After the beautiful karst mountains of Yangshuo it was time for the second (nature) highlight of our trip through China: the Longji rice terraces at the city of Ping’an. Because of the many layers, steps and hills this area is also known under the name ‘Dragon’s Backbone of China’. A name that immediately caught my attention, and that of many other tourists and visitors who come here en masse. The Longji rice terraces are spread across an area of 66 kilometers and are used by the local minority for the cultivation of rice for over 500 years. If you only visited the terraces around the city of Ping’an, you will see a small fraction of the beautiful rice terraces you can find in this area. We decided to go for the bigger picture and take a five hours hike along the many rice terraces. An excellent decision, because it turned out to be one of the most beautiful hikes of my life.
The city of Ping’an was our base. It is a touristic area built on the top of the rice terraces. You can find here two beautiful hills with quite interesting names: ‘Seven stars around the moon’ and ‘Nine dragons and five tigers’. The Chinese have a true gift for coming up with mysterious names. These are popular areas where many tourists go to take pictures from the panoramic deck. Also something we did, but then we moved on. Off the beaten path. We climbed deeper into the woods, along the grave yards and small villages and walked across slippery stones and small lanes of the terraces. It was a tough route with some steep hills, but it was also rewarding. We came across almost abandoned rice terraces where no other tourists came. Hidden in a thig fog. It almost looked like the rice hills were playing hide and seek with us. Sadly, not everything was nice and beautiful. There was also a lot of waste along the paths. A shame of this beautiful area, and a shame of the 80 Yuan we paid to get into this scenic area (what are they doing with this money?).
Man working at the ‘Seven stars around the moon’
The typical steps of Ping’an
Corn in the windows of Ping’an
View on the ‘Nine dragons and five tigers’
Selfie time with the locals!
Detail of the rice terraces
A lonely house on the top of the rice hill
The abandoned rice terraces we found on our hike
Along the way we crossed women of the Yao minority. Known for their long black hair. They are carriers. All day they walk along the paths with baskets on their back to transport all sorts of things. As soon as they see a tourist, they cling on to you and love to show you their long hair. But you have to pay the right price first. With so many tourists visiting this area, this is easy money making. I don’t blame them, but I skipped this tourist trap.
After four hours of hiking we reached our photogenic highlight: the Thousand Layers rice terraces. And they didn’t lie about that, because I saw green layers all around me. It is beautiful, and at the same time so touristic. I even saw a cable car to make it easier for tourists to reach the top. But if you ignore that little detail it truly is a beautiful area. A perfect ending for our hike along the Dragon’s Backbone.
View on the Thousand Layers rice terrace
Don’t want to know what that neck feels like
Spotted: local Yao woman and her baby
Final stop: Dazhai village. Less tourists than in Ping’an
What are the most beautiful rice terraces you have visited?