Guilin/Dazhia, China

The rice terraces are one of the most beautiful places I have ever been! I took a bus from Yangshou to Guilin (about two hours). Guilin is the bigger city version of Yangshou, not as pretty. I then took another bus to Dazhia village (about 3 hours) and hiked 40 minutes to another village, Tian Tou. These villages are in the Longji rice fields of Longsheng.

WEATHER: 2/5 stars
It pretty much rained for 5 days straight. Really dislike rain, especially cold rain. It got my clothes wet and in the rice terraces my shoes and pants very muddy. Typically, I wouldn’t mind but these are my only pair of shoes and wet clothes packed back into a bag have a moldy smell.

I walked to the other bus station in Yangshou which seemed to be so far away, about 2 miles. I walked into the parking lot, a lady yelled out “Guilin” and I got on the bus. The only problem was that besides picking anyone on the side of the road (despite that there were no more seats or stools in the isles), when we arrived, it wasn’t at the main bus station. I only had directions from the main station so I was a big lost. I decided to start walking a direction on one of the maps with my compass (seeing I was heading north when I wanted south). My plan was to walk roughly 1km until I turned around. To my surprise, I found the bus station! I then was able to follow my directions, walking roughly 1 mile to the hostel.
On the drive I saw huge tourism institutes (massive universities)! We also passed an international soccer school that I think was sponsored by Liverpool. Lastly, I saw on the map, a Walmart! I really wanted to go to see what it was like but it was too far.
The train station was relatively close to my hostel so I checked in and headed out to go buy my train ticket to KunMing (have to buy them days in advance because they sell out or the black market buys them up). I arrived at the station, found the ticket office but it was packed! There were so many lines, I didn’t know which one to get into. I wondered around trying to find an English sign but there were none. I had a note written in Chinese saying the train I wanted, the day, train number and time. I showed it to one of the guards but he didn’t know English and took me to what I guess was the customer service booth. She didn’t understand and looked very confused. I was trying to ask where do I go for a ticket (should have looked at my Chinese translator app first cause it had that in there). She eventuall said, “you want to buy ticket?” I nodded yes and she pointed to massive lines. I asked which one and started counting out loud and on my hands. She then understood and said any. This however was not the case because I chose the shortest line and when I go to the front and handed the lady my note, she pointed to long lines. Luckily also the hostel lady told me to bring my passport because I would not have done that. It took over an hour waiting in line to get my ticket. Not very efficient and I would have been panicking if the train I was trying to get one was for that day.
To go to the rice terraces, I decided to take the locals bus, to help their cause. The people in the villages are the minority people of China and I think are pretty poor. The local bus benefit was that you wouldn’t have to change buses at the gate. It however cost almost double the public bus. Coming back, I was the only one so it was like I had a private driver. However, my private driver was a chain smoker and smoked cigarettes the entire drive, I think it was 6 in the 3 hours.
The road to the terraces is a windy mountain road with deep gutters on the sides to prevent the road from being washed away. There are no guard rails. I saw about 5 cars and 1 truck in total in these gutters. It was raining so my guess is that the cars were going to fast and lost control. The hoods were stuck in the gutters leaving the cars upside down sticking out of the road, it was weird. The truck just looked like it go too close to the edge and once one tire went, it was over.
**Some weird things:
- Most cars/vans have blackout windows. Reminds me of gangsters.
- When getting on a bus, Chinese people take the next seat available. There could be four people on the bus, complete strangers, and they will be in the first two rows, sitting next to each despite the fact that they could have more room. It was weird at first when someone sat next to me when the entire back of the bus was still open but then I caught on that its just part of their culture.
- Traffic signs, signals, lines, etc are all suggestions. Most roads look new so I think it is a part of China’s industrial revolution building these highways and roads. I just dont think the traffic laws have caught up. Cars will go right through lights and motorbikes go wrong way down streets right in front of police. Crossing the street will feel so weird when I get home.

LODGING: 4/5 stars
Wada Hostel: 4/5 stars!
This hostel is in a quiet side street off the main road. It has a pool table, outdoor seating and is very clean. They have a fire going in the lobby for heat as well as blankets on all the couches. The beds have electric blankets for warmth since there is no other heating system. The food was pretty reasonably priced, I tried their kung poa chicken (not like american Chinese food at all!). The staff is also extremely friendly and helpful and speak good English. The beds are as a hard as a board though.
I was actually asked if I understand Chinese because I have been so good at guessing. Basically, I’m just learning the way things are done. At the grocery store, when checking out, they will look up before they ring your total and ask if you want a bag (.20). At the hostel, someone comes around and asks if they can check to make sure things are working in your hostel. On a bus, if they make a stop and point, its usually for people to use the bathroom. If they just stop, its for food.

Dragon’s Den Hostel: 5/5 stars!
The hostel has a gorgeous view of the rice terraces. It was a family run hostel and I felt like I was just a guest in their house. I was also like the only tourist in the area. Its an all wood house just like the rest of the village which is very interesting. You can hear everything, on every floor. The kids playing and yelling downstairs, someone walking upstairs, someone shoveling outside… everything! Again, no heating system except the electric blanket which I pretty much just stayed under in my bed looking out the window at the view. Peoples reviews made it seem like it was roughing it but they had electricity, wifi, running water and most importantly, soft beds and a western toilet! The only downside is that the food is so expensive but I packed some bread and orange juice so I was set for the day. The guy at the front desk spoke English very well.

