Longshen Rice Terraces

The next morning, I looked out of the Ping An Hotel windows expectedly trying to see if the cloudy mists had broken.  On my way to breakfast it didn’t look to promising; low clouds and fog still obscured the view into the valley (above).  But only 40 minutes later, I noticed that the view of Longshen was quite clear and the clouds were lifting (below).  I was very excited to head out before the clouds rolled in again and I started my trek immediately.

On my way out of the village I ran into some more long-hair Yao women who were warming themselves by a fire.  These women didn’t appear to be selling anything but as I approached I saw that they were selling photo opportunities; for about a dollar, they would pose for a photo with you.

There was still some fog but I was able to see (somewhat) down into the valley.  It would prove to be “hit and miss” all day with breaks in the fog allowing meto see the valleys.  In this photo below, I saw, for the first time the extent and depth of the rice terraces.  It really is quite an ingenious use of hills turning them into arable farm land capable of supporting rice.  I have seen terraced corn fields in Peru but the rice has the added challenge of needing a flowing water source.  Channeling the water continually downhill from hill to hill is an an engineering accomplishment.

Even though it was still a bit hazy, when I arrived at the trail turnoff, I could see the rice terraces on our side of the valley.  At this same spot yesterday I could only see about 10 meters.

Towards the afternoon the clouds lifted a bit and gave me some beautiful views.  It was not rice season so all of the terraces were dry.  I looked at the photos when each of these plots was full of water with small rice buds poking up through the surface and I thought that this would be something to see.

While on the trail I took some time to work on some macro-photography.  I found these little yellow flowers and thought that they would make a nice subject.  I also saw purple flowers, bamboo, and several waterfalls.

Along the trails were small waterfalls that trickled down the sides of the trails.  The sounds of the water and little birds chirping made such a tranquil and placid setting and despite the fog, it was a beautiful trail.

With great ingenuity, the locals have channeled water from a higher mountain to the tallest hill in the area and then the water is forked off to each hill by way of little stone or cement channels.  At the top of each hill, water is channeled to the top terrace and then trickles down to each successive terrace below it.  In this way, a single water source can fill the rice terraces on several hills.


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travel to Longshen

My first stop in this part of China would be to see the Yao people and the terraced rice paddies – both famous attractions in China.  When I post the photos of the rice terraces later, you will probably recognize them as they are in most every Chinese tourist brochure and commercial.  The Yao people, a minority tribe in China, are most notably know for their womens’ long hair.  After marriage, they never cut it and it is quite long.

One of my Chinese friends, Erica, arranged my bus transportation, hotel lodging, and helped me out along the way pointing out the sites and translating for me.

The drive from Yangshuo to Longshen took several hours including a switch back mountain road for the last hour.  While we were still on “flat” ground, our tour guide told us all about the Yao people, the terraced rice paddies, and the customs of the people and region.  We were told of some local taboos including the prohibition of picking up only one chop stick (always pick them up in a pair).  He also told us about the Yao marriage and bathing habits…

As we worked our way up the mountain we climbed ever higher into the cloud line.  I remember the Lonely Planet traveller (the blonde girl) being so disappointed at the top of the mountain because the clouds obscured her view of the terraced paddies.  I hoped that we would have clear weather.  I shot the photo below as we climbed the mountain heading towards Longshen.

Erica, explained that it was really “hit and miss” with the weather here.  We might stay 3 days and see nothing but fog and the next group might have 3 days of sunshine.  Once we pulled up to the Yao village, we were invited to cross over the river to see some traditional homes.  The bridge was a swaying cable bridge and each successive group of tourists rocked it from side to side in an attempt to knock over the tourists behind them.  It seemed a little dangerous but turned out to be quite fun.

 

 

After I crossed over the bridge, I took a photo of the river looking downstream.  It was hard to frame a shot that didn’t include a large amount of trash in the foreground.  China, as does much of the world, has a long way to come ecologically.

After we crossed the bridge we toured inside some Yao homes to see how they live.  The conditions were quite primitive.  The tour guide explained that the rice harvests are not enough to sustain the people here.  Growing on the terraces, they only have one growing season and it is not enough to support the people.  The government provides subsidies to the families and they also depend on tourist income selling their wares to tourists and by performing ethnic dances and shows.

… typical Yao home…

Inside, the conditions were also primitive.  I tried to remember to judge not based on western standards, but to instead, look at the people and ask, “Are they happy?  Do they have enough to eat?”  Hard as it is for us to imagine, life can be quite fulfilling without internet, TV, and I-phones.  The only real downside that I could see with the Yao people is that in their dependence on tourists for a large part of their income, they have become quite aggressive in their sales tactics.  A polite “no” (in Chinese or English) was not enough to dissuade them from trying to sell us fabrics, silver coins, jewelry, post cards, and all sorts of other “touristy” items.  I began to wonder how much we were upsetting their lifestyle with our tourist eyes and dollars and yuan.

Inside one home we saw a young woman cooking a meal.  In the next room I took this shot of the family’s religious altar:

We crossed back over the bridge to attend a Yao cultural show.  Outside of the hall we found tables and tables lined with good for sale.  Thee bright trade goods and the clothing of the Yao women made for bright photos, especially considering how “dull” the sky was with the overcast and clouds.


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Stories, posts, reports, photos, videos and all other content on this site is copyright protected © and is the property of Scott Traveler unless otherwise indicated, all rights reserved. Content on this site may not be reproduced without permission from Scott Traveler. My contact information can be found on the home page.

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