THE DRAGON’S BACKBONE
Amy arranged our transfer from Yangshuo to Ping’an in the Longji Rice Terraces in Longsheng County (also known as the Dragon’s Backbone). Ping’an is inhabited by the Zhuang ethnic minority who have lived in the area for over 600 years. You can also get there by bus however it takes much longer and I’d recommend arranging a private transfer. It didn’t cost very much. The journey takes about 3 hours.
When you arrive at the entrance of the Longji Rice Terraces, you’ll need to purchase an entry ticket which was about AUD13 at the time. When you have your ticket, you continue on by vehicle to the foot of Ping’an Village. Here you’ll be greeted by lovely elderly ladies who will offer to carry your bags for a fee. I would recommend this as the journey to the village is uphill and takes about 20 minutes by foot as there are no cars. We initially felt reluctant as we weren’t sure that they would be able to carry our heavy bags however they insisted and it appeared this was what they did every day. I was surprised at the strength of these women as they set off with our luggage strapped to their baskets. Of course, we were charged extra for our heavy bags and we were happy to oblige.
We arrived at Longi One Hotel (Ping’an Stockade), with lovely views of the rice terraces. Make sure you ask for a terrace view room – slightly more but still cheap at AUD25 per night! The houses in the village are generally three storey stilted houses which were built about 100 years ago. The ground floor is used for animals and top two are living quarters. There are plenty of guest houses and hotels however I’d recommend pre-booking. The Li An Lodge is a four-storied hotel located on top of the rice terraces and is considered to be the best hotel in the area – and not cheap. We were eager to start exploring the village as we were only here for 1 night so after dropping off our luggage and freshening up, we set off.
As I mentioned earlier, there are no cars in Ping’an and here and there you’ll see the odd donkey or supply pony laden with wares. We strolled along the little laneways where we were treated to scenes of daily life. Feeling peckish, we stopped off at a restaurant for a bite to eat. We noticed a cage full of snakes outside another restaurant and assumed it was snakes on the menu there. Cringe …
After lunch, we continued on, climbing higher until we reached the hiking trails for spectacular views of the rice terraces and village below. The two main scenic spots are “Seven Stars Surrounding the Moon” and “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers”. Don’t you just love it?
We stopped at one of the many restaurants for dinner before retiring to our lovely wooden rooms with ornate window trimmings.
The next day and after breakfast, we hiked back down the hill to meet our transfer to Dazhai. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike from Ping’an to Dazhai which takes about 5 or 6 hours and we may have done this if we had an additional night. Our transfer was arranged by Sandy who owns the Wisdom Inn in Dazhai. I wouldn’t recommend taking the older village cars. The trip if I recall takes about 1.5 hours by car – I think.
Dazhai is a quieter village however I’m feeling a bit disappointed because I found out recently that they’ve built a chairlift. Such an absolute shame as it detracts from the rural charm of the area. As we arrived at the village entrance, we were again greeted by local women, offering to carry our bags. We didn’t feel so bad this time as it was only about a 10 minute walk and on level ground. We arrived at the village and to the right in the distance we saw a sign which read “Wisdom Inn”.
As we made our way across the little bridge, we suddenly heard someone call out to us and turned around to see a lady waving us over. It was Sandy and she explained that we were heading to the wrong Wisdom Inn. Apparently the law in China is that if you use an English name, you can use the same name as someone else however if your business name is in Chinese, you can’t. It appears the other Wisdom Inn were trying to cash in on Sandy’s popularity! Needless to say I promptly posted on Trip Advisor warning people to make sure they book the right one. Hers is close to the entrance of the village on the left.
Sandy owns a software company in Shanghai and she decided to buy herself a retreat in Dazhai. She loved it so much she decided to turn it into an inn and she spends several months of the year there. We only had one night here as well so after some chit chat with Sandy, we found our rooms which overlooked the village. We got ready for our hike to the top of the rice terraces and as it was only 10am, we had plenty of time.
We headed for “No 2 Scenic Spot Thousand Layers to the Heaven” and along the way came across the long-haired women. You can have your photo taken with them – for a small fee. After more hiking, we reached the village of Tiantouzhai where we stopped for a satisfying lunch at the Tian Ranju Inn. After lunch, we followed a path which led us to a bamboo forest and across bridges til we reached No 3 Spot – Golden Buddha Peak. And what a view!
It was hard work getting there and we were pleasantly surprised to find a young girl selling ice-creams under a shelter. There was no-one else there. We relaxed in chairs, eating our mango ice-creams and enjoying the panoramic vista before our eyes. We could just make out our inn from the top of the peak. As the hike took us about 6 hours allowing for a lunch break, we decided to take the quick way down and navigated our way along the paddy fields.
That evening, we had a delicious meal at the Da Yao Zhai Tavern and it was our favourite meal thus far which included fish which they farmed in ponds close by. The following day, Sandy had arranged our transfer back to Guilin and it took about 3 hours.
Our trip to Yangshuo and the Dragon’s Backbone would have to be up there as one of the best trips I’ve ever done and I would highly recommend it to anyone!