Longji Rice Terraces
The spectacular Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, rolling hills covered from foot to summit with rice paddies, are a must-see for anyone who has a day or two to spare. With a history dating back to the Yuan Dynasty, the rice terraces were carved into the hillsides over a period of centuries and today they range from 380m to 880m above sea level. This feat of agricultural engineering is a mesmerizing sight: the colors and patterns of the fields as they wrap around the hillsides and flow down into the valleys are truly stunning.
Rice is still farmed here today and the Longji Rice Terraces are home to some of China’s ethnic minorities. The village of Ping’An, which is essentially the base camp for exploring the terraces, has a 600 year history and is populated by the Zhuang people. A few hours walk away is Dazhai, a town populated by the Yao ethnic minority. The Yao women are famous for growing extremely long hair. Even in Ping’An they will find you and offer to let their hair down to its full length for a few RMB.
There are a number of different walks to do around the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces (see below), but above all this is simply a place to experience. While touristm has transformed Ping’An to an extent, there is still much here that is relatively untouched. Longji offers not only amazing scenery but also an authentic picture of rural life combined with the color and character of some of China’s ethnic minorities.
Exploring the Longji Rice Terraces
The most common walking route from Ping’An is the roughly 90 minute circuit from the township to Lookout #1 and Lookout #2 and then back to the village again. This walk offers some lovely scenery and a solid, if all too brief, overview of Longji.
As a continuation of the above, upon returning to Ping’An you can head for the village of Longji (about one hour). From there you can continue on down to the Guilin-Longsheng highway (another 90 minutes) and flag down a bus in either direction. This route would make a solid 4 hour walk overall.
Those who stay the night at the terraces have the opportunity to wander further afield. A popular trek is to the Yao minority village of Dazhai. This walk affords some diverse scenery and takes about 3 hours one way.
There are lots of other possibilities for longer treks and the best thing to do is to ask for guidance at your guesthouse.
When to Visit Longji Rice Terraces
The best time to visit the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces is from late spring to late autumn. During this period, the colors of the fields are most vibrant: from lush green in spring and summer to a striking gold in autumn. And while this is also the time when most tourists visit, it never gets too crowded. Winter and early spring can also be beautiful, but the risk is that the hills will be largely shrouded in mist at that time of year.
How long is needed to see the Rice Terraces
The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces can be visited as a day trip. However, if you only want to spend a day there then a tour might be a good option. Traveling there independently can be time-consuming as it can involve a lengthy wait in Longsheng on the way there and tours don’t work out much more expensive.
But if you have the time then it’s well worth staying overnight at the terraces. The town of Ping’An is well set up to accommodate tourists and it’s an incredibly beautiful and relaxing place. If you’re in a rush then you could arrive late afternoon one day, then spend the next day exploring the terraces and return to Guilin in the evening.
Getting to Longji Rice Terraces
Buses leave for Longsheng (龙胜) from Guilin bus station about once an hour. The wonderfully scenic trip costs ¥28 and takes about 2.5 hours. From Longsheng bus station you should take a mini-bus (¥8) to Ping’an (平安). The mini-bus driver touts in the bus station – it’s okay to go with him as there are no official buses. Mini-buses leave roughly every 2 hours from 9am-5pm in both directions.If you have some time to kill then the town of Longsheng is worth a quick look (see below).
The mini-bus stops at the bottom of the terraces where you buy the ticket (¥50). It then continues up the mountain and terminates near the town of Ping’An. The tickets are checked just after you get off the bus. As soon as you step off the mini-bus you will be met by a swarm of Zhuang minority women touting their guesthouses.
Heading back to Guilin, the mini-bus driver might drop you at the highway rather than taking you all the way back to Longsheng. You can catch one of the buses en route from Longsheng to Guilin from the highway.
An alternative option is to take a direct bus to the village of Dazhai. Direct buses leave from Guilin Train Station every day at around 2pm (it’s not always reliable though). The trip costs ¥40 and takes about 2.5 hours.
Where to Stay at Longji
Basically all of Ping’An is guesthouses and they’re all priced about the same: around ¥50 for a room with private bathroom and balcony or ¥20 for a private room with shared bathroom. So you might as well just go with whichever tout grabs you first when you get off the bus. Generally speaking, the further up the hill you go, the better the view you’ll have from the room and the higher the price will be. All guesthouses offer meals at slightly inflated prices (around ¥30 for dinner) which is a great way to sample the local food. Some also have internet access.
One good place to try is Amengjia Hotel. It has rooms with private bathrooms and shared bathrooms (squat toilets only), a public computer with internet access and an English-speaking owner who is very helpful with advice on treks.
Tel: +86 (0773) 758 3031. Website: www.amengjia.com
If you’re traveling to the Longji Rice Terraces independently you will have to transit through Longsheng. There’s nothing really of interest in the town, though it does have a sort of charm and offers a few good photo opportunities with its small river ploughing through it. It’s worth having a short saunter around town if you have time to kill in transit. Definitely, though, there is no reason to stay in Longsheng overnight. It’s a good distance from the rice terraces and the accommodation options are overpriced compared to what’s on offer in Ping’An.