North of Guilin, Ping An is a village of wooden houses set amongst terraced hillsides that make the setting quite remarkable. I don’t know how long it has taken to construct the terraces, but it must be many generations and hundreds of years.
There are other villages on the hillside, and we walked to the closest one morning, arriving at lunchtime. We had just about resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t be able to get anything to eat when a woman offered us food in her house. So, up the wooden steps we went, a little nervously, and entered the large living area. We sat at a low table (none too clean) and offered tea - cold from a flask, a rag stuffed into the top to keep the flies out. Our hostess put some sticks onto the fire under her wok and proceeded to chop and cook potatoes and vegetables. All the while, we were entertained by her young son and his friend, playing catch with a balloon. The food was delicious, and despite the dubious level of cleanliness, the chipped crockery and the flies, we were none the worse for our experience. Instead, it was a memorable way to spend our silver wedding anniversary.
Ping An is still relatively quiet. Its position (at the end of a narrow and winding road that climbs for 6km up the mountainside) may mean that it can avoid the mass-market tourism that has made some of our other destinations past their best-before date. The rate at which guesthouses are being built suggests otherwise. And if the locals decide they can make more money from the tourists than they can by cultivating the terraces, they may lose the feature that makes a visit so worthwhile. If you want to visit, I suggest you don’t leave it too long.