Guilin Longji Rice Terrace (桂林龙脊梯田) is a “must-see” attraction when you visit Guilin, China. Guilin Longsheng（桂林龙胜）has the most beautiful rice terraces in China and its history goes back to the Yuan Dynasty. The name Longji (龙脊) literally means Dragon’s Backbone in Chinese and it is derived from the undulating rice terraces that resembles the scales of a dragon.
Longji Rice Terrace is open to tourists throughout the four seasons. During different seasons, you will experience different landscape – from snow covered terraces in winter to bright green paddy fields in spring. The Longji rice terrace is easily accessible from Guilin city by a 2-hour drive to Longsheng County. You can join a local tour available at your hotel’s travel counter to visit the famous rice terraces. In my case, I booked from Shangri-La Guilin Hotel.
How to Get There
If you are on a tight budget, you can take the combined tour (about RMB170 – RMB200 per person) with other tourists. The tour operator will pick you up from hotel and bring you to a bus terminal. At the bus terminal, you will have to wait to change to a smaller coach which will bring you up the mountain to the entrance of Longji Rice Terrace.
This ‘combined tour’ package excludes the entrance fee of RMB80 to Guilin Longji Rice Terraces. It is the cheapest way to get there but you’ll need to wait for other tourists to fill up the coach before entering or leaving the mountain.
If you are traveling with two or three friends, it is worthwhile to share the cost by getting a personal driver (most of them are cab drivers). The driver will pick you up from the hotel and drive non-stop to the entrance. There is no need to change coach and wait for other tourists to fill up the coaches.
Guilin Tour to Longji Rice Terrace
This ‘hire-a-driver’ method costs around RMB500–RMB650 for the entire trip (exclude the RMB80 entrance fee per pax). If there are four persons to share the bill, each person only pays about RMB160. But it spares you 2-3 hours of waiting time!
I booked my tour with Guilin Century International Travel Service Co Ltd. The lady who handled my booking is very helpful and she speaks decent English. Her name is Ning Yan (宁燕) and you can reach her at:
Tel: +86 773 2115500
Mobile: +86 773 2115511
Once you pay the entrance fee and walk through the gate, you start the ascent immediately. The initial pathway is wide and easy to walk on and this path continues till you reach a bridge. Along the initial pathway, you’ll find many shops and small restaurants lining on both sides. The shops sell mostly handcrafted stuff (combs made from antelope horns, hand-weaved clothing, etc).
There are also shops that sell foodstuff made of Osmanthus (桂花) like Osmanthus biscuits, tea and cakes.
Once you cross the bridge, the pathway becomes steeper and is mostly steps. The steps are made of large flatten rocks and is safe to walk on. There are two pathways that lead you to two different peaks where you can take nice scenic photos. Both peaks are about the same height. If you are tired or short of time, just visit one of the peaks will be sufficient.
Getting Carried in a Sedan
For novelty sake, do try the “human transporter”. It is actually a sheltered sedan carried by two tribesmen. They will transport you up to the mountain peak for a negotiable price.
The peaks are named Nine Dragons Five Tigers (九龙五虎) and Seven Stars Half Moon (七星伴月). You do not need a guide to trek up to these peaks as there are signage to guide you. Or just follow the tourists around you if you are worried about getting lost.
Once you start the climb, get your camera ready. The further you climbed, majestic paddy field terraces start to appear. When you get high enough, the entire “scales” of the dragon’s back will unveil before you.
Along the ascent, you will see many wooden houses built on stilts that belong to the ethnic minorities. Along certain stretches, you will be trekking through their backyards and ‘welcomed’ by a pungent smell. The odour comes from their “natural sewage system” in which the human waste are left to decompose in the open.
Minority Tribe and Ethnic Food
Take a photo with the minority tribe ladies dressed in their ethnic costume that costs just RMB10 per person. This small amount of money means little to a tourist but will definitely bring smiles to their faces. These ladies do this for the whole day under the hot sun and I do feel sorry for them!
You may complete the trip by having lunch at one of the many small eateries which served ethnic food. I tried and really like the glutinous rice cooked in bamboo which was quite a novelty to me.
Although it’s a simple dish cooked with Chinese sausages and local vegetables, it really tasted yummy! I also ordered a side dish of fried bamboo shoots with fresh chicken slices. The portions were huge and even though I was hungry, I could not finish it all! The whole meal costed me less than RMB50.
Overall, the trip was a fruitful one and I took many scenic photos. There are many lodges for rent and the temperature is cooling at night, between 15-17°C. My only regret is I did not spend a night in the mountain and watch the starry night – a sight to behold as described by the villagers.