, my unexpected holiday will be over and I have to return to work on Monday.

 

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Ancient Village, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

a walk to “seven stars with moon” & return to ping’an

Thursday, November 20: My Zhuang guide and I continue along the trail around the rim of the rice terraces, and my back is hurting the whole time.  I periodically stop to stretch in different directions, and she continues to rub the small of my back when I bend over.

You may wonder why I don’t mention my wonderful guide by name.  To be honest, she tells me her name, but I don’t quite understand her, and then of course I forget it as soon as she tells me.  I don’t know why but Chinese is still just as unintelligible to me as it was on the first day I got here.  I have learned a few words, but only to get by.  And even though I’ve been taking Chinese classes for one hour once a week, all we’ve learned so far is Pinyin and the tones and sounds, which I have great difficulty with.  I can’t even differentiate some of the sounds.  My attempts to learn Chinese give me a lot of sympathy for my poor Chinese students who are trying to learn English.  The two languages are about as far from each other as two languages can be!

As she walks ahead of me on the trail, my guide keeps pulling at the ferns growing along the hillside and plucking them off and dropping them on the path.   It’s almost like Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.

terraces on the way to Seven Stars with the Moon

terraces on the way to Seven Stars with the Moon

pretty fall colors

pretty fall colors

wheelbarrow

wheelbarrow

terraces

terraces and the village of Ping’An

Viewpoint 2: Seven Stars with Moon

Viewpoint 2: Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Seven Stars with Moon

Rices terraces

Rice terraces

view from Seven Stars with Moon to Ping'An Village

view from Seven Stars with Moon to Ping’An Village

ornamental grasses and terraces

ornamental grasses and terraces

path along the terraces

path along the terraces

wildflower

wildflower

my Zhuang guide and her little bouquet

my Zhuang guide and her little bouquet

At one point, we reach a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of shops where there is a public restroom that is surprisingly clean and even has a Western toilet.  You must be able to tell by now that Western toilets are hard to come by in China, as I get excited every time I find one!  At the shops, I buy a bottle of water and a painting of a Zhuang woman carrying baskets through a tropical forest on black fabric.  I also find this cute little baby in a stroller and I wonder how on earth someone has gotten the baby uphill in this stroller, as there are so many steps and no cars can drive in the village or up these trails.

a little baby along the path

a little baby along the path

Somewhere along this path is the Seven Stars with Moon lookout, but I’m not really sure exactly where it is as I don’t see a sign.  I have seen signs TO the viewpoint but I haven’t seen any AT the viewpoint.  According to China Highlights.com, “Seven Stars around the Moon” is formed from eight small piles standing separately in the middle of eight rice paddies. The middle pile, filled with water, looks like a bright moon while the others are compared to seven stars.

Seven Stars with the Moon

Seven Stars with the Moon

Me at Seven Stars with Moon

Me at Seven Stars with Moon

Walking downhill from Seven Stars with Moon

Walking downhill from Seven Stars with Moon

Returning to Ping'An

Returning to Ping’An

>

Parking & Seven Stars with Moon

After we leave this lookout, we are heading down steps back into the village, and we pass a lot of shops selling handicrafts along the way.  I’m not in the market to buy anything today as I just want to get back to rest.

My guide stops to talk to this Zhuang lady who is selling some peppers or some kind of food along the walkway.  The lady’s lower gums seem to be detached from her lower jaw; I can see this when she talks.  Although she doesn’t look it in this picture, she seems very happy despite this problem.  She chats quite animatedly with my guide.

another Zhuang lady

another Zhuang lady in Ping’An Village

Then we’re back in the village where I see cute shops and some interesting sights.

back to the village of Ping'An

back to the village of Ping’An

Clothing, corn and characters

Clothing, corn and characters

Village door

Village door

cafes in the village

cafes in the village

We stop for a chat with this lady who also asks for some money for me and the guide if I want to take a picture of her.

my Zhuang guide's friend

my Zhuang guide’s friend

my guide and her friend

my guide and her friend

We have a seat at a lookout where we can see the pretty village below us.

the Zhuang village of Ping'An

the Zhuang village of Ping’An

my guide and me :-)

my guide and me 🙂

interesting wooden buildings in Ping'An

interesting wooden buildings in Ping’An

Finally, it’s about 12:15, and we return toward the hotel.  I see some cooking going on in the streets, and people washing vegetables in a stream.  I also see this foot massage place which I note, but when I try to find it later, I’m unable to do so.

the winding walkways in Ping'An

the winding walkways in Ping’An

sedan chairs - used for tourists who don't want to walk up the hills

sedan chairs – used for tourists who don’t want to walk up the hills

Meiyou Cafe

Meiyou Cafe

It’s lunchtime but my stomach and back are still hurting and all I want to do is lie down.  I go to my room, where I take a long nap.  It feels good to burrow under the covers and sleep for a couple of hours.

