Eager and excited to do some hiking and view some incredible mountain scenery, I boarded a bus from Guilin to Longsheng in Guangxi Province, China.
The bus driver chose to use his foghorn instead of his breaks as our public mini-bus screeched around mountain switchbacks, over tiny bridges and around completely blind turns.
In just a few hours I had traveled from the inspirational beauty of Yangshuo, to yet another breathtaking site: the Longsheng Dragon's Backbone rice terraces.
As soon as I stepped foot out the door of the bus, I was surrounded by a host of local Chinese women all trying to get hired to be my personal porter.
Despite the pleads of all the ladies, because I travel light, I opted to carry my backpack myself.
The Longsheng Rice Terraces are accessible only by foot.
After just 10 minutes of walking we arrived at the first small village – a few homes, some newly opened hotels and a slew of restaurants to cater to the growing tourism industry.
From the bottom of the terraces the view was gorgeous, but to get the greatest view I continued hiking up the winding rice trail to get to the top village of Dazhai.
It took about an hour to arrive at the guest house, a nicely designed Chinese equivalent of a wood cabin.
The entire guest house was made of varnished wood and there was a lovely porch with a stunning view over the mountain basin and the rice terraces.
One of the most popular things to do at Longsheng is to wake up early in the morning, hike to the very top viewpoint and watch the magnificent sun break through the clouds and shine on the various levels of rice.
Unfortunately on the day I went, the clouds were a bit too strong and the sunrise wasn't nearly as amazing as it could have been.
However, I wasn't complaining with the view.
Due to the elevation, the weather at Longsheng was quite cool – so there was nothing that made me happier than returning to the guest house to order up a bowl of piping hot Guilin rice noodles topped with local Dazhai style smoked sausage.
I had heard Chinese people rave about the famous sausage before visiting, so I knew it was something I needed to eat.
The sausage lived up to its expectation, an extremely smokey flavor that delightfully flavored the entire bowl of noodles.
The main trail that winds through the terraces leads through a series of viewpoints – each with a Chinese dramatic dreamy name.
One of my favorite viewpoints while walking around was the “Thousand Layers to the Heavens.”
Each viewpoint offered a chance to see the terraces from a different angle or side.
Many of the most beautiful attractions in China are represented by lots and lots of local Chinese tourists.
The Longsheng Rice Terraces were no different, but as I began to stray further and further from the main trails, I was able to lose most of the crowds and discover hidden places where few chose to hike.
Gazing at the neatly manicured steps of rice through the evergreen trees while breathing cool crisp air on the top of mountain ridges was truly a remarkable experience!
If you ever happen to visit Guilin, China, make sure to head over to Longsheng and Dazhai to catch a glimpse of this magnificent natural wonder. [gbicon]