Edit Blog Post
Published: December 24th 2010
Another must-see place near Guilin is the Longji Dragon’s Backbone rice terraces. Again, we were taunted with incredible iconic images of blood-red sunrises/sunsets reflecting off the amazing curves of water-filled rice terraces. One of the drawbacks of long-term travel is that you can’t always choose to be everywhere at the best time of year for weather or photography. This also illustrates the difference between 'travel photography' and 'taking photos while travelling'. In both cases you want to get the best images you can under the circumstances, but good travel photographers time their visits to give themselves the best chance to succeed. Since we really belong to the second group we’ll have to settle for the old “win some, lose some” philosophy. In December the terraces are not at their best as they are past the golden harvest days and before the spring flooding. So they were partially filled, generally brown but still really cool to experience, though more difficult to get good photos. What’s really amazing is the size and scale of the terraces and the fact that they were all hand-carved 500 years ago and are all farmed by hand.
We gave ourselves three nights here with hopes of
at least one beautiful sunrise or sunset. Like Yangshuo, we got mostly grey skies although no rain, thank goodness. We took a 2 hour bus from Guilin to Longshen and then took a crowded mini-bus to Dazhai village. Just when you thought it couldn’t fit any more people, it would stop and 5 more would hop on. It kind of brought us back to our days taking the matatus in Nairobi, Kenya. After an hour and a half with bums in your face you just give up on any hope of personal space. We stayed at a nice guesthouse in the village of Tiantouzhai. The lady who runs the guesthouse cornered us on the minibus and since we didn’t already have a place to stay we agreed on a price.
Tourism in China has a habit of creating hype around very specific viewpoints. Postcard images advertise various viewpoints with creative names such as “The Thousand Layers to Heaven”. The tourists hike straight to the viewpoints to copy the postcard shot then happily hike back. Spending three nights in the terraces gave us time to hike all around the area, explore beyond the viewpoints and get a taste of village
life. Still we couldn’t resist trying our best to get those postcard shots too. The lady at the guesthouse (spoke almost no English) but seemed to get a kick out of telling her other Chinese guests that came and went about the crazy Canadians that keep running up and down the terraces with their cameras and just won’t leave. On our last morning we had all but given up hope of a decent sunrise and didn’t bother with the alarm. The sound of other guests and their loud morning routines woke us up and we noticed a hint of pink in the sky. We almost didn’t bother to get out of bed and therefore just about missed out on our best photos. It’s a good thing Kathie’s a morning person.
We really enjoyed our time here. Low season has the benefit of very few visitors and the peace and quiet was much needed. One tip: if you plan to spend the night at Tiantouzhai, we recommend leaving behind your big pack in Guilin and packing only a small overnight bag. It took us about an hour hiking with our 18-20kg packs up the steep staircases through the terraces (though
Kathie had a porter take her big bag). Apparently this area is set up to handle 6000 overnight visitors and by the looks of things they’re trying to double it. There are new guesthouses under construction everywhere you look. This place is relatively quiet for now, but its days as a hidden gem are likely numbered.
Also, just want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!
Kathie and Jordan
Tot: 2.687s; Tpl: 0.075s; cc: 11; qc: 32; dbt: 0.0486s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb