With almost any country you travel to, it’s impossible to not carry a preconceived notion with you on what that country will be like. Often they’re completely wrong of course- Ireland is not one giant pub, Australians don’t all have pet kangaroos, stuff like that. I figured China would be similar, but then we visited the Longji Rice Terraces two hours from Guilin and I realized this would be different. This is one of the most spectacular scenic places I’ve visited, and the fact that it was pretty similar to what I imagined rural China to be like didn’t hurt either!
A remote village in springtime with snug houses and cherry blossoms and only pathways connecting it to the surrounding villages. I’d get a little more stereotypical in my description, but then you’d begin to notice the satellite dish in the above picture so it might fall apart!
Anyway, the thing to do in this part of the world is to go on a hike between the villages. We joined a group of German fellows for the task and hired a guide, a lovely old woman of the Zhuang minority-
Needless to say we went up and down hills at a breakneck pace that left most of us exhausted at the end of the day, but she never slowed down!
Anyway, pretty scenery picture time-
A typical view while hiking through the rice terraces- the terraces are flooded in summertime which is apparently very lovely, though I didn’t feel like we had a lack of stunning views!
I suppose the incredible thing about this is also thinking about what a feat of engineering it is to take such a steep mountainside and convert it into arable land- and how little arable land you have in the first place where this seems like a reasonable option.
Considering how rural we were, it was pleasant to see how new and snug most of the houses were in the villages. (It was also interesting that they were made out of wood, as usually it’s too expensive a building material in the Old World.) We stopped in this particular village for lunch where we ordered some fried rice and vegetables and chicken after much negotiation and the help of two interpreters. This being China, however, after about five minutes we saw a man holding a chicken by the wings who shot us a reproachful look on his way to the kitchen, and emerged as food about a half hour later. He was quite tasty really, though none of us Westerners went for choice parts like his feet.
A horse grazing in the rice-but-now-mud field. The mud went up to his knees, which explains why all the horses we passed on the narrow pathways had mud caked on them to this level.
After hiking for several hours we finally got back to civilization, or at least a road, and after some cheap souvenirs we crammed like sardines into a minivan for the trip back to our hostel in Guilin two hours away. One of those exhausting but wonderful days, and I’ll always smile knowing my imaginings of China are somewhat real!