Today was awesome! We got to go to one of the most beautiful places in China and view the Dragon Spine rice terraces. There are three minority groups that live on the terraces: the Zhuang live at the bottom of the mountain, the Miao live in the middle, and the Yao live at the top. These people all have beautifully colored clothing and handicrafts for sale. We drove about two and half hours to get to them mountain, and then climbed a million stairs to the top where we could view the rice terraces all around. The soil on the mountain is not great, so the people haul topsoil up from the valley below in baskets that they carry on their backs. The rice they grow is called dry rice because it doesn’t need as much moisture and is much heartier than regular “wet” rice. There is usually six inches of water in the rice patty, which some farmers stock with grass carp.
The people live in bamboo houses on the side of the mountain and there are winding staircases to climb between the houses (it reminded Val of Hallstatt, Austria). Everything that goes up the mountain must be carried in baskets or on polls. There are several hotels and restaurants at the top of the mountain and it was amazing to see how the men carried supplies up the mountains. Fortunately, the downpour of rain lifted once we started our hike. The rain and clouds kept the weather cool, for which we were very thankful.
After driving back to Guilin, we visited a pearl co-op. We learned that the fresh water oysters are the ones that produce 20 pearls each, while the salt water oysters produce only one, if that. Apparently, only 30-40% of salt water oysters produce pearls at all. The fresh water pearls are irregular because they are all nested together, whereas the salt water pearls are more smooth. Val, of course, purchased some earrings and a pendant, which are just lovely. Jessica did a wonderful job of modeling the various jewels in order to help Val choose.
Next, we were off to Elephant Trunk Hill, which is 328 foot high and supposedly looks like an elephant drinking from the Li River. We had some ice cream and watched some people making candy that is a local treat. It involved pounding sugar, walnuts, sesame seeds, and peanuts together on a heated stump. We enjoyed the free samples! Jessica was once again approached by some Chinese folks who wanted their picture taken with her. She’s famous!
Dinner was a special treat. We dined in a restaurant where the Clintons had tea during their visit to China while he was in office. We took a picture of the seat he sat in as well as their family photo hanging on the wall. The reason they were probably taken there is because the food was presented is such a beautiful way. It looked as though it was designed for the emperor! (See pictures to the right.)
Tomorrow we get to cruise down the Li River and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the karst (limestone) mountains that have graced Chinese paintings for centuries. Can’t wait!