The Dragon’s Backbone
The bus from Guilin dropped us at the village of Dazhai, which sits at the base of Longji Rice Terraces – more commonly referred to as The Dragon’s Backbone. We were barely out of our seats before our luggage was being clawed from our backs by a crowd of mostly elderly women eager to carry it up to our hotel in TianTou, a tiny village only accessibly via a 45 minute hike uphill on foot.
Our backpacks weigh 15kg each. There’s no way we were letting an 80-year-old woman lug it up the equivalent of 50 flights of stairs while we nonchalantly stroll behind nibbling on an Oreo and enjoying the scenery.
We came to regret this decision 15 minutes later when, dizzy with exhaustion and on the verge of collapse, we were overtaken by the merry group of porters, chatting away as they strode with ease up the mountain path, their baskets laden with suitcases and not a bead of sweat between them.
The epic climb was worth it. We flung open the bedroom windows and looked out over the rice terraces, a seemingly infinite work of art so intricate and beautiful it was hard to believe they were created to grow rice and not just to be stared at in wonder. This was China at its best and we loved every minute.
We spent three days hiking through the rice terraces with just the occasional lone horse for company. This all sounds very relaxing but being more indoorsy type people it was pretty hardcore. One day we attempted to hike to the village of Ping’An, which according to various guidebooks should have taken around two hours. After four and a half we turned back. Another day we tried to reach Golden Buddah Peak but again, this mission failed and as the sun began to fade we returned to base.
It didn’t really matter. This was a place where you could happily explore for days with no particular destination in mind. It was also our last stop in China. From here, we were headed to the city of Kunming and a flight to Laos. It was a fitting finale to an epic adventure and we were ready for the next chapter.
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