Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Climbing in Longsheng China

Bergdorf bei Longsheng (China) wo die Yao inmi...

Day two of my weekend trip to the Guangxi province found me taking a full day trip to Longsheng to view the Longji (dragon spine, I think) rice terraces. The area is populated by the Miao people; a very small minority in China that is diminishing in numbers every year.  The traditional family of the Miao includes 4 to 6 children but this is not so anymore. Thanks to the child policies of the Chinese government the Miao are restricted to only 2 children per family. With more and more young men leaving for the big cities every year, it is only a matter of time before the Miao disappear. One interesting thing to note about the Miao people is that they are the “longest-haired village in the world” as quoted by a sign outside the village. It definitely adds a unique aspect to the village and to me it seemed like another one of those many odd, quirky, incredible things about China that makes it so great. You can get a sense of these people through language translation services, but you really need to spend time with them to get a true sense of their culture and customs. 

The night before (Saturday night) and Sunday night I stayed on the floor of a college student, Leo, in Guilin.  I found Leo through an amazing networking site called CouchSurfing.  I had never met Leo before but nevertheless he agreed to host me for two nights in his dorm room.  The CouchSurfing community is absolutely incredible; the people I have interacted with through this site have all been very nice and generous with their time, utilities, and accommodations.  Some people may be wary of agreeing to sleep in the apartment/house of a complete stranger and that is completely understandable.  However there are some precautions you can take to ensure that you are staying with a legitimate CouchSurfer and not some creep.  Anyway, being that it was my first time CouchSurfing I did not know what to expect but it turned out to be a great experience.  From now on I look forward to more CouchSurfing around the country and to hosting CouchSurfers right here in Xi’an.  I know it will lead to some great new friends and some great experiences.

Like so many occasions during my time here in China, I had no idea what to expect upon going to Longsheng.  We were treated to a performance by the Miao people which was a bit kitschy and touristy but it ended up highly amusing at the end when they reenacted a marriage ceremony with volunteers from the crowd.  Not much to say about it, it was vaguely interesting but not a mind blowing experience.  One interesting thing is that for some odd reason the Miao women show their love for you by pinching your butt.  The women formed a gauntlet leading out of the building so that everyone (including yours truly) from the audience got a good tushy squeeze. This is China, right?

From there we headed up the mountain and truly it was not what I was expecting.  There are literally rice terraces everywhere.  All up and down the surrounding mountains.  I mean these guys are industrious.  A lot of the terraces went unused and some seemed nearly inaccessible.  Being an engineer I found myself questioning the point of putting in all that hard work to create a terrace half-way up a mountain that is probably never going to be used.  Regardless, it definitely had a breath-taking effect on me.  Unfortunately pictures just don’t do the landscape justice.  I think it’s one of those things you really need to go and see for yourself to truly appreciate the magnitude and beauty of the place.  But until you manage to make it there (and you definitely should) hopefully these pictures will give you an idea of what it’s like.

After the previous day of biking and climbing my legs were none too pleased with ascending another mountain (don’t worry, it got worse the next day) but I forced myself to climb to the top alongside all the other tourists.  My body ached and protested and muttered some unprintables at me.  Completely ignoring it, I made it to the top and was paid off with some great views of the surrounding area despite the overcast day.