Day 6: We’re All Dying on this Mountain Road

Mountain rice terraces around Ping'an

Mountain rice terraces around Ping’an

Day 6 – China Travel Journal

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 – Ping’an

Morning:
We’ve just had a quick breakfast of noodles and fried rice, cheap as usual at about 1.50 USD a head. Now we’re off for the first leg of our journey, a bus back to Guilin.

Late morning:
Once we got here to Guilin, we had to take another bus. Frank did some quick bargaining with a lady on the street, we boarded the bus she told us to, and then the driver said our tickets were invalid. It was going the wrong way as well. We jumped off the bus and chased down the lady. Frank eventually extracted our money back from her.

Everywhere we go, we are swarmed with people wanting to take us to Ping’an via minibus. Frank has found one that seems to be a good price, 150 RMB or 25 USD. Off we go!

Afternoon:
I was quite certain I was going to die at any moment. Truly the most terrifying ride into the mountains of my life. The scenery was gorgeous, but I was too distracted with the crazy driver’s dangerous passing and the sharp curves. The guy blasted Chinese folk tunes, sang along, and talked on the phone, the steering wheel seemingly his last worry.

Upon arrival the price of our ride went up. Then there were entrance fees for the village, supposedly. And per the usual, the driver knew someone who runs a hotel, and the owner is on her way to fetch us.

Night:
In cedar-walled, rustic “hotel,” the Shen Long Restaurant. Ping’an is a small village in the mountain rice terraces, not much going on around here. We’re in a triple room, like summer camp. Three single beds all in a row. At 60 RMB, or 10 USD, per night for all of us, I guess I can try to deal with the spiders.

Triple room in Ping'an at the Shen Long Restaurant

Triple room in Ping’an at the Shen Long Restaurant

After we got in today, the proprietress sat us at the lobby table and insisted we eat. So eat we did. It was good, but small and cost 110 RMB, 18 USD. Remote tourist spot prices. We ordered the now-standard tomato and egg dish, “homestyle” tofu, fresh bamboo shoots, and the “special” rice, which is cooked in a section of mature bamboo shoot. We all picked out the bacon. The fresh bamboo shoots tasted like bitter asparagus, but much better than anything canned we’ve ever tried.

Side note: I’m a strict vegan at home and am lucky to live in vegan-friendly Portland, but when I’m traveling I can’t always have that luxury.

All over this stony, winding town are small work ponies. Also, some farmers still use water buffalo to farm. Chickens and their chicks roam everywhere.

Air conditioner, anyone?

Air conditioner, anyone?

Farmer and his water buffalo

Farmer and his water buffalo

After lunch, we went on a long hike through some rice fields and little farms to the next village, whose name none of us knows. One lady wanted to take a picture with Chris and Frank and couldn’t stop laughing at how tall they were.

We took a stone path which specifically said, “No tourists.” Frank said he remembered it from his last visit and walked right past the sign. Nobody we came across ever told us to go back the other way, so we continued. We stumbled upon a traditionally constructed wooden bridge made with no metal nails.

Traditional wooden bridge

Traditional wooden bridge

I forget we are at a high altitude. The mountains, growing ever paler as they reach into the sky, stick up past the horizon. The rice terraces are massive, truly impressive. Though not all are filled, some were, giving us a glimpse of the famous mirror-effect.

Rice fields not yet flooded

Rice fields not yet flooded

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