We flew southwest about 2.5 hours to the city of Guilin, where we hopped in a van for another 2 hours to reach the village of Dazhai, in an area known as the Longji (Dragon’s Backbone) rice terraces. It was about as opposite to Shanghai as possible, and we loved it immediately. Dazhai is one of many villages in this area. There are probably no more than 300 people who live in the village, there are no roads large enough for cars in the village, and a small stream bubbles through the center on its way downhill and on to the next village. Here's "downtown" Dazhai:
The view from our hotel of the misty, rice-terraced hilltops was both calming and challenging, we had to get up there ASAP. We threw our packs down and headed uphill for an afternoon climb along the many paths that link the various hill villages together, and provide scenic lookouts across the terraces. Here's what Dazhai looks like from above:
Our hike was rarely interrupted by another visitor walking around, and the views were interrupted only occasionally by the cable car which is currently under construction. The new cable car will make a few of the scenic lookouts even more accessible to day-trippers and people who don’t have the ability to make it on foot. These terrace villages are home to a Chinese minority population, the Yao, whose women are known for their long hair...if you look closely at the photo below, you'll see a part of the bun:
After about an hour of brisk walking we had reached lookout number one, near the crest of the cable car turnaround. The views of the rice paddies cut as layers into the hillsides were amazing...the pictures just won’t do it justice.
In the distance more layers and more villages even smaller than Dazhai could be seen. We stayed in an all wood guest house next to the bubbling stream and really enjoyed the sounds and smells. The next day we woke early to do a 3 hour hike along the terraces to a couple other lookout points before heading out of Dazhai. Fortunately along the way there were some helpful signs, this one in particular made me think of my Mom:
We really enjoyed Dazhai and considering staying another night; however, having done a decent amount of hiking one late afternoon and one morning, we decided to stick with our itinerary and make our way to Yangshuo, which was Todd's #1 "must see" place in China...it had been tempting us even while we were there, as the distinctive landscape is on the back of the 20 Yuan note: