How to visit a Longsheng Rice Terrace without a guide

Posted by on Sep 15, 2016 in Asia, China | 17 Comments

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Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy Chinese cities. I loved Shanghai way more than I thought I would, and I enjoyed exploring a remote city in China, Liaoyuan.

But, after six weeks exploring city after city, I thought my head was going to explode.

As I arrived in Guilin from a 21 hour train from Nanjing, I wearily looked around me at…. Another city. Granted, this one was a bit different, with South East Asian influences (and mangoes!), but it wasn’t doing much to help my city fatigue.

Luckily, I had the perfect remedy in store.

I was going to visit a Longsheng Rice Terrace without a guide; more specifically, I was going to go to a small village nestled in the Longji Rice Terraces called Ping’an. I was going to have a much needed couple of days of rest, rejuvination and rice trekking completely out of a city.

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Visiting the Longji Rice Terraces

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My main reason for visiting this part of China was to see the Longji Rice Terraces. I’d seen the famous photos, I knew that they were a must visit in China, and I was dying to go.

But I didn’t want to go on a tour. Tours really aren’t my thing – I like doing exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it, and feeling like the experience is unique to me. I didn’t want to just go to a tourist trodden part of the rice terraces. I wanted an experience.

How to visit the Longji Rice Terraces without a tour guide

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Typ ‘Longji Rice Terrace Tour’ into google and you’ll get lots of responses, but ‘Longji Rice Terrace No Tour Guide’ elicits much fewer. You could easily think that the only way to see the Longji Rice Terraces is with a tour guide, but it’s extremely easy to do without.

Why visit the Longji Rice Terraces without a tour guide?

Whether you like tours or not, there are still lots of reasons to visit the Longji Rice Terraces with no tour guide.

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Tours to Longji often just go to the tourist spots, and all at the same time. If you don’t take a tour, you can avoid being mixed in with all the other groups.

Tours to Longji only take a day, leaving at 8am and returning at 6pm. This gives you about 3 hours to explore the rice paddies, which in my opinion, is nowhere near enough time. Consider that you’ll want to factor in time to enjoy the village and soak up the countryside atmosphere too, and for this two days was barely enough time for me!

If you don’t take a tour to Longji, you have the huge benefit of being able to stay overnight and catching the sunrise or sunset. While I didn’t get a great sunrise, it was still a magical experience and I’ve seen some surreal pictures of Longji as the sun is coming up.

It costs about the same price to go with a tour for one day as it does to stay at the terraces overnight if you go solo.

I didn’t do this myself, but I met people who went trekking from one village to another. They said that while tough, this trek was one of their best experiences in China and had I known about it sooner, it would have been something that I would have loved to have done.

Ok, I’m sold… but how do I reach the Longji Rice Terraces alone?

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Easy peasy. One option is to take a direct bus, which can be booked through most hostels and hotels and costs 50 yuan. It takes between 2 and 3 hours and the pick up point is a hotel near Guilin station.

The other option is slightly more complicated and involves taking a bus to Longsheng or Heping Village and changing for a bus to the village that you would like to visit. This adds up to 40 yuan. Normally, I’d always choose the harder and cheaper route, but for the sake of 10 yuan (about £1.20), I went for the direct bus.

The direct bus drives you to the scenic area gates, where you must pay the entrance fee to the bus (which is 95 yuan I’m afraid… national parks in China aren’t cheap!) and then takes you to the village that you have decided to go to.

Which Longji Village should I visit?

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My choice was Ping’an. After booking my hostel, I decided to do a bit of research on the village (backwards, I know…) and was advised that it was the most touristy of the Longji villages. Still, lured in by promising photos of green paddy fields (marketing at its best), I still decided to go there.

Well, I’m now very keen to visit the other villages at Longji Rice Terraces and see how touristy they are. I guess ‘less touristy’ must mean that the ten or so other people I saw in the terraces themselves over the course of the two days must not be there?

Nonetheless, as long as you don’t mind your rice terrace vista being interrupted once an hour or so by another tourist, Ping’an should be fine. I was very happy with my choice. The village had treks to two different viewing points, both which were absolutely stunning. Both treks only took about half an hour each way (so an hour round trip) but I spent much longer just taking everything in and marvelling at the scenery.

Dazhai is another good choice for visitors to the Longji Rice Terraces. I was told that it is a little more ‘out the way’- than Ping’an, with less street vendors. While this may be appealing as it tends to mean less crowds, this really wasn’t much of a problem for me in Ping’an.

As I previously mentioned, other travellers that I met hiked from Dazhai to Ping’an and said it was a challenging but rewarding walk. They relied just on having ‘which way to Ping’an’ written on a piece of paper and made it to the village just before sundown. While pretty nerve-wracking, they said that the sunset over the fields made it all worth it!

Hostels at the Longji Rice Terrace

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My Ping’an hostel was great; I stayed at Longji International YHA and felt immediately welcomed. The entire building is made out of wood, which gives it a rustic and homely feel. I actually had an entire dorm to myself, which was lovely and relaxing. It’s not the most social of hostels (as in: I think I was the only person staying there), but it makes for an idyllic break to the countryside.

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Food in Ping’an is generally expensive, and somewhat lacking in vegetarian options, so I had dinner and then breakfast and lunch at the hostel. They served a mix of western and Asian food, including aubergine (of course, that’s pretty much all I ate in China) and egg and tomato soup for reasonable prices.

Hikes in Ping’an

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There are two main hikes to do from Ping’an. The first is called ‘Nine Dragons and Five Tigers’. It ascends directly above the area by the hostel, which means that you are immediately engulfed in rice fields as soon as you start to climb. The hills covered by paddies are completely spectacular and make for a completely incredible walk. You can climb for about 20 minutes, surrounded by the gorgeous fields. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, with the green paddies traversing the horizon for miles, littered with rustic huts.

