If you are in Guilin there are many tours that can take you to the Longji rice terraces, called like that because from the top they resemble a dragon’s back (longji = dragon’s backbone). It’s in the mountains and apparently it’s extraordinarily beautiful in spring. Not so much in winter, but anyway, I already know the drill.
Some minorities live here like the Yao ladies. They are not the only ones, you can find some other minorities there as well.
I booked a tour through my hostel. Priced stated was 400 yuan for a whole day (2 hour trip to the mountains, day there and come back). Now, if you’ve never been to China (and I fear that the whole Asia is going to be like that) everybody is trying to rip you off, in a way. Well, actually more like trying to squeeze a few dollars out of you. They assume that you have more money than them and that you don’t mind giving your hard-earned dollars away. In the end, what you are paying is cheap in European terms, but you dont’ like it when you discover that you’ve been charged 3⁄4 times what a local gets charged.
As an example of this, we were picked up by a van where there were 3 other people. I paid 280 yuan after bargaining a bit with the hostel guys. That included the 2 hour trip to the mountains and back, lunch and the long hair show. The other people in the van had paid 400 yuan and they had to pay separately for lunch and the long hair show… And I still think that maybe you can get it cheaper than 280 yuan…
The longji terraces is an area in the mountains where these minorities live around pretty rice terraces. In spring time when rice has been planted and it’s rained everything seems to be very green and beautiful. Now in December, it looks quite deserted. You can go to the top of the mountain where you get amazing views and, of course, you get people selling you absolutely everything. Even some weird stuff there…
The Yao ladies belong to a minority ethnic group where they cut their hair when they are around 16 years old, when they are ready to get married. They never cut it again.
They roll it on their heads on a big hairdo which looks quite impressive as some of them are almost like 2 metres long. On their village they have this show, targeted for tourists, where they sing and show the wooing ritual. Quite weird but worth seeing it. So, apparently a woman signals her interest to a male by pinching his ass (yeah, right) and if he reciprocates he hits gently her feet with his. Weird, no?
The funny thing is that they usually ask some volunteers from the audience, guys, to go on stage and take part on this ritual, in front of everybody. In my opinion it was a bit embarrassing for the chosen guys as they had to sing, one by one, to one of these ladies. So, if you ever go, don’t go on stage unless you really want to do it ;-).
Anyway, a day worth it, even if the weather was not good. If I come back, I need to visit this area in spring or autumn and get better weather, and better photos. It’s quite a tiring trip, so a stay over might be appropriate. Tiring because the way up (and down) the mountain is very curvy and takes very long.
Ah, also, if you do this by booking a tour, expect to be taken to a tea demonstration. Probably your seventh tea demonstration in China. Actually, expect this everywhere, there’s even people who trick you into some of these and then require you to pay (not in my case, but met a couple of girls who were asked to pay for this).
How this works is that they take you to show you how the tea in China is taken, so they prepare this ceremony where they explain to you how they prepare it, how they drink it and the different kinds of tea they have (and what they belive they are good for) and they show it to you while you try then. Interesting things to note here:
the first water you use, you throw away and use to clean the cups.
You drink the tea in three sips, no more, no less.
you grab the cup differently depending on whether you are a man or a woman.
They have osmanthus tea, which is what Guilin is called (Forest of osmanthus trees)
They have compressed tea, which looks like a brick rather than loose leaves. It was the best tasking one I tried.
No matter where you have this, they are going to press you to buy tea or accessories afterwards. They’ll press hard, so stay firm if you don’t want it.