When I wake up around 3:30, I’m still hurting but I’m feeling hungry, so I go back out to explore a bit of the town and search for a restaurant that had looked appealing along the way.

Pretty pavilion in the town

Pretty pavilion in the town

sticks & stones

sticks & stones

drying corn

drying corn

the village of Ping'An from below

the village of Ping’An from below

9 dragons & 5 tigers OR 7 stars with moon

9 dragons & 5 tigers OR 7 stars with moon

Things that used to be things??

Things that used to be things??

Ping'An Zhuang Village

Ping’An Zhuang Village

Beer bottles as art

Beer bottles as art

When I find the restaurant, I order some “stir-fried vegetables,” which turn out to be cabbage and onions, and some rice.

the restaurant where I ate a late lunch of "stir-fried vegetables" and had to rush back to the hotel....

the restaurant where I ate a late lunch of “stir-fried vegetables” and had to rush back to the hotel….

As soon as I finish my meal, I suddenly feel my stomach about to give way, so I pay my bill and head downhill quickly to my hotel. I barely make it back to my room!  Oh my gosh, what a pain to feel so sick while traveling!  I lie down again and nap for the rest of the afternoon and early evening.

Later in the evening, I think I might be able to handle just some toast and some hot water.  While sitting in the dining room of the hostel, I meet a retired doctor named Ron Perrier who is traveling around the world and is in China for stint.  He is also a fellow blogger and here’s his blog: only where you have walked have you been.  He asks me about my health problems and makes a few guesses about what it might mean that I have both stomach problems and a back ache.  We have quite a long chat and he gives me some Ibuprofen to help me with my pain.  Even though I feel horrible, I enjoy meeting this fellow traveler and sharing some cultural observations.  We talk about spitting in Chinese society.  He says he has found that spitting to the Chinese is just like the vomiting impulse to us as Westerners.  The Chinese feel if they get the urge to spit, they must get rid of the phlegm as soon as possible, just as we do if we feel the urge to vomit.  We Westerners have learned to swallow our spit and we don’t feel it’s acceptable to go around spitting on the street, but that’s not the case with the Chinese.  We talk about many other interesting topics and observations, but if you’d like to see more on his take on life and travel, I suggest you visit his blog. 🙂

I go back to my room where I take the Ibuprofen and read the current book on my Kindle: Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford.  I sleep and sleep and sleep, hoping to feel better in the morning so I can hike to Longji Ancient Village and the rice terraces there.

 

 

Categories: Asia, China, Expat life, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Seven Stars with Moon, Travel, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

a walk along the longji rice terraces from ping’an to nine dragons & five tigers

Thursday, November 20:  This morning, I wake up with a terrible lower back ache in addition to the stomach cramps I’ve been having for two days.  I don’t know if I slept in a contorted position or if it’s a result of sitting all day yesterday on trains and buses and then walking up the steep path, and then back down and up again, to Ping’An village.  I’m not usually one to get terrible back aches, but this one is bad.  I can hardly move! I’ve scheduled a 10:00 hike through the rice terraces with the spry little lady guide, and I wonder if I’ll be able to do it at all.

I walk out onto my balcony and check out the village below.  I’m on the fourth floor, so I have quite a nice view of the busy Zhuang villagers leading their horses up and down the path laden with logs and bricks and all manner of construction materials.

view of the village of Ping'An from the balcony off my room at Longji International Youth Hostel

view of the village of Ping’An from the balcony off my room at Longji International Youth Hostel

The Ping’an Terraced Fields are located in the Longji Terraced Fields Scenic Area in Longsheng County, which is 100 kilometers north-west of Guilin City. Longji Terraced Fields consist of three main villages – Jinkeng Red Yao Village, Ping’an Zhuang Village and Longji Ancient Zhuang Village. When talking about Longji Terraced Fields, it is generally considered to be Ping’an Terraced Fields, the core tourist area of Longji Terraced Fields.

