The Longji rice terraces area is famous for the large number of terraced rice paddy fields on its mountain, which have created an intricate pattern on the hillsides. Set amongst the villages of the minorities Zhuang and Yao, the area allows for easy to moderate walking/hiking possibilities along and up hillsides to view the panoramas of the terraced rice fields, as well as glimpse the rural life and style of architecture found in the forest-fringed villages.
Longji means 'Dragon Back'. When the paddies are full of water in spring, it is said to resemble the scales on the back of a dragon. The fields are beautiful all year round, in the early stages when filled with water, and as the rice grows and matures, changing colours as it does so. Winter may also see snow. Blossoming flowers are also to be seen in some parts and in some seasons, and along the journey here, there is forest-clad steep-sloped mountain scenery to be taken in.
The Longji terraces are comprised of two separate but closely located areas: the Ping'An terrace fields, and the JinKeng terrace fields, each with their own villages and hamlets within easy walking distance. Ping'An terrace fields are comprised of Ping'An village, and two smaller hamlets, and is a Zhuang minority inhabited area. JinKeng terrace fields comprise DaZhai village, as well as 5 smaller hamlets, including TianTou village higher up the mountain. JinKeng is predominantly or completely Yao minority inhabited.
Arrive near the end of May, and witness the fields full of water as the first stage of growing rice begins. Dawns and dusks are heightened by the effect of the water-cloaked hillsides mirroring the sun's rays.
The ticket office and its local bus service is run by a group of tour operators in cooperation with the local government. Profits are not shared with the local community. Apparently, the villagers are so upset with this that they are staging a protest by delaying and in some cases refusing to flood the terraces with water.
It is about two hours drive to the north through twisty mountain roads from Guilin to Longsheng town. It is also possible to get to Longsheng on public transport from Guilin. The busses to Longsheng leave from 2011 from the new bus terminal near the LIQ-Brewerie, not the one in the centre near the train station. From Longsheng, the Longji terraces are a further hour or so by local bus. Buses can take you straight to either one of the villages from Longsheng, enquire which village beforehand, if you have one in mind for late-arrival accommodation purposes. Once there, travel between the two villages is straightforward. It's faster if you change buses at Heping instead of Longsheng - one village before Longsheng, but there is no bus terminal and you have to wait on the road and also some taxi drivers will bother you. Notify the conductor of your final destination so they can tell you where to get off. The fastest connection is to take at direct bus from the parking lot in front of the railway station for ¥40. Departure is 08:30 and 14:00 to Dazhai in high season.
An alternative connection to the railway network is via the station at Sanjiang County. There are frequent buses between Longsheng and Sanjiang which take around 2 hours.
It is also possible to arrange for a private shuttle bus for about ¥350 direct from Guilin. Pickups are typically from the Guilin railway station. This method is probably the simplest but it may be difficult to find the shuttle buses on your own. If you book a room with one of the hotels in the area however, they can easily arrange a pick-up for you. Also, hotels offer a combination of a tour with visiting a village of Yao minority on the way to the terrace area for ¥180 per person including bus transfer, entrance fee and guide (tour is said to be in Chinese only, but main points are translated into English as well).
Entrance to the Longji terrace area and its villages is controlled by a large ticket office. Tickets are ¥80 per person which includes a small pamphlet with a rudimentary map of the area's interconnected villages.
Longsheng is also on your route if going Hong Kong to Kunming overland.
Both villages are at the bottom of the rice terrace-covered hills.
Visitors by car must park below the villages, and take a minibus to either the upper car park/entrance of Ping'an Zhuang village, or the upper car park/entrance of DaZhai Yao village. Public transport will take you straight to the villages. You can also step off at Huanglou Yao village (also a bus terminal) and hike in about an hour or so from there to Ping'An village.
From DaZhai village, it is possible to either take a gondola up the hill or hike up, while at Ping'an you must ascend on foot. There are sedan chairs available for hire if you are not up to the climb. The path ascends rapidly through the paddy fields and houses. There are several view points along the way where you can rest and take photographs, and stone paths lead to viewing platforms higher up.
