China is a pretty big place, so even though when we planned our route on Google maps it looked like it was just down the road, it turns out it’s a full day on a train to get from Chengdu to Guilin. 25 hours in fact. Unlike our other over night train journey we’d booked beds for this one, it’s four to a cabin so we had 2 Chinese men for roomies, they didn’t say a word to us for the whole journey, not even a smile! Rob’s become obsessed with reading Harry Potter since we started travelling (bit late to the party) but at least that kept him quiet for most of the journey. A friend had recommended a book about Chinese migrant workers so with 25 hours to spare I thought I’d give it a read. It was really interesting actually, over 900 million Chinese people live on less than £4 a day, but you wouldn’t know it from the cities we’ve been walking round! They all have huge high rise buildings and shops filled with expensive tech, all possible because of the Chinese peasants who migrate from the country to the city to work for about £70 a month. That explains why in Beijing they could afford to have about 20 people working on repairing one set of stairs, or in the parks why there were 5 people working on pruning each flower bush. Crazy to think that such a developed country sanctions that sort of pay and work, made me realise how lucky we are. Definitely going to appreciate everything we see a lot more now! I got so into my book the train journey passed by pretty quickly. It was largely uneventful, a rather long night as the Chinese men decided to finally become noisy whilst they slept, the snoring never stopped and I don’t think it’s polite to throw a pillow at a stranger so I wallowed in silence. We made it Guilin late afternoon, our hostel served Western food so we treated ourselves to a pizza, the owner made a point of telling us we should only have it once so we didn’t, you know, get fat, cheers for that!
The Longji rice terraces were only a couple of hours away and they looked awesome on the pictures so we booked on a tour. It’s £20 cheaper to go on the Chinese tour rather than the English one so we found ourselves sat listening to a 2 hour talk in Chinese about something, probably rice, before we arrived. The rice fields are mainly inhabited by the Zhuang people, they have the most amazing colourful clothing and the women have long hair down the floor which they all swivel up on top of their heads, better than any bun I can tie. It was quite a trek up to the top of the mountain but from there you could see the scale of the rice terraces, as far as you could see on all the hills were big steps carved into side so they can farm the hills. They’ve farmed like this for over 650 years and it must be working because we had some super tasty rice cooked in a bamboo shoot at the top. A Chinese lady took us under her wing at the top and despite having no common language she insisted we followed her, she kept stopping and telling us to take pictures of the view before ushering us on to follow her. I think she thought we were lost because all the way down we plodded whilst she smiled and laughed at us, bless her.
We headed back to Guilin to have a little look round, we didn’t have much time actually in Guilin as we were heading to Yangshuo early the next morning but it seemed like a nice city and it had a good English bar that sold Mojitos!