The altitude of the Ping’an Terraced Fields is from 300 – 1,100 meters above sea level. This area was first cultivated in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and finished in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) with a history of more than 650 years (China Highlights: Longji Ping’an Terraced Fields).

view of Ping'An from my balcony

view of Ping’An from my balcony

Ping’an Zhuang Village accommodates more than 50 families with over 200 people. Most of them are Zhuang people and some are Yao people. The Zhuang minority nationality is the main nationality in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. One third of the population in Guangxi is comprised of the Zhuang people (China Highlights: Longji Ping’an Terraced Fields).

the industrious Zhuang villagers of Ping'An

the industrious Zhuang villagers of Ping’An

I consider canceling my hike because with an iffy stomach and the pain I’m in, I figure it will be a miserable hike.   I don’t know if there will be bathrooms along the way for my stomach issues, and I could make my back worse and be laid out the rest of my holiday.  However, I don’t have limitless time off, and I’ve come all this way!!  I can’t possibly just lie around in bed nursing myself back to health.  I figure the fresh air will do me good and that I’ll just walk out the pain.

I go down to the lobby to eat a Western breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast and I tell the receptionist about the leak in my bathroom ceiling.  She picks up the phone and makes a call and says they will have to buy a new faucet.  I tell her it’s not the faucet that’s leaking but it must be some pipe in the ceiling because the whole ceiling is leaking all over the bathroom and onto the carpet in the room.  She sends someone up to inspect while I’m eating my breakfast and then she tells me they will need to replace a whole pipe.  She asks if I’d mind switching to a standard double room, with a Western toilet (!), for half the price of what I’m paying. This will be my third room switch since I arrived, but I’m happy to switch to the cheaper room.  I tell her I tried to book the standard double on C-trip but it showed only the family room or the dorm rooms were available; I preferred the standard double from the beginning.  She’s perplexed as to why C-trip showed the rooms as being booked as it’s obvious there is hardly anyone in the hotel at this time of year.  No matter, I move all my stuff back to the second floor and settle in, taking a nice hot shower to soothe my back before heading on the hike.

At 10:00, my guide appears at the hostel and off we go.  She’s as happy as she was yesterday when she hauled my bags up that steep mountain.  I’m inspired by her happy nature and figure if I’m going to be in pain on a hike, she’s a good one to be with for her caring and kindness.

My Zhuang porter from last night and my guide for today.   She's the nicest and most cheerful woman imaginable!

My Zhuang porter from last night and my guide for today. She’s the nicest and most cheerful woman imaginable!

We begin our uphill walk through the village and when we come to a crossroads she asks if I’d like to see Viewpoint 1 or Viewpoint 2 first.  I point in the direction of Viewpoint 1: Nine Dragons & Five Tigers, thinking we may as well start at the beginning.

Ping'An

Ping’An

My guide is strong and healthy, and with the way I’m feeling today I feel older than she is!  It’s kind of depressing, but I figure I will do my best to keep up with her.

keeping up with my Zhuang guide

keeping up with my Zhuang guide

She stops to speak to a friend of hers along the way, and to admire the little grandchild.  I like the corn drying along the front porch of the house.

one of my guide's Zhuang friends in the village

one of my guide’s Zhuang friends in the village

and the friend's grandchild

and the friend’s grandchild

When I was in Yangshuo, Audrey told me that people often keep the good luck symbols  from Spring Festival on their front doors all year round, even though they start to look tattered after a while.  They’re afraid to take them down because they supposedly bring good luck.

