Longji Rice Terraces

Admission:

RMB 50

Hours:

How to get there:

Buses run from Guilin's Qintan Bus Station (Qíntán Qìchē Zhàn, 琴潭汽车站; 86-77-3383-2703) every 30 minutes from 6:10am to 5:50pm (RMB 19, 2 hours). You'll need to alight at either Longsheng (Lóngshèng, 龙胜) or Heping (Hépíng, 和平) and from there transfer to one of the regular shuttle buses that ply the route up to Ping'an.There's also a well-worn hiking trail up from Heping up to Ping'an which is a scenic, 3-hour climb.

From Longsheng, it's a one hour ride though buses will likely stop to pick up passengers waiting along the roadside and some also make a longer stop in a small village called Heping (Hépíng, 和平).

Heping lies at the foot of the mountain where the terraces are situated and, if you're feeling spritely, you can jump off here and hike the well-worn trail to the Ping'an entrance gate (approximately 3 hours). Alternatively, sit tight on the bus (although a change of bus may be required, there's no additional charge) and you'll be transported up to the main entrance.

The ride up can be a little terrifying to the uninitiated, speeding into blind hairpin corners and grazing the road's precipitous edge—an interesting trick of perspective makes it look like the bus' wheels are no longer fully on the road, but partially over the side—but don't worry, the drivers know the road like the back of their hands.

On arrival at the main gate, you'll be accosted by porters and hoteliers (often feisty old women) determined to carry your luggage up the hill in the bamboo baskets on their backs. Bear in mind they are not doing this out of the kindness of their hearts and be ready to fork out a few kuai, stay in their hotel or keep a tight hold of your rucksack.

There's no denying that tourism has arrived here in a big way and you'll see signs and advertisements for hotels, hostels, shops and restaurants at every turn, but the village has retained its charming Zhuang minority style with wooden buildings on stilts built onto slopes too steep for cultivation, and crooked narrow paths and lanes twisting and turning in between.

Expect to pay around RMB 80 for a simple room with shared bathroom and RMB 180-250 for a room with private bathroom and air-conditioning. Even though facilities can be pretty basic, this is more than made up by the breathtaking views available from many rooms and balconies, especially early in the day when morning mists formed in the valley below sweep up the mountainside and over the village as the day warms up.

A number of trails lead up to the summit from Ping'an, from where you can take in the view of the mesmerizing patterns formed by the terraces while sipping on a cold beer purchased from a small café/shop perched at the top...there's even a small post office from which to send postcards to friends and family!

Paths and trails spiral out from the viewing platform and you'll likely to run into a gaggle of smiling Yao minority ladies dressed in vibrant pink and black embroidered jackets with large black headscarves covering their most prized possession—their hair. Yao ladies take pride in growing and maintaining beautiful hair and are known to spend hours a day just combing it. They traditionally wear their hair up, but are eager to show tourists its impressive full length—sometimes over 2 m (6.5 ft)—for a small fee.

There's plenty to see as you roam the hillsides with several other villages, and the meeting point of two rivers and a waterfall. One of the nicest, and quietest routes takes you through the terraces to the neighboring Yao village of Dazhai (3-4 hours), where you can overnight again or head back down the mountain by bus.

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