Not A Lot Of Options For Food Or Accommodation In Longshen
We took a local bus from Guilin to Longshen, it took about 2 hours. This is not a tourist town, there is no reason to come here other than using it as an access point to the rice terraces. There are not a lot of choices for accommodation and certainly not much in the way of places to eat. If we were to do it again, I would recommend staying in one of the many guest houses that are right at the terraces. There wood be more options for food and it would give more time for exploring the terraces.
We ended up staying at a hotel we found in Longshen for 200 yuan a night. This seemed like a lot of money for a town like this, but the selection was limited. There was little to no English spoken here, so getting help finding a hotel would be next to impossible. We only found one of the places recommended in the Lonely Planet book, it was very dirty and smelly.
Our hotel was right in the center area of town. Our room was on the 4th floor. It was a huge suite with a good view of the busy streets below. The outer wall of the room was curved and had 6 large windows.
We set out to try and find something to eat. We really tried to have an open mind here while seeking food options, but there was nothing for us. There didn’t appear to be anything resembling an actual restaurant. We walked by some places with a few plastic chairs and tables that had bubbling pots of soup with meat and unidentifiable stuff on sticks. There was something that resembled a restaurant back at our hotel, as it appeared to be our only option we returned to it.
We looked over the menu, there was not a lot of options. Everything had meat in it. We were going to have to try and get creative with our order. This was going to be difficult considering no one spoke any English. We pulled out our survival Chinese pocket book. We pointed to fried rice with vegetables and then to mixed fried vegetables. The waitress nodded and seemed to understand. We got up to the nearby cooler and pointed out our drinks, it was much simpler to do that than try to tell her what we wanted.
The rice showed up and was fine, it had egg in it, which we eat so that was okay. It didn’t have any vegetables in it, a bit strange considering we ordered vegetable fried rice. The plate of mixed vegetables was interesting. It was only one kind of vegetable, some sort of green leafy stuff with stems, kind of like spinach. It was in some kind of watery and oily like liquid. It was soggy and had been cooked to death. We’re pretty sure the rice had MSG or something in it, as we both talked about intense and vivid dreams the next morning. This meal sure didn’t fill us up, but it would have to do.
The river through Longshen, and scenery on the way to the rice terraces
The night proved to be an event. There was a storm in the distance, we could see the flashes of lightening. It wasn’t too long before the power went out. Unfortunately with it also goes the air conditioning. It was quite warm while we tried to sleep. The power ended up going off and on many times in the night. The air conditioning will not automatically come back on, so we would have to get up and turn it on each time. We had no way of knowing when the power was back on so we left a light on. The whole night ended up being repeat episodes of getting all sweaty, passing out, waking up to the light coming on, getting up and turning the air conditioning back on, and repeat.
A Noisy Awakening At 6AM!
At about 6am we got another rude awakening. Some guy was out driving in the streets below with a mega phone yelling at full volume about who knows what. It went around the block several times. At first we thought there was some kind of emergency. It appeared like this vehicle was going around in a great urgency. We thought perhaps people were being told to evacuate or something. After all, at home this is the only viable reason we could see someone coming around with a mega phone at this awful time of the morning and yelling at everyone. Turns out this is just some normal event that we would experience many more times while we traveled in China. We never did figure out what it was all about.
We decided we would only stay one night here. Basically go see the rice terraces and head straight back to Guilin. Otherwise we would starve! Even the limited food choices of Guilin were looking good by this time. In the morning we decided it would be much too difficult to ask if we could store our bags at the hotel while we went to the rice terraces. How would we ever be able to communicate that. Taking them with us was not an option either. Our solution was to just pay for another night for the room. The bags would be safe that way. Another 200 yuan was not a lot for piece of mind that our stuff would be there when we got back.
Mystery Bag and Box On The Bus To The Terraces
At 7am we went back to the bus station to catch a local bus out to the rice terraces. It was about an hour bus ride to the town of Ping’an and cost us $1 Canadian. It goes via the town of Heping where it will stop and wait for some more passengers to board. The bus only takes you to a parking lot in the village of Ping’an, you have to walk from there to get to the terraces.
This link has some good informations about the terraces, buses, etc. Lonshen Terraces
We waited on the bus for about 15 minutes before it left the station. Then it was quite funny and typical of buses in China when it only moved 50 meters down the road. There we sat for about another 10 minutes while people sauntered over and boarded the bus. Several times people came and threw a bag or a box on and handed a few yuan to the ticket lady on board.
A big styrofoam box with the lid taped down and a large sack were two items placed up in front of us. We looked at them with curiosity. The rest of the trip we referred to them as the mystery box and bag. Finally we were moving again. The bus only made a few other stops along the way to let some people off. About half way through the trip Jack pointed out that steam was coming from the styrofoam container. Of course our imaginations were running wild about what was inside. A while after this the top of the sack started to make movements as if something was kicking inside. We think it may have been a chicken. We don’t know why the bag was still for most of the trip and just started to move now. Perhaps what was inside was doped up somehow.
The bus started to climb as we got closer to Ping’an. There were lots of switchback curves. The bus stops at a parking area and then there is a long hike up ahead to get to the terraces. Ping’an is a 600 year old village. It is occupied by the Zhoung ethnic minority people.
This area is also referred to as the Dragon backbone rice terraces. Each season produces different looks to the terraces. All of them give unique photo opportunities, whether the terraces are filled with water, covered in snow or green with crops. The climb up was long and strenuous on sets of random sized stone steps. If you are unable to walk up to the elevation of the terraces you can pay to have someone carry you in a covered chair like you’re royalty.