Zhuang door

Zhuang door

I love the rooftops of the Zhuang wooden buildings.  And I see a touch of fall colors in the yellow trees.

rooftops of Ping'An

rooftops of Ping’An

rooftops of Ping'An

rooftops of Ping’An

According to China Highlights: Guilin, in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the south of China, enjoys a subtropical monsoon climate. The average temperature is approximately 20 degrees all year around. In the terraced areas, the farmers grow rice twice a year. However, due to the high altitude on the Longji Terraced Fields in the deep winter time, the temperature can be below zero. The local farmers only prepare the cultivation once a year. In late April, it is time to fill the rice paddies with water. The terraced fields, filled with crystal clear water, look like thousands of silver ribbons glittering in the sun. In summer time, the grain seedlings have green leaves which make the entire terraced area look like a green ocean. In late September and early October, the rice in the paddies is ripe. Each layer of the terraces looks like a piece of precious golden carpet. During National Day, you are able to see the farmers harvesting rice in the fields. From November onwards, it’s winter. Normally, the farmers don’t grow anything and just let the fields have a good rest. So the best time to visit the Longji Terraces is from April to October.

Of course the rice fields have all been harvested by now, so this is not the best time of year to visit.  However, I do find the terraces with their golden colors quite pretty.  It’s pretty foggy and overcast today, so it’s not the best atmosphere for photos either.  Nevertheless, I still find the scenery breathtaking.

Along the hike

Along the hike

The walk is all uphill and I have to stop many times to bend down and touch my toes to stretch out my back.  My little lady guide is very patient and kind, and gives my lower back a rub when I stop.  She doesn’t speak much English but she can say “beautiful!!” “a long, long way!” and “water” which she keeps repeating throughout the walk.

rice terraces

rice terraces

Of course, in typical Chinese fashion, some fellow tourists want me to pose for a picture with them.  Whenever the Chinese ask to take a picture with me, I ask whoever is taking the picture to take one with my camera too.

one of many photo shoots with random Chinese tourists

one of many photo shoots with random Chinese tourists

Some of the rice on the terraces has been burned and during my hikes, I see a number of burns taking place.  You can see the black patches in this photo.

terraces

terraces

terraces

terraces

water-filled terraces

water-filled terraces

I like the clouds reflected in the water-filled terraces.

water filled terrace

water filled terrace

The scenery is breathtaking. I of course have to stop every couple of minutes to take photos of the contoured landscape.

curvaceous terraces

curvaceous terraces

winding terraces

winding terraces

approaching viewpoint 1: nine dragons & five tigers

approaching viewpoint 1: nine dragons & five tigers

harvested rice terraces

harvested rice terraces

the terraces

the terraces

The first viewing point is “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers.” The name means the nine ridges look like nine dragons branching off from the main vein. Alongside, there are five tiger-like piles, guarding the peaceful village. Both of the two scenic spots are the best places to get a bird’s-eye of the Ping’an Terraced Fields.  We will head to Viewpoint 2 after this one.  That will follow in another post.

Viewpoint 1: Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Viewpoint 1: Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

view across the way

view across the way

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

from atop Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

from atop Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

Nine Dragons & Five Tigers

We turn around here at Nine Dragons & Five Tigers and head in a circle toward the second viewpoint, on the opposite side of Ping’an Village.  Apparently if you continue along the path from here to the east, it’s a four-hour hike each way to Dazhai Village, another village at Longji Rice Terraces.  If I head to the west, from Viewpoint 2, I can go on an hour-long hike (2 hour round trip) to Longji Ancient Village.  I plan to do this tomorrow if I can get some rest this afternoon and if my back feels better.

You can see the path through the terraces in the photo below.

Heading toward Seven Stars with Moon

Heading toward Seven Stars with Moon

water-filled terraces

water-filled terraces

mountains and terraces galore

mountains and terraces galore

mounds of terraces

mounds of terraces

a bowl of terraces

a bowl of terraces

We approach a little wooden structure perched on the mountainside, where a Yao woman is selling some scarves and handicrafts.

a little shop along the way selling handmade goods

a little shop along the way selling handmade goods

The Yao people in the village are distinctive from the other residents because of their hair. All of the Yao women in the village have long hair; with the longest being over two meters. Huangluo Yao Village, which is on the way to the Ping’an parking lot, was listed in the Guinness World Records as the “World’s First Long Hair Village”. It is said that all of the Yao women in the village only cut their hair once during their lifetime and that’s when they become adults (18 years old). Apparently, there are three bunches of hair on their head. The first bunch is the natural hair growing on their head. The second bunch is the hair which was cut off when they were 18 years old. The third bunch of hair comes from the hair which falls out when they comb their hair daily (China Highlights: Longji Ping’an Terraced Fields).

my Zhuang guide and a Yao Long-Haired woman

my Zhuang guide and a Yao Long-Haired woman

The Yao woman tells me she’ll show me her long hair for 20 yuan, 10 for her and 10 for my guide.  How can I not take her up on it?  She also has the other long strand of hair that she cut when she was 18.  I don’t take a picture of that strand, but she somehow wraps that up with her normal hair into the bun she wears at the front of her forehead.