I took an afternoon to do this hike – it can be done in much shorter time but I really wanted to take everything in.

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The second hike from Ping’an is up to ‘Seven Stats with the Moon’ point. This walk takes you through rural lanes and alleys, past local shops and cafes and upwards to some fantastic viewing points. Here was the first time I felt like I was really in rural China and I loved it.

I think the view from Seven Stars with the Moon is even more spectacular than the Nine Dragons and Five Tigers viewpoint, and it’s an ideal place to watch the sunrise. I didn’t get much of a colour display but I couldn’t really complain with the view that I had!

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Both viewpoints are signposted, but it’s a good idea to take a photo of one of these signs for if you do get lost. Both English and Chinese are written on the signs and any local will be happy to point you in the right direction.

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Exploring Ping’an Village

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There’s not a huge amount to see in Ping’an village but it’s nice for a little stroll, to enjoy not being in a huge city and to meet some local people. There are a few eateries and places to buy some souvenirs – I didn’t have the budget or the backpack space to get any of these so wouldn’t know how much they cost!

There’s pretty much all you’ll need to know for a day trip to the Longji Rice Terraces without a guide. If you have any more questions about the terraces please just drop me a comment! I’d also love to hear about any rice terraces you’ve visited or day trips that you have done without a guide!

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It's possible to visit the Rice Terraces Nea

17 Comments

  1. Jen
    September 17, 2016

    I had never head of the Longji Rice Terraces, but they look incredible! My partner and I lived in China for nearly three years, but we never made it down to Guilin. It’s still on our list, so when we go we’ll have to add a day or two to stay in the villages and hike through the area. Thanks for sharing how to do it without a guide!

  2. Thuymi
    September 17, 2016

    These are better than Sapa!! Although in Sapa we had a tour and walked around not too far and adventurous like you did. Ping’an seems amazing.

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  3. Carolin
    September 17, 2016

    I have never been to China but it’s definitely on my list to visit! Didn’t even there were those beautiful rice terraces there 🙂 I actually recently went to the Philippines and decided to go to the rice terraces without a tour guide and it was really the best experience as I could go at my pace and met some very cool locals along the way, much better than going in a touristy crowd!
    Carolin recently posted…A Travel Guide to Auckland’s Oldest Suburb ParnellMy Profile

  4. Erica
    September 17, 2016

    Truth be told, I know nothing about this place and I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog because this looks amazing. I love that it’s lesser known than the rice terraces of Sapa or the Philippines.

  5. Jennifer
    September 17, 2016

    I much prefer exploring on my own over guided tours, especially when hiking like this. I like to be able to take the time I want in the spots that interest me and move more quickly through spots that don’t.
    Jennifer recently posted…Bucket List Marrakech and Sahara Luxury AdventureMy Profile

  6. Janna on a Jaunt (@jannaonajaunt)
    September 18, 2016

    Although I would personally benefit from a tour guide from time to time, I like doing things on my own too and I like that you can visit Longsheng Rice Terrace without one! It reminds me of Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines!

  7. Aga
    September 19, 2016

    Looks like an amazing thing to do on your own and I bet it wouldn’t be as special with a group & tour guide. Beautiful photos too.
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  8. Holly
    September 19, 2016

    So pretty. Great to know how to visit with out a guide. Sometimes you just want to wander without.

  9. Carmen's Luxury Travel
    September 19, 2016

    Oh wow, what a beautiful part of the world! Your photos are absolutely beautiful. Bookmarking this. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Carmen’s Luxury Travel recently posted…The Rosewood Mayakoba, a Marvel in MexicoMy Profile

  10. Anita Hendrieka
    September 19, 2016

    Wow, this place looks beautiful. I don’t think I could ever get bored of seeing rice terraces!

  11. Gareth
    September 20, 2016

    Good for you for going it alone. All too often people feel reliant on tour guides because of the convenience they offer. In reality however, it is a far more authentic and indeed rewarding experience to do these kind of trips alone. I am currently living in Chengdu, to the North of Longsheng and am tempted to head down there during the spring break. Thanks for the advice!

  12. Local Nomads
    September 20, 2016

    Great article! I really admire your courage and independence to just go at it on your own. I’ve never been one for tours, as I like to blaze my own trail and see things at my own pace. You really highlighted the benefits of doing just that, glad you were able to get out of the constant grind of Chinese metropolis!
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  13. Anne Slater-Brooks
    September 20, 2016

    This looks stunning and if I ever make it to this part of world will refer back to this. Did you find the only accommodation to be hostels?
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  14. Betty
    September 20, 2016

    Wow what a view! Thanks for sharing tips on going a trip without a guide to a beautiful and remote part of China. It’s gorgeous!

  15. Claire
    September 27, 2016

    Hope you get the chance to check it out Anne! There’s lots of guesthouses for accommodation too 🙂

  16. Cherri
    November 28, 2016

    How strenuous was the climb from the bottom to the trails? Are the entrances to the trails both at the top? What about the hike into the local village – Dahzai is the long trek that’s like four five hours, right, but there’s a smaller Dong village an hour in and hour back? Or they are the same? I don’t think we have enough time : ( Did you know there was a mineral spa in a national park not far from there? We are going to check it out (Longsheng). It looks very pretty – I hear the baths are great, the hotel not so much…

  17. Claire
    December 15, 2016

    Not strenuous at all, just a little stroll 🙂 The entrances both lead off Ping’an village – I heard about the trek from Dahzai but not sure about the one from Dong! Guesthouses or hostels in the area are very informative 🙂 I havent heard about the mineral spa either!

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