Hiking To The Terraces
We arrived at the first set of terraces and we were immediately impressed. The far distance views were covered in mist and fog at this time, but the views were still stunning nonetheless. The rice terraces are positioned on peaks as high as 1100 meters.
There are two main viewing areas for these sets of rice terraces. You can also walk to the next village of Longji. You could see the village in the distance. We started to make our way to Longji on the skinny trail carved in the side of the steep slope, but soon gave up the expedition. The trail was really muddy and very hard to cross in many places. We kept having to cling into the cliff side to let people go past with large baskets on their backs. Then it got worse, men with their cows would come to pass by us. Of course these people made walking the trail look so easy.
We made our way to view spot number 2. By this time the mist was clearing making the views magnificent. The terraces are literally works of art. Workers dotted the different sections of rice fields. We could see men coaxing cows to pull a metal tiller through the soil. Our guide book said the trails to the various viewing spots were well marked. We did not find this the case. Several times we were not sure if we were going the right way. We had also heard stories of other travelers losing their way in the terraces. When we asked for directions to get back to the village we would get pointed to go uphill from one person and then downhill from another.
We came across another area for viewing. There were a set of terraces as well as a large group of buildings nestled into the hillsides. This area had a lot of Chinese tourists that had come in buses. We were the only foreigners here and ended up being more of an attraction than the terraces! One man approached Jack. At first Jack thought the man wanted someone to take a picture of himself and his wife. It turned out he wanted Jack to pose with his wife for a photograph. Jack said no and then the man said oh, sorry and seemed to now realize how weird of a request it was. Again Jack came to my rescue while I snapped photos of the great view he shielded me with the umbrella to stop the numerous people trying to photograph me.
Yao Women With Long Hair
One of the attractions of this area are the Yao women. They have long hair that goes right down to the ground. They wear it twisted and tied up with a cloth in a shape like a basin. They have turned their hair into a profitable business. They know people like to take pictures of it and will collect a fee for doing so. For a couple of yuan they will unwind their hair for you as you snap photos. You get to see it hang down to the ground and then watch the procedure of it getting wound back up and tied with a cloth. They have some of the longest recorded hair in the world.
We came across one of these ladies while making our way along the trail from view point 2 to viewpoint 1. We agreed to pay her for some photos. Soon after another lady joined her. They continued to follow us along the trail. We motioned for them to go past us and carry on, but they insisted on staying with us. They kept saying number 1, number 1, over and over. This was the view point they were talking about. We continued along the trail and stopped many times to take photos of the terraces. The views just kept getting more impressive as we made our way along.
It started to rain quite badly. We put on our ponchos and used our umbrella to shield the camera from getting wet. We finally made it to the top of the mountain we had been seeing in the distance for quite sometime. This was viewpoint number 1. We figured out what the ladies wanted from us. Their village was down over this mountain. They motioned to come with them to get something to eat. We did not have enough time to keep going. By this time we would have to move fast to get back and catch one of the last buses to Longshen. The ladies were really upset when we started to walk away from them. They kept calling out to us to come to their village.
Sometimes Paying For An Extra Night Can Be A Good Way To Store Your Bags
We made our way back to the bus with just minutes to spare. The ride was uneventful on the way back. No mystery boxes appeared this time. When we got back to our hotel we quickly gathered up our bags from the room and went to the front desk to check out. It was a little confusing for the girls, considering we had payed to stay the night and were now leaving at 4pm. We didn’t expect any money back, but after very puzzled looks, chatting to each other and then looking at the clock, they gave us 50 yuan back. So we basically paid 150 yuan ( about $20 Canadian) for storage of our bags. Jack had noticed the last place we stayed at in Guilin had a charge of $5 per bag. Since we had 4 bags we were at the same price, so it all worked out well.
Onwards To Kunming, Not Much More Money To Take An Hour Flight Instead Of 22 Hours On A Train
We got the 4:30pm bus back to Guilin. We were not going to go back to the same place we had all the problems with last time. We checked into the Golden Elephant. It was an okay place, the staff spoke a bit of English. Our room was large and bright. It has a view over the Lijiang river. The location was excellent for walking to places of interest.
Once we settled into the hotel, we had no time to waste as we wanted to be on a plane to Kunming the next day. We started to check out travel agencies. The main CITS agency recommended in the Lonely Planet was quoting us a price of over 100 yuan more than what we knew the tickets should be. We kept wandering down the street as it was riddled with travel places. The next one we came across also said CITS. This is supposed to be an official China agency that is registered with the government.
This place had just a small desk with a phone. A girl sat behind it. We asked her to tell us the price for tickets to Kunming. She could barely understand us, but finally got the idea. It ended up that everything we needed to talk about had to be done through someone she would call on the phone. It got way too complicated and we said sorry and left to try another place. A few doors down we came across another agency with a girl that we could communicate with enough to get the tickets purchased. We used our pocket dictionary a few times and managed to complete the task. We got all the details out of the way and then she told us to wait. About 10 minutes later a guy on a bicycle showed up with our tickets in hand. We aren’t sure, but we have a hunch he came from the original CITS place that quoted us the higher price. It is probably the main agency where they print out all the tickets.
So next stop Kunming. An hour and 10 minute flight for 830 yuan each, instead of a 22 hour train ride to save a few bucks. That suits us just fine!