International travel destination: Guilin, China

Published On: Nov 12 2012 12:53:19 PM PST   Updated On: Nov 12 2012 12:59:50 PM PST
China terraces sized

Kari Iverson spent months traveling around the world. Get her tips on what to see and do in Guilin, China.

After living in Ecuador and Argentina, South America became my second home. Traveling became easy -- the language was familiar and I understood the culture. Traveling to Asia reminded me that traveling is about expanding your horizons and stepping outside of your comfort zone.

After spending a few days in Hong Kong I left for Mainland China -- I had no plans, but was ready to explore. I went to the airport where I decided to book a flight to Guilin. I spent the night at a youth hostel and the following day explored the city sights, including Xiangbi Shan (Elephant Trunk Hill) and Riyue Shuangta -- Sun and Moon pagodas. I wandered through a local market where unfamiliar fruits and dozens of different kinds of eggs and meat were sold. I exchanged smiles with a few vendors who realized I had never seen some of these products in my entire life.

Although I enjoyed the city, I departed for the infamous rice terraces at Longsheng, south of Guilin. As I stood at the bus station I realized I had no idea where to go -- my friends and I were lost, we couldn’t read characters and didn’t know which bus to get on. Luckily, we met three Chinese boys who were staying at the same hostel we had been at. They told me they were also traveling to the rice terraces. We boarded the bus and wound through the mountains for a few hours until we reached Longsheng. Upon arrival, we wandered up the steep terraced hills until we reached a hostel that opened its doors that same day. We wandered through the terraces with our new friends and watched the sun set from a viewing point.

Back at the hostel, we ordered a traditional meal from the area -- bamboo rice and rice wine. The rice was sticky and had a nutty taste after being cooked inside of bamboo for 3 to 4 hours.

I arrived in Longsheng at an exciting time; farmers were beginning to plant their crops in the terraces. The terraces are hills and mountains that are leveled off and look like steps.  When the farmers are beginning to plant rice in the terraces, the terraces are dry. After the crop is planted they slowly begin to fill them with water.  The day I arrived the terraces were not yet filled with water but by the next day when I woke up to watch the sunrise, they were beginning to fill. It was beautiful -- the mountains were reflected in the water. 

Some women in the nearby village of Huangluo have extremely long hair, a long-time tradition. Their long hair is tied up and twisted into a knot and they still wear their ethnic clothing to keep their culture alive. Many of these women welcome visitors to the village and carry baskets with a strap made of their hair offering to help you carry your belongings.

Although my stay in Longsheng was short, it was one of my favorite places in China. Escaping crowded buses and the noisy city was relaxing. The beauty of the terraces was surreal; exploring the small village was very rewarding since the locals were so welcoming.