When we visited Guilin in November, we missed a chance to see the famous Longji/Longshen Rice Terraces because we were short on time and it was a less-than-ideal time to see the terraces. After doing some research, we deduced that the best season to see the terraces would be spring (filled with water, reflecting sunshine), followed by summer and autumn (lush green and warm golden hues in each season). November – February seemed the worst time to see the terraces, so we opted to focus our time on the gorgeous karst landscapes around Guilin and Yangshuo.
In reading about the Guilin-area terraces, however, I came to discover there are five famous spots in China to see rice terraces, with the closest to Shanghai being the Yunhe Rice Terraces (运河水稻梯 or 云和梯田) in southern Zhejiang province. Just two hours south of Hangzhou by train, we decided to embark on a mission to see these in April, 2018.
To get to the Yunhe terraces, you can book a train from Shanghai to Lishui 麗水. The train will actually travel first to Hangzhou and then on to Lishui, with total travel time around three hours.
Based on Trip Advisor and C Trip reviews, we decided to stay at the Yinxiangjie Terraces Fields Inn (云和隐想家梯田民宿). When we exited the Lishui train station, we showed the name of this hotel to a taxi driver and realized it would take a further hour to travel by car to the area of the terraces. That information had been hard to figure out using online resources, so it’s good to factor that into your travel time.
We had an amiable and good driver who charged us 300 RMB to make the hour-long drive.
I highly, highly recommend the Yinxiangjie Inn. This is a small, beautiful local hotel where the staff work hard to ensure you have a wonderful experience in the area. It’s also very affordable. We paid approximately $75 Canadian per room including breakfast for two people. At the desk, we inquired about booking a driver to explore the terraces and were connected with Mr. Yu, a local driver who knows the area well. We paid about 500 RMB for four of us for the entire afternoon and, because of Mr. Yu’s excellent suggestion of a local restaurant up in the mountains for dinner, ended up getting back to the hotel around 8 pm. We tipped him generously and were happy to find out he would be our driver back to Lishui the following day.
The terraces are the reason to visit this area and having a local driver is an excellent way to make sure you see all of the highlights of the mountains. Our afternoon began with a scenic drive up along the mountain roads to the first place where we stopped to explore the terraces, the Sunrise Cloud Sea. As you get higher and the roads get steeper and more windy, the views become increasingly beautiful. But it’s as you get out of the car, to walk along the paths above and into the terraces, where the views really become spectacular. We spent about an hour at this first spot, taking photos and enjoying the scenery. One person in our group stayed on the main paths because the small and narrow paths seemed too steep and precarious; use your judgement here in terms of your fear (or lack thereof) of heights. If you stay on the main paths, you won’t be disappointed. If you want to venture down into the terraces to wander and explore, you will be very happy with that option.
From the Sunrise Cloud Sea viewing area, we drove higher up the mountain to the Seven Star Pier viewing platform to see more terraces used for growing vegetables instead of rice. This spot was also beautiful but looked very different from the spring-flooded terraces at the Seven Star site. It was wonderful to see the two sites back-to-back to see this juxtaposed view.
And then we traveled on to Chongtou Town a 1000-year-old village that features a clear mountain river and beautiful arched bridges, as well as ancient buildings and a moody ambiance. This town may also be called the Yunhe Stone Town, based on some signs we read nearby. You really feel as if you’ve stepped back in time in this village, especially as you wander down side streets and stumble into tiny stores selling local honey and baijiao right alongside canned sodas and packaged cookies. Just on the outskirts of the town, Mr. Yu suggested we stop for dinner at a local restaurant called Mu Yun Ju (phone: 15925781155), and this recommendation was superb. We sampled several dishes and also enjoyed the local green tea (made from the stems of the tea plant rather than the leaves, this tradition began many years ago out of necessity when times were tough and farmers only kept the stalks and stems of the plants for themselves. Then, as time went on, residents grew to prefer this tea over leaf tea. The flavour was earthy and delicious.).
The following morning, we walked a bit in the town and saw mushrooms drying in many greenhouses. If you walk towards the town entrance, you can also see a beautiful entrance pagoda to the town and a river with engineered steps/layers and walking stones to cross. It’s all very pretty. The Yinxiangjie Inn also serves delicious noodles and eggs for breakfast (photo in the first gallery, above).
Other items of note in the town are the pottery (stunning celadon and rustic brown pottery; green celadon featured in a photo above) and local restaurants serving up homemade delicacies.
I haven’t had a chance to visit the other four famous rice terraces in China but I can say that the Yunhe terraces are wonderful and scenic, and that visiting in April was as beautiful as predicted in the articles we read ahead of time. Should you go? Yes! Absolutely! I look forward to returning to this spot in some different seasons to enjoy more views of the gorgeous scenery.
Link for the Yinxiangjie Terraced Fields Inn on C Trip: https://www.trip.com/hotels/yunhe-hotel-detail-1489938/yinxiangjie-terraced-fields-inn-yunhe/. Phone number 0578-5188888.
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