After collecting our Russian visas, we headed straight for the Chinese border. I have to admit that around the three-month travel mark, I get real tired of traveling. Chris gets to listen to me on a daily basis say I’m ready to go home. It’s around that three month mark that I need a little pick me up. In Argentina, it was the Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy range. I didn’t know what would reinvigorate me this time around. That is, until we entered China; I needed a challenge.

Hong Kong and Shenzen are just steps apart from each other, but you certainly wouldn’t know it. Crossing the border at Lo Wu to Shenzen it was finally like entering a foreign country. No one spoke English and only a spattering of signs were written in English. We stood bewildered trying to figure out what window to use to buy our onward train tickets. And, that’s all it took for me to be excited again; a little bit of a challenge.

We eventually found our way to the right window and purchased our onward tickets to Guilin. A friendly teenager who didn’t speak any English assisted us. Normally we ward off this sort of “help”, but he genuinely tried to help us. We told him we were headed to Guilin, but something was obviously lost in translation so we finally pulled out our guide book and showed him. “Ah, Gwee lin” he said; Chris and I shot each other the look of “isn’t that what we said?” Clearly not. Speaking Pinyin is obviously going to be harder than we thought.

All things are new to us here (and thus exciting). People stared at me like a crazy lady for taking pictures of the “drinking area” in the train station where a whole area is dedicated to drinking water. You can get boiling hot water for your noodles or cold water for your bottles. I thought it was pretty darn cool; Chris didn’t share my enthusiasm though

For our first night train ride, we ended up in the hard sleeper car with the locals. One kid was super excited to have foreigners in his car. He asked us a few times, “You’re in THIS car, really?” It kind of made me worried until we entered it and saw that it was as we expected; six berths to each compartment. We landed both top berths, which gave us little head room. The train ride was fairly uneventful, but we did make a mental note to improve our train ticketing communication. The bottom or middle berths in hard class seemed much more comfortable.

We headed by train to Guilin, but it wasn’t our final destination. Our goal was to spend some time in Ping’an and wander the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. Thus, after arriving in Guilin, we headed out by bus to Longshen and then onto Ping’an. After 29 hours of travel from Hong Kong, we arrived at our final destination high in the mountains of Guangxi province.

Set amongst a small valley in the mountains, Ping’an is home to the Zhuong people. Walking up a winding maze of stairs, we searched for a guesthouse and came across a small home owned by a little old Zhuong woman. As usually happens, we were more tired than overwhelmingly excited about the room, but in the end it proved to be a great choice. If you venture toward Ping’an, try to stay in one of the locally owned guesthouses and eat their meals; they’re amazing! We were unbelievably under whelmed by the two Yangshuo chain restaurants up there.

Longji or the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces span to the tops of all the surrounding peaks. We spent our time in the area just wandering along the walkways and trails connecting the two communities of Ping’an and Zhonglui. A few villagers worked the terraces while we wandered, but not many. It must be really interesting to be in this area during the growing and cultivating seasons. Work continues in cultivating more land for the rice terraces. With terraces spreading out in every direction clinging to the mountainside, it’s truly a beautiful landscape.

Many people just visit for the day, but we thought it was worth it to spend the night and walk the trails at our leisure. The only annoying aspect about this is that you’re almost never really alone. The Yao women from the village of Zhongliu wait for hikers along the trail. We knew from fellow blogger Jamie Sinz that this might be a problem, but it’s much more annoying in person. You just really want to enjoy the scenery in peace than listen to someone yammering on about lunch or pictures. Whenever we came upon a Yao woman, she would inevitably ask for us to come to her house for lunch. If that failed, we would get offers to take pictures of her ankle-length hair.

They would follow us for long stretches on the trail hoping to break our resolve, we kept saying “no” but it always seemed to fall on deaf ears. We explained to all of them that we had brought our lunch with us on the trail so we would not need their hospitality. One woman didn’t believe us that we had our lunch and demanded that we show it to her. We did and she promptly walked away in search for another victim. That being said, the beauty of the terraces and the land far overshadowed these small annoyances.

Stopping for our lunch break a good ways away from Zhonglui, we befriended a local family working in the fields. They were digging up some sort of root vegetable. Their little boy was very curious of the strange foreigners, so we offered him up some peanuts. Oh boy, we became his new best friends. He kept his distance unless mom was with him, but when we got up to leave he threw a complete tantrum. Throwing himself to the ground, he kicked and screamed. So, what did we do?? We offered up more peanuts. Oh yes, we’ll make great parents some day!

Before long, it was time to head back to Guilin and onto our next destination, Yangshuo. On our trip out to Ping’anĀ  we passed through the Longshen bus station and did so on the return. On both times I had to use the bathroom. After 7 months of travel, we may very well have come across the worst bathroom of our trip. I share this with you more out of my own trauma than anything else. A trough served as the latrine, and on our way through the first time a few ladies missed their mark. It was ok though, I managed to step around the excrement to pee. But, on our way through the second time. the droppings were still there along with a few more! Oh, I’ve never wished more to soak my shoes in bleach! Let’s just say those suckers will never be placed on coffee tables or benches or anything!

More pictures from the Dragon’s backbone, can be seen on Jodi’s and Chris’ respective flickr pages.

One Response to “Making our way to the Dragon’s Backbone”

  1. Jamie says:

    Welcome to China!!!! Are you guys going to come through Shanghai at all? If you do, please let me know because I’d love to meet up. Send me an email and I’ll give you my cell number. It sounds like you’re having a great trip, and I would love to hear about it in person.

    (did I tell you that we’re living in Shanghai???)