The Yao woman shows me her hair ~ for 20 yuan

The Yao woman shows me her hair ~ for 20 yuan

After we leave the Yao woman, we continue on to Viewpoint 2: Seven Stars Around the Moon.  This path is a little flatter as we’re walking around the rim of the mountains, so my back doesn’t bother me quite so much.  However, I still have to stop and stretch it out at various points along the way. 🙂

Categories: Asia, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Nine Dragons & Five Tigers, Ping'An Village, Travel, Yao people, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

a day of travel & arrival at the village of ping’an

Wednesday, November 19:  This morning, I leave at 7:30 a.m. for my long day’s journey to Ping’An, a Zhuang village nestled in the folds of the Longji Rice Terraces.  As always in China, travel is not straightforward and I have many connections to make.  I begin by taking a taxi to the Nanning Railway Station for a 9:35 fast train.  Trains always leave on time and I arrive in Guilin at around noon, a little faster than the normal 2 hour and 40 minute ride.

I’m often too lazy to try to figure out the local buses to the bus station, so I ask a taxi driver at the train station to take me to Qin Tan Bus Terminal, where my student assistant Angela has advised me to catch the 2-hour-long local bus to Longsheng, getting off the bus one stop early at Heping.  When I ask the taxi driver how much he’ll charge to take me to the bus station, he says 50 yuan.  I wave him off.  That’s outrageous and I know he’s just trying to rip me off because I’m a tourist.  I ask another taxi driver, who tells me 25 yuan, still too much.  Angela advised me to take the #88 bus to the station, and it just so happens the #88 bus pulls up just as I’m waving off the second taxi driver.  I hop on the bus for 2 yuan.

Angela told me to get off at the CUI ZU LU stop, but luckily the girl sitting next to me on the bus speaks some English.  She asks the bus driver, who tells me to get off at the stop AFTER that one.  They wave in a general direction across the street and then deposit me at the next stop, but I don’t see anything that looks like a bus station.

I prepare to cross the road at a busy intersection, but I still see no sign of a bus station.  I pull out my Chinese notes from Angela with the name of the bus station and show the name to two Chinese ladies standing beside me on the street.  They motion to follow them and they start walking rapidly down the street perpendicular to the one where the #88 bus was traveling.  We walk about a half mile and finally we’re at the bus station.  It seems the 88 bus was not really the correct bus to get to the station as it was quite a walk to get there from where I was dropped off.

Next I ask at the terminal about “an ordinary bus ticket to Heping (final destination Longsheng) for 21 yuan.”  The people at the bus terminal are cheery and helpful; they sell me the ticket and before long I’m on the local bus to Longsheng.

All goes uneventfully, except for the constant stomach cramping and discomfort that I’m feeling.  I started feeling sick on Tuesday and I hoped it would clear up by today, but I’m still feeling quite miserable.  At around 3:00, the bus driver drops me along the side of a road at Heping.  I saw that we passed a busy tourist office downhill prior to where I was dropped, but it’s hard for me to gauge how far back it was.  A man with a van tells me I’m welcome to wait for the bus to Ping’An, but it will be a TWO HOUR WAIT!  Angela didn’t say anything about a two-hour wait, so I’m dubious.  However, there seem to be no buses in sight.  I call Angela for the one and only time on my five-day journey, and she doesn’t answer.  I call her friend Jack, who talks to a shopkeeper in Heping; the woman confirms that the next bus does not arrive for two more hours, but it’s possible to get a car for 70 yuan.  There is no way I want to sit alongside the road for 2 hours, so I tell the original man he can take me to Ping’An in his car.  But I say, “The shopkeeper said 70 yuan.”  He sheepishly agrees, and off we go.

