Ping’an is a small, 600-year old Zhuang village located in the mountains known as the Dragon’s Back and the terraced hills – when filled with water to soften the soil for rice cultivation – are the dragon’s scales. These are often depicted in Chinese paintings and were a highlight of this tour. Unfortunately, as with everywhere else in China, the pollution from industry is so bad that you are unable to take the classic great photos (that’s why I took a photo of a poster depicting a long shot of what we would be seeing).
We took a couple of buses to reach this out-of-the-way town and had to climb the mountains for the last 20 minutes of the trip. Local women met our bus and offered their services to carry our bags up the mountain in baskets on their backs: we thankfully bought the service.
That evening, after dinner and a few beers, we were entertained by a local minority group who sang, danced and challenged us to rice wine drinking contests! Seven women served us wine and would sign directly to one of us. You had the choice of drinking your cup of wine or signing back (they don’t tell you about this choice, of course). We all participated in signing and dancing and at one point I was chosen by a British man (who was blindfolded) to be his wife. They married us in a very brief ceremony that included drinking more rice wine.
The trails of the ‘Dragon’s Backbone’ bring you closer to the 800 meter peaks covered in rice terraces surrounding the village. Rice farmers have, for centuries, transformed the steep hills into thousands of terraces, often no more than a meter/3 feet wide. Paths in and around the village are just as steep and narrow and allow only for transport by feet: human or horse.
There are wonderful views of the rice terraces as well as beautiful timber homes and commercial buildings built in the traditional manner of this area. When we left to move onto our next stop, we trod down the mountain again with middle-aged women carrying our bags and we younger (but less fit) travelers carried our guilt – which was less heavy than our backpacks!