Unlike so many of our other adventure trips, we woke up at a comfy at 8 AM. 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 its 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 than 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 was authentic and more than 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 to 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 its 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 its 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 the main street past some shops and tiny restaurants.
The village is set up 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.
Despite our best intentions to get to bed early, we got little to no sleep that night.
The accommodation was comfortable and the temperature perfect but we had the misfortune of a large Chinese family that thought it was appropriate to stomp, parade, scream, shout, laugh and slam doors into the wee hours of the night.
The result, a couple of restless travelers.
Dragging ourselves out of bed the next morning came early, we had a solid 5 hours of hiking through the countryside to Ping’ an followed by a 3-hour drive back into Guilin and then for our plans, a ride to Yangshuo.
So the day was going to belong. The advantage of rising early is beating the sun.
We were lucky with a cloudless sky but knew it meant a hot sun. So we ate breakfast quickly, gathered our things and set off on the trail out of the village. Our first stop was a high overlook that afforded us a great view of the valley and village below.
Our night had been spent in one of the most beautiful places in China.
~ Village we spent the night at ~
The hike was a nice combination of challenging inclines and steady plateaus and weaved its way through hills of sparkling green rice fields. They were perfectly tailored to move with the land, creating the perfect vision of texture and color.
Many people would say that seeing the rice fields when they are green is not the best time to visit. For me though, the views of the bright green, full fields crawling over the hills against a blue sky were breathtaking.
The second day of hiking would bring us the same great views from our first day of hiking and in addition, many more encounters with the Yao minority people along the way.
The first women we saw working in the fields was delighted at the sight of us.
She came straight up onto the path to meet us and then promptly gave us a demonstration of how she works in the rice fields. It sounds comical, and in a way it was, but she was genuinely excited to show us.
She encouraged us to take photos and never once asked for money. This wasn’t a tourist display, she was interested in us and wanted to show us more about her way of life. I didn’t hesitate to take a couple of photos, which I then showed her, before moving on and climbing up another hill on a narrow, wet, winding path.
After reaching the top, we descended down the backside of the hill and into a thick patch of trees that resembled a jungle. The descent was not straight, but down, then flat and winding, then down again.
About halfway down we came across a large building owned by a local farmer.
He was standing on the trail and greeted us as we passed him. As we got closer to the buildings we encountered many women with displays of things on tables, that they attempted to sell to us.
Most of it was nothing special but we looked and mingled with the ladies regardless. When the farmer joined us, he quickly took to the far table with a beaming smile and waved us over.
There, sitting on the table, was three large glass jugs. Inside them, some of the biggest snakes I have ever seen. There in the middle of nowhere, this farmer was marinating his own snake whiskey and offering it to hikers as they passed through his terraces.
Of course, I am not a fan of snakes and was immediately alarmed at the sight of them and slowly backed away.
However, I couldn’t resist asking him about them. He had captured the snakes while working in the rice fields and made a point to tell us that they were dangerous.
Which he followed up with, ‘the dangerous ones make the best Whiskey’ in his broken English through his gaped tooth smile. I have seen the cobra whiskey in Laos before, but these snakes were just eery for me, simply because I was hiking where they were found.
I remained on my toes for the rest of the hike after that stop.
In addition to the stops with the local farmers, we passed through one other village before arriving in Ping’an. We knew were close when we started to see other hikers. It may be hard to believe we were the only hikers most of the time, but that is true.
Most people pay their visits to the villages and make short trips outside of the village for one view of the rice terraces. The rest of the time we were in complete solitude and it was magical.
If you want to see this beautiful part of the World in a personal, up-close manner then book with a private company like Hike Guilin.
Our days hiking with just the nature of the area will be remembered for many years to come. the rice terraces in Guilin are World famous and with good reason, do not miss a visit to Guilin and beyond on your next trip to China.
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