RICE TERRACES

I am traveling on a minibus from Longsheng to Ping'an in the morning and I meet a German guy in his fifties. He says that he lives in China now, because the climate here is so nice. I guess that probably he also likes the low cost of life, but I don't mention this to him. He lives in Guilin, in his opinion the most beautiful Chinese town, and he's building his new house. Wooden houses are very common here, he says, but he wants a bricks house, which is warmer in the winter.

He also says that the paddy has been cut one week ago, so that the sights on the rice terraces are much less picturesque now.
What!! I traveled one full day by bus amongst many vicissitudes, I got up at 6 AM, I travelled for another half day by bus to see...the fields without the rice?? Lucky me!!! At the very least they should have waited to cut the rice, as a sign of respect for all the inconveniences that I had to face . Never mind, I mumble, it's not a big deal, after all. We say good bye and he says that he'll be at the "Countryside Cafe & Inn", where I meant to lodge, in the evening - I won't see him again though.

I have just few hours to visit the most famous rice terraces in China. They are gorgeous, agreed, but it's awkward to see tourists and professional photographers coming here from all over the world (I even meet a Russian) to see...rice fields. Near Vercelli there are plenties but noone ever cared .

» The Ping'an village itself is very nice with its wooden buildings

and shops of local handworks of the Zhuang minority:

You can get to the fields along paths, even though the indications are not always very clear :

Despite the rice cut, there are beautiful sights of the terraces:

There are a couple of viewpoints, which offer a great view:

»The nearby Long Ji village, also reacheable through a path, is less touristic but more authentic; it offers amazing views:

but, more importantly, you feel a unique atmosphere. Time seems to have stopped here (ok, it's a wildly overused expression, but it really applies here; in any case, I couldn't come up with anything better ). Like in Xijiang, you can easily spot people at work in the gorgeous countryside:

It's by chance that they are all women in the pictures and, sure enough, men also work in the countryside. No doubt, though, that women get their share of hard work in the fields.

In the evening I am eating something at the hotel's restaurant while a noisy group of Chinese goes back and forth, leaving the door open each time (it's less than 10 degrees outside). At some point I cry out: "Ma chiudete 'sto c...o di porta!". It's Italian, which I have been using in other circumstances to relieve my feelings, sure that noone would understand me, and it's a colourful expression to say "Close the door".
I hear a voice from the back saying "Ah, then you are the Italian!".
For a while I am astonished: I have not been speaking Italian for a long time, nor I have heard someone speaking it. I nod and I find out that she is a traveller from Genoa, the first Italian woman I met in China. She says that she ran into a German guy (it's a small world, isn't it?) who reported to have met me, that's why she was aware that there could be an Italian tourist in the hotel.

We didn't acquaint in the best of the ways, I admit (next time I'll make sure to use a more suitable language ), but the conversation is excellent: she's also glad to be able, at last, to speak Italian, and we share our opinions and ideas. I remember one thing in particular: she says she's satisfied with China, I argue by enumerating some of the drawbacks I have been experiencing in the country and she finally agrees with that. 'How can you be satisfied, then?' I ask, and she answers 'Well, last year I travelled in India and I was happy to travel on a train 6 hours late, the only other alternative being that the train would not travel at all'. Everything is relative, after all.