Hiking the Dragon’s Backbone from Guilin

Guilin 桂林 is home to China’s most archetypal scenery, so much so, you feel like you have stepped into a Chinese landscape painting. We planned our visit here around two different places: Longsheng and Yangshuo. We had managed to side step the heavy rains slamming Southern China, flooding rivers and towns, to date, but with Gullin registering over 407 mm (16 inches), and the largest three-hour rainfall of 203 mm, just before we arrived, our plans for Yangshuo needed a rethink as most of our planned activities had been cancelled.

Our trip to the Longji Rice Terraces 龙脊梯田 was an early start. The city scene quickly changed to a karst landscape, as we headed 100km North of Guilin City. After witnessing the striking imagery of the rice terraces in Northern Vietnam, and Iffuago in the Philippines we were hoping these would prove to be as spectacular. The roads if nothing else were proving to be a similar experience. Slow going and windy with quite a few near miss situations as we headed around the narrow bends with shoulders giving way, due to the recent heavy rains.

We stopped halfway up at PingAn Village for lunch. This was combined with a visit to the long haired women. These women only cut their long black hair three times in their lives. They bundle their own cut hair within a turban style updo and carry it with them.


With a name meaning “Dragon’s Backbone,” the layered rice paddies are said to resemble a dragon’s scales when they are full of water. Construction of these magnificent terraces began way back in the Yuan Dynasty – 12th century, by the ethnic Zhuang people who inhabit the region.

On our return, a landslide had caused a large part of the road to be closed off. Everyone I’m anything bigger than a minibus had to get off and take a hike to where where another bus was waiting downhill. Thank goodness we were in a small van that managed to scrape past! I hate to think how long we would have been stranded if we had departed later, as I’m pretty sure that road was going to slide away completely. 

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Basking in Beihai 

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Beihai 北海, is located at the southern end of Guangxi. It officially became an international tourist spot in 1982 i.e. the Chinese opened it up to foreign tourists, although you wouldn’t know it! Researching this place to decide where to … Continue reading

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Shanghai Disneyland – fun with crowds

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Today we visited Disney’s biggest international park. The reason I decided to go to this one and not wait till Hong Kong is because they have many more rides than Hong Kong Disneyland, especially for older kids. I had found … Continue reading

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Scaling Shanghai

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Everyone who comes to Shanghai’s Pudong area goes up a tall building of sorts to look down on this massive city – hopefully on a relatively smog less day. We decided to go one better and hang off the side … Continue reading

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Chasing pandas in Chengdu

We are here for Jemima. When we first discussed exploring China this year for our family trip, this was her one bucket list requirement. So who am I to stand in the way of a 13 year olds bucket list, particularly as our one mantra has been for the kids to not only discover the world around them, but truly appreciate it’s differences.

Chengdu 成都 – Is the relaxation capital of China, and is considered to be one of the most laid-back cities in China. After 16 hours by overnight train from Xian and with only one full day here, we decided to make the most of our stay. Chengdu has more bars, restaurants, majong dens, and tea houses per square kilometre than any other Chinese city. Chengdu was one of my favorite cities in China

Our main part of the day was spent at the panda research base. This is the only place in China that pandas are still found and this base is aiming to increase its bred in captivity capacity, so that they are no longer an endangered species. I did have my doubts about visiting here and was hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be a zoo, but all fears were put to rest on seeing the area is basically a large bamboo forest with huge enclosures for all the bears. 

Learning to climb – check out the concentration

We got here super early in the morning to both beat the heat and the crowds. Thank goodness we did as it turned out to be another 40°C day, with alarming smog levels and horrific crowds of people queuing everywhere as we left just before lunch. 

The afternoon was spent exploring town and finally heading to the night markets for people watching and dinner. We had the most amazing dish – Beggars chicken, a while chicken warppaed in newspaper and bamboo and roasted over hot coals. 

I did a tea tasting and yes the sales tactics won me over and I bought enough tea for a year! 

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Xian

Xi’an is a large city and capital of Shaanxi Province in central China.Visiting the Terracotta Warriors Museum was the main reason for our trip to Xian. Our first venture into town started with a visit to the bell and drum towers located in the centre of the city. In Chinese Ming Dynasty history, each city had a bell tower and a drum tower. The bell was sounded at dawn and the drum at dusk each day. These 2 buildings connect the four roads from East, South, West and North within the city wall. The views of the city and surrounds are fantastic for getting your bearings. 

Xian has the most complete city wall existing in China. It stands 12 metres tall and covers 14 kilometers in length with a deep moat surrounding it. We decided the best way to circumvent the wall was to rent bikes and cycle the wall. Whose brilliant idea was that when it was 40°c and on tandems! 

The Muslin Quarter was a great part of the city, especially in the evening, when the whole place lights up. The streets are narrow, lively and noisy, absolutely packed with people, vendors, and delicious street food. Go to Beiyuanmen Street behind the Drum Tower – this is where the action is. 

Robin found a favourite for the evening – roujiamo, which is corned beef stuffed inside a freshly baked bun. That along with the Kao Rou which are everywhere in the Muslim Quarter. Around 5rmb a stick, the beef and lamb is cooked over charcoal. Finger food at its best. Jemima and I tried the other famous snack Persimmon cake – sticky and sweet flavoured by rose petals and honey, forgoing the chicken feet as we’d had our fill of those in Chengsha.

For day 2 we had arranged a day trip to see the Terra-Cotta Warriors. The original site was found by a local farmer digging a well in 1974.  The army of Terra-Cotta Warriors were supposed to safeguard China’s first emperor – Qin Shihuang in his afterlife, and the whole area stretches over 3 large pits. 


We finished with a visit to his tomb. It is said that his tomb has an anti-gravedigging system including secret crossbows and a large amount of mercury making it toxic around the tomb. Really it’s just a mound of dirt in the middle of nowhere! If your short on time I would say it’s safe to give it a miss! 

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Overnight to Xian 

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We had been told it was best to get all out train tickets in one hit, due to queue times for picking up tickets. Most train stations in China are packed, with lots of lines. On reaching Beijing main Train … Continue reading

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