Unlike so many of our other adventure trips, we woke up at a comfy 8am. We had time to get ready and eat breakfast before being picked up by our guide to begin our next hiking adventure, a two day hike through the minority villages and rice terraces north of Guilin.
This particular area is World famous for it’s natural beauty and ease of accessibility from Guilin. This to me is a double edged sword. It is really easy to get there, which means that everyone will be there. In this case, taking away from the experience of visiting a local village. It’s also kind of hard to enjoy and take great photos of the rice terraces when you have 500 people in your photos.
So rather then show up at our hostel in Guilin and just book the package trip, we were searching for something different, something more intimate and something away from the crowds. That is how we came across a company called Hike Guilin. They offered up private hiking tours to villages that weren’t frequented by the steady flow of tourist buses and an option to spend more than one day exploring the area.
The day started with our pickup in Guilin which was followed by a 3 hour ride outside of the city to the North. The ride went smoothly and we arrived at the first stop to get our tickets into the rice terraces. Here we had a chance to bear witness to the troves of tourists and buses that frequent this area. Seeing this right off the bat made me nervous that we may need to fend off the crowds like so many other places in China.
We were told that due to a recent rock slide on the road that we would be switching vehicles to carry on to Xiaozhai Village. Once we left the ticket center we realized that we were truly leaving the crowds. We were the only ones to move forward towards the village. Once we arrived we hiked up the main road and into the village where we would have lunch and a chance to have our first visit with the minority residents.
We enjoyed a tasteful homemade lunch in one of the family homes. The enthusiastically showed us their large pigs under the house and their large displays of drying hot peppers in the sun. The meal meal was authentic and more then enough to feed the two of us and our guide. The family members came and went as we dined and the children ran up and down the stairs while smiling, laughing and being shy around us.
~ View from the house we had lunch in ~
Once we had eaten our fill, finished our conversations and bid our farewells, we set off through the village and into the hills. We would be hiking for the next 2 hours to the Dazhai Village where we would be spending the night and given another chance to interact with the locals.
The hike between the villages was beautiful, through steep rolling hills over acres of terraced rice fields. Our visit wasn’t considered to be during the best time for a visit of the rice terraces, but my opinion differs from this. Peak time is at the start of the rice season or about a month after we were there. Each one offers a different view, the early one being empty terraces with water the reflects into the sky like glass. The season about a month after our visit, the golden season, where all the rice plants have matured and taken on a golden color making the hills look rich.
During our visit, everything was just plain green. Personally, it may have been special to see the terraces in one of it’s special phases, but just seeing the vibrant green colors roll through the valleys was enough to make our visit just perfect for us. There is just something about seeing plants in a bright green state that shows life and health.
~ Leaving the Xiaozhai Village ~
The path was narrow and followed the curves of the land, which included it’s ups and downs. This made for a perfect hike with areas that were flat to rest and areas that were steep to get the blood pumping. My ideal opinion of a good hike. As we made our way through the hills we came across the odd Yao villager working in the fields and throwing a smile our way.
As we got closer to the Dazhai Village we began to see the village merchants along the path trying to sell us the odd souvenir and it wasn’t long before we were walking down main street past some shops and tiny restaurants. The village is setup for some tourism, but it seems that most of the people staying here were just hikers or part of a small group that came from Guilin in a van for an overnight stay.
After finding our accommodation, we were shown our room, given time to settle in and then enjoyed another home cooked meal on the terrace overlooking the village while the sun went down. It was the perfect end to a great first day of hiking. After dinner we went for a walk around the village to let our food settle, yes we walked all day and then went for a walk, before turning into our rooms with the intentions of an early night to rest up for the 5 hour hike the next day to the Ping’an Village.