The Longji Terraces
So when I booked this trip, I picked it because it was the contrasts of city and country. After lots of cities, it was time to really rough it. After the small village adventure and a 5 hour bike ride, Laura, Rhiannon and I decided there was no way in hell we could climb through the moutains to get to the Longji Terraces.
You might be wondering what the heck these terraces are. I didn't know either until I went to China, but then I remembered seeing a documentary about them and they are actually as the British say "quite lovely". Because a picture is worth a thousand words, I am posting links from you tube to the highlights of what I saw:
The video was obviously not shot by us, but it encompasses what we saw. Since we didn't do the big trek, we took a bus to the bottom of the hill and went up to the guesthouse that was so high up, it still took 45 minutes of steps to get there. All houses are built on the hills and is just rice and houses and like 5 guesthouses. The women of these villages are known for only cutting their hair twice in their lives and keeping it and wearing it daily in a special hairdo as you can see in the video. It really is amazing. They had lots of crafts for sale, but most of the money they make is obviously from the rice harvests and from tourists payng about 5 dollars to hear them sing and dance their traditional dances and to see them take out their hair.
I have mixed feelings when I go on these homestays and villages because
1. You can see how the younger generations are like "whatever" they wear jeans and have cell phones and act like regular teenagers, so I always wonder if all these tranditions will be lost and how sad that is. But at the same time, I would not want to live my life that way, so why should we, as priviledge westeners expect them to keep doing this. AND
2. It is beyond ridiculous how some of the other tour groups behave, as if these people weren't really human. For example, the villagers will carry you, I am not kidding, literally put you in a kind of of throne and carry people all up the mountain and it is a STEEP mountain and most of the villagers are older men and women and you can see the hardship in their bodies and their faces and then the tourists want to haggle them down to a super cheap price and I am so disgusted because at home, people would spend that amount on a McDonald's meal...
Anyway, no one in my tour is like that. I have seen almost no Americans at all in the month I have been here, so at least i can't feel too guilty. I think this comes from me having visited and lived/felt part of a third world country. I can't put up with the kind of superiority that some westeners have towards the villagers. As if it was their own personal triumph to have been born in a developed nation. HA!
Anyway, we spent most days at Longji just exploring, getting some sun and playing cards in the deck at the guest house while the others did the 6 hour treks. I saw enough to appreciate it so I was cool with no trekking.
After like 25 hours of traveling we got to Hong Kong. I LOVED IT. Maybe not as much as NYC, but close. It was my other little version of NY. I recommend everyone to go to HK. It is the best of both worlds: you get to experience the temples, food, people and culture of china without the hassle of the visa, language barrier, squat toilette, traffic, etc. etc.
We only had 1.5 days in HK but I got to see enough to make me want to go back. It was also bittersweet because it was the end of our first leg of the trip, meaning 10 people went other places and only 6 of us joined a new group to go into Vietnam later this week.
Obviously there were some tears at the good bye, but I am excited to meet the new group. We have two Australians (finally :)! and now I have a roomate, Jen, my new friend from CA so it's all good. Our new tour guide is British but has lived in SE Asia for 18 years so he knows a lot.
In Hong Kong, we got to see the biggest Buddha in the world and some other cool things. The shopping though was the highlight, and as much as I hate fake designer handbags, I had to get a Juicy Couture mini bag that I absolutely love. LOL.
The flight wasn't bad at all, we crossed the border back into China and then flew for about 2 hours to Guiyang a small city where we are going to go up in the mountains again to see some other villages. I am excited and scared because this time I think I am going to have to go on the actual trek. Good thing that this new group is a lot older ( I have a feeling I am not the oldest and if I am the average age is definitely above 25) and a lot of the people seemed less like the superwomen and men that I had before. The reason I wanted to write about the flight was because I was the ONE thing that almost kept me from booking this particular tour. I was like HELLO NO, I am not taking a domestic China airlines flight to become a statistic. But now I take it back. It was perfectly safe, in a regular Airbus plane with no problems. YAY!