Snow and then

DSC 0930

I’m so excited! After a month back home in New England, we’re finally getting visited by a proper snowfall! 🙂 It’s the perfect excuse to have a peaceful day inside, feeling warm and snuggly as the white flakes swirl outside the window. I love winter in general but especially for days like these.

It also gives me a chance to remember and write about a place in China that made me feel equally at peace, safe and content.

There’s something about Dazhai

There were many highlights during our months in China and the rest of Asia, but Dazhai stands out for me as the one place during our trip where I felt instantly at home in a very quiet but very deep way.

When we were first researching China, deciding where we might visit, I was wandering around the Lonely Planet site, and this is the one image that captured my imagination completely. I remember shooting Roman the link right away and telling him, I want to go there.

Once we were actually on the road in China though, I forgot completely about that photo. It turned out though that we ended up having time to burn while still in Guangxi – we had to extend our visa and until the paperwork got settled, we couldn’t travel too far afield.

(Chinese visa side-note. Although it wasn’t too painful a process, it took longer than we would have liked and it could have been smoother if we’d received more detailed information ahead of applying. For example, if you do need to extend your visa within China, make sure that you fill your paperwork out in black ink only!)

The Longsheng Rice Terraces, or the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in English – someone with a romantic poet’s heart saw the scale-like layers of the terraces and the undulating lines of the hills’ ridges roaming into the distance and came up with this beautiful name – seemed like a perfect place to spend a few days while waiting for our paperwork to be processed. Not too far from both Yangshuo and Guilin (the province’s capital, where our passports were being interred in official procedures) and the hotel we’d found was happy to take us without our papers (usually you have to register with your passport and visa in hotels in China).

We’d opted to stay in Dazhai, which was meant to be less touristy than the biggest village in the area, Ping’an. There was an over-the-top tourist check-point/rest stop to mark our entrance into Longsheng, but after that, the tranquil and gorgeous woods and fields spread out before us in all directions.

As soon as our car began the ascent into dramatic landscape, my heart began to quicken. Lots of twists and turns along the road eventually brought us to Dazhai’s gate. We left the car behind and a short walk brought us to our hotel where we received a warm welcome from Sandy, the owner.

DSC 0003The view from just outside our guesthouse, with the stream in the foreground

The day was beautiful – an afternoon full of warm sunlight – and my heart thrilled to be in this place. Elegant wooden farmhouses connected by cobblestone paths made up the village, which was surrounded by the terraced hills at the end of the rice-growing season, glowing in the sun. The lack of cars meant that the village was refreshingly quiet – there was room enough to hear the sounds of children playing, farmers at their work, the babble of the stream just outside our hotel. I breathed in the air and felt at once excited and at peace… What ever instinct had perked up at the sight of that picture online, months earlier, was rewarded. Arriving in Dazhai, I settled into the moment, knowing that right there, right then, was exactly right where I wanted to be.

More to come in the next post but in the mean time here are just some photos from our first day in Dazhai.

DSC 0011As soon as we’d settled in and rested up at the guest house, I dragged poor Roman out for what ended up being a proper hike up into the terraces – I just couldn’t wait to “get out into it”. It was the end of the farming season; this is cut rice waiting to be gathered.

DSC 0037One thing I found fascinating about the area was the wild mix of plant life. Palms and banana trees, thick bamboo, rugged, spicy smelling pines, delicate flowers and of course rice, rice, rice. An interesting mix! Here’s a view of just some of those plants in front of a farmhouse up in the hills.

Chillies drying in front of a farmhouse


Harvest


Working at the edge of the sky – if you click the panorama you can see a farmer threshing rice on the foremost terrace.

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