At the villages, local women gather to offer to carry your backpack or daypack in bamboo baskets attached to their back for ¥20-25 (fee varies with the weight of your bag). There are, surprisingly enough, senior local women whose English is advanced enough to act as your tour guide. They may likely approach you once inside the village or whilst walking along the paths, or your can enquire at the entrance. It is feasible to ask for a map at the entrances to the villages (they are not automatically given), to orient yourself and to get some background details.
Check the bus schedule from Longsheng station, the last bus leaves before sunset since it would be dangerous to drive in the dark. 1-1h30 to get to Dazhai, a bit shorter to Ping'An.
- 1 The Rice Terraces. A short hike through Ping'An to the summit takes about 2 hours to complete, depending on fitness. JinKeng is slightly larger so may take more time. It is possible to hike between Ping'An and DaZhai (JinKeng) in about 3 hours, enquire about guides once at either of the villages. Longer hikes spanning more than one day are possible and will allow you to access more beautiful and less touristy areas of the mountain. ¥80, students ¥40.
- Some very long hair. Longsheng is home to four minority nationalities: Miao, Yao, Dong and Zhuang. The Yao and Zhuang nationalities live in Longji. The Yao have distinctive clothing and hair styles which set them apart from other ethnic groups. Yao women are famous for having the longest hair in the world. They never cut their hair. Instead they wrap the hair in a bun on top of their head in a style resembling an Indian turban. Free to look, ¥10 for a photo.
- Unique traditional style of houses. built largely from timber, the houses are typically rectangular and three stories high, though in Ping'An many are four stories and relatively large. Each ascending floor is a little larger than the lower. The shingles, windows and beams are typical of other Chinese building styles. In DaZhai, there are small dwellings that use the thick bark of trees as roof shingles.
- Longsheng Hot Spring. A naturally hot spring and spa. It is recommended that you visit in winter or spring.
- Hiking. There is some fabulous hiking to be done around the rice terraces, though finding your way when outside the signposted areas can be tricky at times; a local guide can lead the way for a small fee.
- Around. There is a well sign-posted walk around Ping'An that takes you through Ping'An town, and up to both viewpoints - Viewpoint 1 (called Nine Dragons and Five Tigers) and Viewpoint 2 (Seven Stars with Moon), both of which have spectacular views of the town and surrounding terraces. The route is well sign-posted (look for the stone-engraved maps about the place) with good paths; completing the full circuit takes about 1-1½ hrs. The hike is easier if you head through the village up to Viewpoint 2 then across the hills to Viewpoint 1 and back down steeply to Ping'An.
- Around Dazhai. It's a quieter and more rural village then Ping'An. No cars in the village. There are 3 peaks to hike and also some small villages around. In the Village is also a Library building where they sometimes dancing ans music events and also a School building where you can watch the pupils through the windows. No ATM in Dazhai - but you can change in Wisdom Inn money, also with credit card.
- Ping'An to Zhongliu and Dazhai. The walk from Ping'An to Zhongliu takes approx 2 hours, from where it is another 2 hours to Dazhai. To Zhongliu Start by heading out from Ping'An up the hill to Viewpoint 1, then continue over the back and along a dirt road. This will take you past a lake and through a lovely valley. (more instructions needed!)
As with many tourist attractions in China, trinkets, clothing, and 'antiques' stalls abound. An array of the minority clothing, jewelry, artwork and linen is for sale at the villages.
Several of the houses in the village are new or have been rebuilt. There are many small restaurants in the village where you can rest, refresh and enjoy country style Chinese food. At the path side you will find some people cooking rice on an open fire. The rice is stuffed inside the hollow core of a bamboo along with some meats, vegetables and spices. The bamboo tube is sealed and placed on the fire to cook. This is a popular traditional meal for the local people.
Although most tourists come here on a day trip, it is a very beautiful place worth staying for a night or two at either one of the villages. Ping'An is the more popular village with direct road access. The smaller, more remote villages require an additional hike on foot (locals offer to carry your bag for ¥20-25 depending on weight) and offer a more intimate experience. There are hotels and lodging with panoramic views of the rice terraces. When the terraces contain water, sunrises and sunsets can be mesmerising, making an overnight stay essential.
