Weekly Photo Challenge — Good Morning: “Dragon’s Backbone”, Longsheng, China
“Anyone can slay a dragon. But try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.”
Our challenge this week, courtesy of Michelle, is to share something related to our mornings. For me, there are two kinds of mornings. Those at home, which are typically a bit lazy and start slowly, and those while I’m traveling, which are early, active and full of anticipation.
Of all the places I anticipated visiting in China, “Dragon’s Backbone” (the Rice Terraces at Longsheng) was way at the top of my list. (OK, maybe tied with the Great Wall, posted here). Like many of our China days, it called for a very early morning due to its remote location. Fortunately, it was all I imagined and more.
“A dragon’s heart burns fiercely, even in the face of evil.”
The terraces are located outside of Guilin, China and are reached via a 2-hour drive through the mountains followed by a one hour climb up a steep rocky staircase and through the picturesque village of Ping An. It’s an arduous journey but worth every ounce of effort. (Note the two little specs at the top of the spine in the photo below – it’s actually two people, which hopefully gives you some perspective on the size of the terraces.)
“Adult dragons are astute, powerful, and sure of their strength. ”
At the top of the climb you’ll find the 16-room Li-An Lodge, built by professional photographer Keren Su. Born and raised nearby, he obviously knew what he was doing when he chose this incredible spot. From the inn you can walk a complete multi-mile circuit to look down upon the rice terraces from every angle. Fortunately, the approach is intimidating enough that the tourists are fewer than they might otherwise be.
“Jealousy, that dragon which slays love in the pretense of keeping it alive. ”
The inn was built in ancient Chinese style, without using a single nail. Each room is unique and has a marvelous view of the surrounding mountains and fields. After the climb, arrival truly feels like heaven.
“When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.”
Ho Chi Minh
We got very lucky in terms of timing, as the fields were lush with the most brilliant colors of green highlighted by soft, golden sunlight. We were told that the rice would be harvested the following week, leaving the terraces barren until spring planting began.
“Confidence is like a dragon where, for every head cut off, two more heads grow back.”
I set off on the trek around the top of the dragon’s back with cameras, lenses and tripod in hand. I could not possibly have been happier, and literally had to stop every few minutes to absorb the scene below (which was astounding) and of course to shoot yet another amazing vista.
“The man who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself.”
There were very few people about so I was able to plant myself anywhere I wanted for as long as I wanted – keeping in mind of course that the sun’s arc would be changing soon. At one point I chose to take a “short-cut” through what looked like a path in the rice (it wasn’t), which I learned was a bit wet at its base and not quite as soft as it looked from afar 🙂
“If the lion and the dragon fight, they will both die.”
After about two hours of shooting to my heart’s content in and around the terraces I arrived back at the inn, satisfied that if there was a vantage to be had, I’d had it; if there was a scene to be shot, I’d shot it; and if there was a path to be taken, I’d taken it.
“To attract good fortune, spend a penny on an old friend, share an old pleasure with a new friend, and lift up the heart of a true friend by writing his name on the wings of a dragon.”
There is no way to truly convey the feeling of this place. I’ve seen photographs of the Dragon’s Backbone in every season – covered in snow, flowering in the spring, and of course in verdant green. Each of them is beautiful in their own way. As for me, I will carry a memory of this place, and of these moments, for a very, very long time.