Sunday, February 20, 2011

Guilin Day 4 & 5

Longji Village and rice terraces was the final part of our Guilin adventure, and the last but not least of what has turned into a trilogy of posts. If the river cruise and bamboo rafts were an ice cream dish, then the rice terrace was the whipped cream, multi-coloured sprinkles and the cherry on top.  Getting there, however, is a whole other story.

First we drove about 2 hours with our tour bus.  We stopped once at a small convenience store to use a very rural public toilet. I could describe it, in this case seeing is believing:

Finally we stopped, but only to switch to another bus.  The mountain roads leading up the village are so treacherous that only experienced bus drivers can take tourists up to the site.  Treacherous is no exaggeration of the road conditions.  They are narrow, winding and without guardrails, and often no visual of other vehicles that might be coming around the bend.  Slow is not in the vocabulary of the drivers.  They zoom around corners with a little more than a warning horn to let others know they are coming. I am very nervous (terrified) of heights and had to close my window curtains and hold onto the seat in front of me.  With every twist and turn my stomach did a flip flop.  By the time the bus came to a stop at the parking lot, I didn't trust my legs to work, but they did.  And it is a good thing they did because we weren't there yet.

There are no roads going directly into the village, so we left the parking lot and had a 20 minute walk up a stone path to get to the village.  Some of us brought a backpack up the mountain, while those of us without backpacks hired local women to carry our luggage up the trail for us.  For 40 RMB the women carried our luggage in baskets on their backs to our guesthouse, and returned to bring them down the next day.  It was a strange feeling to have these women carry our things, and maybe a bit absurd, but there was no way I would have made it up the mountain with my luggage (and myself) in one piece otherwise.  I have some serious respect for these ladies.

All along the path were little booths selling all sorts of souvenirs. The rest of the group seemed to be in a hurry and I had to hustle to keep up.  No time for dawdling! Unfortunately, I really like to dawdle. Ergo, Hillary, Nancy and I ended up at the back of the pack on the way up. We were a bit dismayed when we came to a fork in the path and there was no one recognizable in sight. Our options were to go to our right, which brought us up more, or to the left which had less of an incline. Right or left, right or left??  We opted to go up the path on the right. The right path turned out to be the wrong choice, but luck was with us. We didn't get more than a few steps up before we could see the others down below on the left path where they had so logically stopped to wait for us just out of view.

When we arrived in Longji, it was like stepping back in time.  No cars, no street lights, and no pollution.  It was, literally, a breath of fresh air.  On a slightly off topic side note, the cell phone reception was remarkably great.  You'd never find great cell reception in the middle of nowhere Canada (which is, in effect, most of Canada). Our guide brought us to our guesthouse where our bags were already waiting for us.  We settled into our rooms and had a short rest before meeting our guide to continue the rest of the way up the mountain to see the view.

Another 20 minute climb and then there it was, sprawling in front of us - acres upon acres of winding and rolling rice fields. And there, on top of the mountain - a Chinese woman in practical stiletto heels. Amazing. I wish I'd had the foresight to take a photo.

After a few minutes and a mini photo shoot our guide asked us if we'd prefer to go back down the way we came or take the long way back.  We opted for the long way and it turned out to be the best decision we'd made all trip.  The long way entailed a long and winding walk through the rice fields. It's best to leave the photos tell the rest of the story:

Time for a beer break! 
And off we go again:

Meanwhile, back at the village:
 Chili peppers and corn was laid out to dry
Rice was unloaded from the horses

Corn hung up to dry
 Plenty of dogs to be found.
 More chili peppers!
  Chickens and roosters hanging out in the most unlikely of places.

Corn was cooked over fire in bamboo cookers.

Back at the guesthouse we had a delicious supper, a few beer and laughs before the quite early closing time.  There is no light at night other than the decorative lights on the guesthouses, so after dinner we carefully picked our way from the restaurant building to the building with our rooms.  Once there we had a few more drinks and few more laughs before turning in for the night.  One thing is certain, you learn a lot about fellow travel companions with games like "never have I ever".

The darkness, and peace and quiet made for a good night sleep. That is, it would have if it weren't for one ambitious rooster's 3 am wake up call.  At least the horses had the decency to wait until dawn to join in!

We were up and on our way early the next morning. The ladies from the day before brought our bags  back down for us and we took some time to shop as we made our way back down to where the buses were waiting.  We piled back into the bus ready (or not) for another death defying ride down the mountain roads.

Good Bye Guilin!

Check back soon for the next stop on my Asia Adventures:  Christmas in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia