A quaint, traditional village set on the step-like rice fields of the Dragon's Back Rice Terraces, Ping An is one of the hidden gems of China. The rice terraces are a series of gracefully tiered platforms, which become progressively narrower the higher they are, giving them the appearance of a huge snail when seen from afar. This area is home to a number of ethnic minorities, predominantly the Zhuang, heirs to a distinct culture and long history, and who number approximately 16 million across China.
The best time to visit is between March and October, when the fields are at their most verdant.
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Take a leisurely tour of the terraces on horseback. Pass through Yao and Zhuang villages, where you can stop to talk with the locals and watch them prepare their agricultural products. Visit a local market and shop for simple souvenirs like chopsticks, textiles and pottery.
Sample the local cuisine, including rice dishes, as well as a local blueberry tea. Shallots, mushrooms, spinach, corn, chillies and tofu are grown in this area. Besides using its shoots for food, bamboo is used as a building material, as well as to weave together baskets for ferrying around goods and tools.
Hike your way through winding paths that snake up along the rice terraces. Take in the wide, lovely views, breathe in the fresh air, and savor your time in this comfortable, idyllic village, whose pace of life is much slower and peaceful.
Ping An is home to a small population of Yao, an ethnicity who are renowned for their elaborate dress and fascinating rituals; one such practice is that of their hair, which Yao women cut only twice in their lives: once as teenagers, and once after they marry. Spend some time at Xiaozhai, where the villagers will greet you with a traditional singing ceremony, and, if you wish, have tea with the villagers and learn more about their lives.
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