Rice: the fuel to the factory of the world.
There is a place in China, where simple rice farming is made an exquisite work of art. Home to the Zhuang people, this ingenious step-irrigation system was built 650 years ago and is one of the most treasured secrets of the Chinese countryside.
The Longji Rice Terraces can only be accessed by foot. The two-hour bus journey from Guilin comes to an end at the foot of these secluded hills, and after that progress can only be made by horse, donkey or on foot.
When we got off the bus we were greeted by this lady. Her ‘hat’ is actually a coil of long, very long, black hair. The women of this minority are famous for their long hair and in some villages you can pay for a show to see them unravel their long locks.
We told her the name of our hostel, and after much jabbering on her Nokia cell phone, she threw our luggage into the basket on her back and proceeded to lead the way up the stone path through the rice paddies.
The higher we climbed the quieter it got, and the more spectacular the views. All the houses are made of wood and bamboo, a refreshingly natural environment for the industrial country it is home to.
We met a Shanghai Business man there, and from my fast-improving Mandarin, I understood that he comes here every year for his vacation. It is the only place in China that he can fully rest and be at peace. He says it is just as beautiful in every season: green like this in summer as the rice plants grow, golden in autumn, snow white in winter after the harvest, and, as the terraces are flooded with water for the new seedlings in spring, the whole landscape looks like a silver-mirrored magical paradise.
The women make a living hand-weaving cloth – vibrant colourful material that is used for clothes, tablecloths, scarves, curtains, anything. The rice grown here is primarily to feed the community, and only a small percentage is sold for profit.
In the morning we woke up to the smell of roasting bamboo. One of the specialities here is smoked rice in bamboo, and yes, is as delicious as it sounds!
Sunrises in Longji are unparalleled – every scene is just perfection. I was there for two nights and two sunrises, and I couldn’t get enough of exploring the view from every terrace.
I highly recommend at least a couple nights stay in this beautiful sanctuary, this secret rice garden of China.