LongSheng, GuangXi province, P.R.C, June 2011
What a mystical place is Longji! If someone were to Photoshop a dragon just emerging over the ridge from behind the mist in the pic above, I am pretty sure he would not look out of place! Also, if anyone out there is looking to travel back in time, no need for “1.21 gigawatts of electricity!” ala ‘Back to the Future’ style, here you can experience rice farming the way it has been done for centuries in China, through a never ending seasonal cycle of back breaking human toil.
Of course going back in time does not come easy; to experience
Longji you must be willing to climb scores upon scores of rudimentary stairs
precariously hewn into the steep mountainside. And they will be slickery; it
has poured heavy rain at least part of the day, every day, both times I have
visited Longsheng. However, Longsheng has a different side for all four seasons, I have only seen two. I have yet to see the undulating waves of golden leaves and grain just before the harvest in autumn, or when winter snow blankets and sharply defines the contour map-like quality of the terraces.
If dragging your luggage up steep, slippery, stone steps (maybe in the rain) seems doesn’t seem worth it, never fear. There are legions of ethnic minority ladies (so much for the weaker sex) who will shrug on a woven wicker basket with your luggage in it, and slowly, gossiping amongst themselves all the way, haul it up to your lodgings near the top of the mountain for a price.
This most recent trip, we stayed at the Star Wish guesthouse, they even had American style breakfast for anyone who hasn’t gotten used to the typical chinese breakfast of plain rice porridge (me). If you’re willing to hike up 4 flights of stairs to your room (hey, you’ve already climbed the mountain, what’s four more flights?) , one can enjoy the panoramic views of the terraces right out the front door of your room. Being near the upper reaches of the village, the Star Wish enjoys unspoiled views. We ourselves whiled away the afternoon on the deck enjoying a few glasses of wine and were even fortunate enough to see a rainbow grace the valley vista for a brief few moments.
Longsheng is quickly becoming a favorite retreat with us laowei; only 3-4 hours drive from Liuzhou awaits cleaner and fresher air, fun shopping among the many ethnic minority and artisan vendors (if you can tolerate the constant cries of “Hello! Hello! Come look!”), and I don’t know if it’s the mountain air or what, but the food is so tasty here! A traditional favorite is the sticky “bamboo rice”, so named for cooking the rice in hollowed out bamboo thrust into a fire. We have also enjoyed fried chiles and garlic slathered all over fried rice and noodles at our favorite cafe overlooking the valley. If you’re there during the colder seasons, make sure to get a hot tea with whiskey, honey and fresh ginger, it will warm you right up!