Last article about our 5-week trip in China. If you haven’t seen the last two ones, I encourage you to have a look at them…
We were in the region of Yangshuo in the Guangxi province, so then we wanted to go to the famous rice terraces of Longji, not so far away… Indeed, from Yangshuo city, it’s easy to take a direct bus to the village of Longsheng – it takes about 3 hours and a half – Then, after paying the entrance ticket of 80 yuan (10USD), there are 30 more minutes ride until the village of Dazhai, which has absolutely amazing rice terraces! I had already come there twice, so I knew the place well, so I also knew where it was nice to sleep. I really recommend you to hike a bit and find a hotel in the upper village of Dazhai. Why? Because you may have a view like this one from your balcony!
The hotel room we had has been one of our most memorable one throughout our entire journey! Guess the price of the night… 110 kuai, around 15 US dollars! That morning, I had no motivation to wake up early to go to shoot sunrise. But when I saw the light coming through the window, I just decided to go to the balcony and have a look at what was going on out there… It was just fantastic!
Then we spent the whole day wandering around these amazing terraces, having a nice lunch with this kind of view… And when the sun started to go down in the sky, we’ve had a wonderful golden light again. So I found a beautiful spot to shoot and enjoyed that moment a lot!
Photographically, I decided to enhance the beautiful pattern created by the golden light, as you can see in the picture above. The rice terraces really looked like golden stairs with this composition!
As for the people living in this area, they are from the Yao minority. They are easily recognizable by the length of their hair, and they use that particularity as a source of income. They indeed ask all the time the tourists if they want to take a picture of them, with their loose hair… Which I’m not interested in. But I desperately wanted to shoot a local woman from this minority in her natural environment… I really wanted something authentic and not staged, that would represent the beauty of these people… And the scene that I visualized in my mind before coming here finally appeared from nowhere, just before my eyes! I met a woman on a narrow rocky trail in the rice terraces and she did not even pay attention to me. She kept going down. So I turned back, shot two or three exposures and that was it! I had the shot that I wanted!
I really like this image because it shows how life used to look like in this part of the world before tourism arrives here…
On our second day, we wanted to trek and go to another village called Ping’an, also famous for its rice terraces. Few years ago, I had done this trek with my parents so I remembered well how to go there. It was beautiful, and there were also lots of small villages on the way, really more authentic, as well as the people living in them. However, this time, I was really disappointed because these villages do not look like before any longer! Why? Because Chinese have built an asphalted road! They plan to make the entire area touristic and that’s a shame in my opinion… Anyway, we had to walk, and in some portions, we could still witness the life of some locals not yet used to tourism.
We passed by a cemetery and I really like this vision of a traditional Chinese walking peacefully there…
Every time we could, we stopped to try to talk to these locals, mostly asking for the way. Even though I knew it, it’s always a good excuse to start a conversation with them.
We finally made it to Ping’an, in about 4 hours, and this is one of the first views we’ve had…
What a surprise! These rice terraces were completely flooded! How lucky we were to see, in a 14km distance, the two most beautiful types of rice terraces! I also found this composition interesting… And waited for the light to paint on one side of the image, so that there’s a beautiful contrast between the left and the right side… This image remains one of my favorite from this trip!
After having found a cosy hotel room with a terrace and a good night, I open the curtains in the morning and what do I see…?
An amazing thick fog in the morning, which was changing absolutely everything in terms of ambience and atmosphere from the past two days…
Two days anyway which were enough here for us, as we already knew this region well. But it’s always nice to come back and to photograph it again as the seasons change as well as the terraces.
NEXT DESTINATION : GUIZHOU PROVINCE
This time, it was totally new for both of us. We’d heard about this province and seen some photos on the internet only. And one particular village attracted our attention, especially since it was not too far away from where we were, in the region of Guilin…
This is the wooden village of Zhaoxing. It’s the home of the Dong minority and the biggest Dong village in China. Recently, the Chinese government built a high speed railway that passes by Conjiang, which is only 7km away from Zhaoxing. So you know what that means… A huge amount of tourists will soon arrive in the region!
So I was happy to see it before it becomes too touristic and during the low season!
Moreover, the rice terraces at that time of the year were just stunning!
What we loved about this village, despite the fact that it’s about to become another “Chinese Disneyland” in the future, was how people were still authentic. They were really happy to see us and relatively curious… They haven’t seen so many foreigners yet! So the contact with these people was really easy, especially because Iza and I also have some good basics in Chinese. Therefore, photographing them was really nice, and most of the time, they were even keen on being photographed!
This is how life still looks like in this region of the world…
We also managed to get some pretty decent portraits, and the one you’ll see below is from my wife, Izabela, who’s got a Youtube Channel about travels, that you can see HERE !
And what mostly grabbed my attention was all the pipe smokers!
We stayed 3 or 4 days in this village and we did many hikes around to see more of the countryside. There were several villages like this but smaller. The region is developing quickly, there are new roads everywhere… So I think that in 5 years or less, this won’t look like the same any longer… That’s why we were happy to experience this place before mass tourism arrives! But the province is big, and I know that some remote places will remain untouched in the coming years. So hopefully we’ll come back to explore that region better! As always, I took much more photos, but I always want to show you my favorite ones, and don’t want you to see too much, in case you also want to visit these places in the future!
Next destination and the last one : Some incredible waterfalls!
These waterfalls stand at the border with Vietnam. I’ve come here several times and it’s always a pleasure to come back!
I’ve always wanted to photograph them properly so it was worth the one day journey to reach that place! Indeed, it took us two long buses and one train to get there, as it’s really remote! And guess what… Like most of the time, when I come back to a particular place that I like in China, I’m disappointed! So why this time? Mainly because the entrance ticket to the waterfalls is valid for only one day! And if I’m not mistaken, the “park” is open now from 8am to 6pm… So, photographically, that meant no sunrise neither sunset! And I was dreaming about living that moments again and capturing them with my camera… Few years ago, there was no rule at all in the area. We could stay as long as we wished and swim from one border to another. I had personally taken a shower under these paradisiac falls that you can see below…
Now, it’s obviously forbidden, and crossing “illegally” the border as I did, several years ago, could be dangerous!
Anyway… I was there, so I had to forget about that and enjoy the nature, no matter what it’s become… So I kept focusing on getting the shots that I was dreaming about. Unfortunately, the weather turned bad. So I was kind of desperate at the beginning… But finally, this weather turned out to be quite good for photography. And I particularly loved the mood that it gave to the scene!
This was my final image. I hope you enjoyed this article and all the other ones about this country.
For me, this trip has been an excellent opportunity to practice my photography and to improve it! I also had a new camera, the Fujifilm XT3, along with a new lens, the 18-55mm F2,8-4. So this trip was perfect to get used to it, and I’m really pleased with how well it helped me take good pictures easier than before!
So if you have any comment, I would be glad to read them. Feel free to look at my instagram if you’d like to follow our adventures everyday : https://www.instagram.com/nicolascastermans/
Or my 500px account, which is more focused of my landscape photography : https://500px.com/nicolas-castermans
There will be much more to come in the coming days, as I’m planning to write a very detailed photographic documentary about a specific region in Peru…
Leave me your comments below! Bye for now 😉