We ended our 48 days in China with our most touristy few days of our whole trip based out of Guilin. Situated on the Li River in Southern China. The metropolitan area is home to about 5 million people. It is a very popular tourist destination and is known for its distinctive geography; the limestone mountains. These mountains go straight up in the air with very steep sides. They are described as karst topography. I had never heard of that before, so I had to look it up. Karst topography is formed by the dissolution of soft rock such as gypsum, dolomite and limestone. It is quite visually stunning.
However, Guilin has more than the Li River and the surrounding mountains. About 80km (50 miles) north are the Longsheng Rice Terraces. We are typically not tour group type people. For the most part we like to do our own thing and figure out our own path without being bound by strict confines of an organized tour. However, the day tour was the most practical way to see the rice terraces. One nice thing was that since we were with an English speaking tour group, the group was fairly small. There were about 10 of us total in two small passenger vans. The Chinese speaking tours were in 50 passenger buses.
The Longsheng Terraces are also known as the Longji Terraces or the Dragon’s Back Terraces. Terrace farming is used around the world and is used to farm on hilly or mountainous terrain. It helps with erosion and surface run-off and perhaps most importantly, helps with irrigation as you can use gravity to control water flow. The Longsheng Terraces are the most popular terraces in China and are noted for their beauty in all four seasons. We visited in the fall after all but just a few of the areas high up on the mountain had been harvested.
The Longsheng Terraces have a cable car that will take you to the top. There is also trail where you can walk up. We were given the choice of cable car up and down, up only, or walking. Since we were with a small group, we went with the consensus and decided to take the cable car up and down, although in retrospect, I might have been inclined to take the car up and walk down for a more intimate experience.
The terraces were built up around 650 years ago. The people live a simple life. Trucks and tractors may have replaced water buffalo for most tasks, we still saw a few water buffalo. You can tell that people live a relatively simple life. We saw a few people working the terraces. Rice is the primary crop and most of it had been harvested, however, there were other crops. Most of the people we saw working the fields were elderly women dressed in traditional dress. I am not sure if the young people have abandoned that life for life in the city or why we only saw elderly women in the fields.
It was a fascinating day and we were glad we got to experience this type of agriculture and observe some of the lifestyle.