We drive about one minute down the hill, where the driver tells me to go inside the big ticket office I had seen earlier from the bus and buy the entry ticket to Longji Rice Terraces for 100 yuan.  At that point I see there are buses galore.  Hmmm.  I go ahead in the guy’s car up a long and winding mountain road for about a half hour, passing numerous middle-sized yellow buses coming down the mountain.  These must be the 10 yuan buses Angela told me about; I realize that I’ve been ripped off royally.  If I had only walked down the hill to the ticket office, I’m sure I could have easily caught one of those 10 yuan buses up the mountain to Ping’An.

The van driver drops me at the gate to Ping’An where a man tells me I can pay 150 yuan for a porter to carry my bag up the hill into the village of Ping’An.  I wave him off, thinking I can just walk up the hill, especially for that outrageous sum. Another man offers me the porter for 100 yuan.  I shake my head.  “I’ll just walk!” I say, as if they can understand a word I’m saying.  Finally another man punches a number into a calculator:  30 yuan.  Okay, for that price, I’ll take him up on the offer!

At this point I think it is the big burly man who will carry my bag up the hill.  But he calls up a little old lady, about half my size and quite spry and chipper; she dumps my bag into a large basket with shoulder straps.  My bag is a carry-on size but quite heavy because it’s stuffed with winter clothes. The lady puts the straps of the basket over her shoulders like a backpack and starts walking briskly up the steep hill to the village.  The same man who offered up this little lady also offers me a sedan chair.  I can’t bring myself to take him up on the offer because I don’t want to feel like some memsaab on the Indian subcontinent!

I’m exhausted from my day of travel and my stomach is still hurting. It’s probably a half mile walk up the steep mountain and I’m huffing and puffling while the little old lady carrying my bag isn’t even panting or breaking a sweat.  Finally, after what seems like an eternity, she drops me at the Longji International Youth Hostel, a place recommended by one of my colleagues.  By this time it’s 4:30 p.m. and I’ve been traveling for nine hours.

Longji International Youth Hostel

Longji International Youth Hostel

I check into a room that has a squat toilet;  I’m not too happy about that.  Neither does the heater seem to work.  It’s so cold that the hotel receptionist is bundled up in a down jacket with a furry hood.   Despite my stomach ache, I’ve arrived and I can finally settle in for the evening.  I order a Tsingtao beer and sit on a porch chair to watch Ping-An’s busy residents scurrying about on various building projects.  They’re clever enough to keep their labor costs low by employing horses to carry building materials, logs and bricks, through the narrow cobbled streets.

Relaxing on the terrace of the hostel

Relaxing on the terrace of the hostel

view of Ping An from the terrace

view of Ping An from the terrace

View down the hill from whence I came

View down the hill from whence I came

the industrious Zhuang people

the industrious Zhuang people

beasts of burden in Ping An

beasts of burden in Ping An

After I finish my beer, the receptionist wants to know if I’d like to change rooms. She has one on the 4th floor with a working heater and a Western toilet.  I move into the new room.  Then I hunker down in the chilly dining room and eat scrambled eggs with leeks.  While there, I have a long chat with an Indian girl from London, Maria, who is traveling solo all over China.  She’s been in China for 3 weeks and has been studying Chinese with a tutor on Skype.  I tell her I’ve been taking Chinese classes for a month now and all we’ve covered are the sounds.  She can’t understand why it’s taking us so long to learn the sounds, and neither can I!

Maria asks if I’d like to take a walk through the town and we do so, even though I’m still not feeling well and it’s quite cold.  It’s fun to see all the arts and crafts made by the local Zhuang people and to see the rice being cooked and tended to.

the rice a'cookin'

the rice a’cookin’

My new room is quite cozy, even though the heavy down comforter feels a little damp. I think it’s just so moist in the air here that things never get completely dry.  I have the heat on full blast.  I also note that the bathroom ceiling is leaking all over the bathroom floor and on the carpet outside the bathroom.  It even leaks on my head when I use the toilet.  However, I don’t want to go back to the room with the squat toilet, so I settle in for a restless night to a serenade of of drip, drip, drip.

the second room with the leak

the second room with the leak

I’ve arranged to meet the little old lady at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.  She’s going to guide me on a two hour hike to explore the rice terraces around Ping’An.

Categories: Asia, China, ESL Teacher, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Ping'An Village, Travel, Zhuang people | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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