- Riverside GH (Kai Kai), Longsheng, ☏ . Very nice guesthouse owned by English teacher Mrs Lee.
- Li Qing Hotel, ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. Claims to be the first guesthouse in Ping'An. Adequate rooms with good views and air-con. Nice restaurant with good variety. Internet access with free wifi in rooms. ¥120–150.
- Baike Hotel, ☏ , , email@example.com. New hotel in Ping'an, which is the most convenient village out of the three to reach in Longsheng, and has probably the most beautiful view points. The hotel is right after the entrance so you don't have to go up all the steps with your luggage. Large clean rooms with amazing view of the ricefields. Serves lovely home cooked food and will tailor it to your specific tastes. Jason, the owner, speaks perfect English and will give you all the information you need about traveling in this area. If coming from Guilin give him a call and he will help you arrange a ride for ¥50, also heard he can help you get to Longsheng from other places. The place has Wifi, air-con and soft beds.
- [formerly dead link] Longji One Hotel, ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. Big windows and great views, very nice rooms and restaurant. Internet access (free Wi-Fi), air-conditioning. The owner, Mrs Spring (Liaochunnuan), is very helpful and speaks good English.
- Green Garden Coffee House (In the middle of Ping'an). They take credit cards and have excellent food. Rooms were ¥220 for two people. Rooms are clean and bright.
- Longji Rice Terraces Tian Ranju Inn (龙脊梯田天然居客栈), Tiantou village (very beautiful 30-40 min walk from Dazhai parking area) (Dazhi Terraces), ☏ (Jimmy Qin), (Hannah wuu), , email@example.com. Restaurant, free Wi-Fi, 24-hour hot shower, English speaking, English menu, very friendly. A nice view of the rice terraces in front of Tian Ranju Inn. ¥90-180.
- [dead link] Xin Tian Hotel (鑫田酒店), Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces (a one hour walk up from Da Zhai Yao Village) (Longji Terraces), ☏ (Sarah), , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Located at the top of the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces, the vista from the rooms provides a stunning view of the rice terrace valley below. Run by Sarah Wu and her husband, Xintian Hotel has a warm, family atmosphere. Opened in 2012, the rooms are clean and come equipped with air conditioning/heating, western toilets, 24 hours hot water, wifi, and towels. Restaurant menu has a wide selection of Western and Chinese dishes. Sarah, an English speaker, can arrange someone to pick you up at the Da Zhai bus stop at the base of the valley. A baggage carrier (¥40 per bag) is not included in the room price. Contact Sarah for a direct shuttle bus from the Guilin South Train Station to Da Zhai for ¥50 per person. ¥80-150.
- [formerly dead link] JinTian Guest House (龙脊金田酒店), Tian Tou Village (very beautiful 30 min walk from Da Zhai) (Longji Terraces), ☏ , , fax: , email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Family-run guesthouse with good accommodation (aircon/heated rooms), restaurant, internet in lobby, very friendly. Call and someone will meet you at the Da Zhai gate. Good views from patio and rooms. ¥80-120.
- JinKeng Vegetarian Hostel (梯田水稻田头旅馆), Tian Tou Village (up from Da Zhai Yao village) (Longji terraces), ☏ , , email@example.com. Vegetarian food, internet, hostel. Comfortable atmosphere with books, great food, coffee, and good views down the terraces.
- Wisdom Inn (智者家园), Dazhai Village - 2nd House left side (Longji Terraces), ☏ (Sandy), fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org, wisdom-inn@MSN.com. Family-run guesthouse with good accommodation (private bathroom), restaurant, Wi-Fi internet in whole house, terrace, Home-made bread and yoghurt, English speaking, very friendly. Call or email so staff can tell you with short response time when direct bus from Guilin is available and reserve seats. There are also webcams so you can check the view and weather using a remote. ¥280-380.
- Guilin - this popular tourist city is 2 hours away.
- Sanjiang - focal point of the Dong minority, visit nearby Chengyang to see the elaborate wind-and-rain bridge.
Longsheng is on the Hong Kong to Kunming overland route; see that article for places further away.