Walking unpaved roads is something that the Chinese prefer to leave to farmers, rather than something one would do for fun, so finding a good hike in China can be a bit tricky. Dropping any ambition of a through-hike, we set our sights on two day trips near Guilin. The first runs along the beautiful Li Jiang river while the second brings us back to farming: crossing the provinces famous rice paddies.
Guilin city is as ugly as the Li Jiang river is beautiful, so we decided to go straight from the airport to the town of Xinping, from where we set off in the direction of Yangdi the next morning.
The limestone mountains cover the landscape as far as the eye can see, which is not as far as we’d hoped due to the heavy smog in the area. The sky refused to show any blue even in the most color-corrected photos. Nevertheless, the landscape is amazing and a pleasure to hike across.
About half of the 20-km hike runs along the river, with the rest passing through small villages nearby. You need to cross the river three times during the hike, paying about 20 yuan for each crossing (10 yuan for the crossing, and 10 yuan because that’s why).
Our hike along the river ended in Yandgi, from where we took a minivan back to Guilin and then hopped on to a bus to the Longji Rice fields. We arrived at the village of Dazhai early evening and then walked about 40 minutes to our hostel which offered a beautiful view of the rice fields.
The national park is home to three famous villages. Each one overflows with Chinese tour groups, none of which show any inclination to venture beyond the officially marked ‘viewpoints’. So when we set out in the morning to walk from Dazhai to Ping’an village, we quickly found ourselves alone in the fields.
The 3.5 hour hike crosses several beautiful valleys and local villages connected by narrow stone paths. Without any tourists to marvel at the landscape, the rice paddies are no longer cultivated and are mostly overgrown with young trees and grass.
The route ends at one of the main viewpoints overlooking the village of Ping’an. Although it was only March, they had already flooded the rice fields in preparation for planting new crop. We were told this is not supposed to happen until late May/early June so I assume they decided to give the tourists a run for their money – and we certainly didn’t complain.