GUILIN: Seems to be typical city in China. It was raining so I went out only for a bit. I got some nice photos of their sun and moon temples and walked the night market a bit but nothing special. This is mainly the hub to transfer to other cities. When I was walking around the temples though, a husband was taking a picture of his wife with the temples so I paused to let them take the photo. She immediately called me over to sit next to her and for her husband to take another photo. It was cute and she was very friendly but I didn’t know what she was saying. I just smiled, shook her hand and said “nice to meet you, have a good night”. She just copied what I said smiling. What a cute old couple!
I walked around one of the malls, I felt like I was back home except didn’t know how to read. I went to the grocery store which was an experience. Not much of their packaged food look anything like our foods. Everything is in Chinese except some isles are labeled with English. The funniest one, Paper clips/Cookies! Totally a miss translation of potato chips, cracked me up. Now I’ve tried my share of Chinese treats and “crackers” (everything is like a rice cake or puff), but I needed cheap food that would fill me up. I bought a loaf of bread, some ramen, chips, wafers, orange juice and snickers. In the mall something else I found funny, Playboy (bunny logo and all), is a shoe store. Also a note on cities, you see more young people than old. While this is typical even in NYC, read my China note below for some reasons.
In Hong Kong and this mall I witnessed people passing out some free things. Cracks me up watching these old ladies trying to get more than one sample and then hiding it, coming back around or going to the other person passing out stuff to get more. Hilarious.

Tian Tou/Dazhai: These are small villages located in the Longji rice terraces of Longsheng. This is where I should have spent more time. I would love to come back when the rice fields are actually in season and the sun is shining. It is a gorgeous place with just rice paddies stepping their way up the mountains. Tian Tou village you can’t access by road, only by hiking up steps about 40 minutes from Dazhai (about 10 minutes from road). These villages are inhabited by Chinese minorities call Red Yao. There are only about 1200 people in 6 villages in this area. The local woman have hair down to their ankles and wear it up like a big hat on their head. They also all dress alike wearing pink long sleeves and a skirt. They are double my age and asking me to pay them to carry my bags up the mountain. They also nonstop are trying to sell you things. The people of the villages were very friendly and everyone said hello.
The steps/path thankfully were big stones so it wasn’t too muddy. It was slippery though and the further up you went, the more mud so I didn’t hike too much.
There are amazing irrigation systems in place to navigate the water down the mountain without causing mudslides to their rice fields. There are rice fields cut into the entire mountain for as far as you can see. You can supposedly hike between multiple villages, about 16 miles worth of rice fields in the mountains. I was walking around with a rain jacket and the old ladies kept stopping me laughing I think telling me to get an umbrella. I kept trying to them that it was rain jacket and I wasnt getting wet but oh well. All the houses in the villages are all wood. They are big too with giant rooms. They are building new structures so I think the tourism is starting to change the place. The village though feels like an old Chinese town which is what I loved. You really get the sense of history and can see the traditions they still have (like the women’s hair and dress). They have horses, chickens, ducks, cows and pigs that just wonder around (trully free range). I watched two horses fighting trying to kick each other one top of one of the rice paddies. The food was expensive and I think if I ordered something with chicken, they would have grabbed one and killed it right then.
The villages farm mainly rice bus also some other veggies. They also seem to be in the logging business.

CHINA THINGS: China has surprised me and unfortunately confirmed some stereotypes. One main thing I have noticed is that China is going through their industrial revolution. They are building rapidly, everywhere. However, instead of happening more naturally, the government seems to be forcing it to happen, and happen quickly. China built Hong Kong and Shanghai’s skylines in 20 years (about how long it takes NYC to build one). Those cities were mainly farms and fishing villages. They have flooded ancient villages to build dams and forced farmers to move into giant cities they have built (what jobs they will now have might be phase two of the plan). Younger generations seem to be dealing the change more easily, taking to the big cities and finding jobs. There are huge massive universities soley for tourism (some of the top paying jobs are in tourism). The older population seems to be having trouble. People of one ancient village, refused and moved back to the land after one year. They built a new village as close to the old one as they could and continue to live there with no electricity or running water. Now, from the government’s perspective, I can see how putting people in the large cities they built from scratch (picking prime locations for shipping routes and power) is more efficient to power, run and maintain control. But typically, cities develop because people want to move there and there are jobs. China seems to have built cities first, then rounded up people to occupy them.
China is huge, like the USA. Like the USA, people from different regions have different lifestyles, cultures and point of views. Unlike the USA, there are 1 billion Chinese. We struggle having a democracy with our size and our numbers, I don’t know if China could have a democracy. Also, fun fact, China has double the size of our military (2 million soldiers).

BUDGET: Feb 21 – 25
Lodging: $22
Transportation: $20 ($7 of which I consider really to be a donation)
Food: $25

TOTAL: $81