Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Magical Rice Fields and Karsts of Guilin

Probably the area where must foreign tourists come to in China is Guilin. Our flight from Beijing took about 3 ½ hours as Guilin is in the far South of the country in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region which boarders the Gulf of Tonkin.

I have asked what the difference is between an Autonomous Region and a Province and after some hesitation the answer seems to be that the autonomous regions have a lot of minorities, as the tribal people are called in China. But apparently, they have the same privileges and standing within the central government with the same layers of local government.

The Guilin airport is far away from the city and we have a female taxi driver who takes us, less aggressively than usual to our hotel, the Guilin Sheridan situated along the banks of the Li River. We stay on a club floor which entitles us to free drinks and canapés starting at five. But the really nice thing is that there is a huge outdoor balcony where we can sit and enjoy a glass of wine watching dusk shroud the river and the karst hills that we came to see.
But first we sign up to see the Longji rice terraces and the villages of the Zhuang and Yao minority people.

One thing I notice about the Minorities in China, so that they have kept their cultures intact and have learned to appeal to tourists with their traditional costumes and their arts and crafts. After traveling for over an hour in our van, we turn of the main road down into a river valley, where our guide stops and pays an entry fee so we can continue. We drive about half way up the mountain, park, and then hike up a long trail of steps while the air gets thinner and the legs increasingly remind you that you are a flatlander.

The Yao women are known for their long hair which can be up to 2 yards long when they release it from their unique way of piling it on their heads.
As it is October, the terraces are not in their full glory so I will add a photo from the web that show them in the early summer when they are filled with water.
The terraces were created hundreds of years ago and according to our guide the tribes were driven from their more desirable flat land into the mountains.

In the photo below the final destination can be seen at the top of the hill near the lone tree.
Once at the top, I was coaxed to have my photo taken with these women. I bargained hard and got two for the price of one (about $1.30).
As it turns out, rice is not the only thing grown in the terraces. A lot of peppers, corn, and rice could be found drying in the sun.

Naturally, we were tired at the end of day, longing for a drink out on the balcony of the Sheridan, which didn’t disappoint. We also found a nice place to get some foot massages for a mere $12.

The next day, we are boating down the Li River from Guilin to Shenyang, the primary mission.

1 comment:

GETkristiLOVE said...

Again, amazing photos of the countryside and brightly colored dressed women.