September 01-04, 2018
Visiting rice terraces was one of the main highlights in China for us. There are lots of spots to see them in Yuanyang county (Yunnan province). We choose a small village called Xinjie as our base for three nights. To get there, we took a very early morning long-distance bus from Kunming for 140 CNY pp. The coach itself was OK, but the journey was similar to the previous ones and therefore far from pleasant. Eight hours on board where the driver is constantly smoking, other passengers make disgusting sounds and stop is always at the most filthy toilets you could imagine. Luckily the views outside the window were spectacular as the bus climbed up to the mountains.
It is not big, but quite living village which is ranging along the steep road. There is a central square with few opportunities to eat. Our favourite was eatery where you take a bowl of rice and choose 5 of the many kinds of vegetables and meat.
The bus terminal is 2 minutes walk from the square. We had an excellent accommodation in Chang family guesthouse just 20 meters to the left if you exit the terminal. The room for 60 CNY was nice and clean, but the main benefit was our huge terrace with a fantastic view of the valley. The fun part of the accommodation is the bathroom. We had to stand on the toilet while taking a shower, literally. It made a bit discomfort feeling that you are still dirty after using it 😁 (at least it was Asian style, so you did not have to balance on the edge).
A short trek from the village
The next day we went to explore what we came for. We visited the place in autumn before harvest. The other good option is in winter when terraces are full of water and reflecting the sky. Both has its magic. For the first day, we opt for off the beaten track (I believe to Jinzhuzhai, village) also because the weather forecast wasn’t favourable. Just before the bus station, we turned right from the main road. Then we continued on the road further to the end of the village, and on the fork, we kept left. We only met some locals like old ladies returning from the fields with water buffalos.
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After a few minutes, it started to rain. We tried to hide under the trees, but it did not work for long. Suddenly a guy with a sickle came to us. Fortunately, he didn’t want to kill us but to save us. He pointed with his tool into the bushes and talked something in Chinese. We could not lose anything, so we followed the small path. After a few meters, we encountered a small wooden shelter for farmers. Hurray! We sat there for about one hour watching the pouring rain falling on the fields, which looked like even greener than before.
Later we followed the road along with many areas with beautiful views to the valley. Small villages were settled around. Interestingly, every house had the same colour. Strolling through narrow tiny streets where you can encounter pig or buffalo, is fun. The only sad thing is that garbage is everywhere. Around the houses, in the ditches, streams and also on the rice terraces. Plastics are doom for China.
After a few hours of crisscrossing the countryside and because of the not ending heavy rain we returned to our guest house.
Sadly, as usual in China, nothing is free, even the natural sights like rice fields. The best spots to see them are from the viewing platforms. The fee was 100 Yuan for all five platforms in Yuanyang area in one day. One thing to be mentioned. Just above the Xinjie, there is a tourist centre where they try to force you to buy an “entrance fee” for the villages. However, we learned, the price is for the official viewing platforms. In theory, if you want to skip them, you don’t need to pay. There is no gate on the road, no signs that you must stop and tourist centre is aside. Anyway, there are employees on the road pointing you to the counter.
At the end of our first-day trail, we made a short detour which led us along the tourist centre. Walking by, we were asked by some officials to buy tickets to carry-on. On the open main road to the villages with no sign nor turnpike?!? No way guys. After a Chinese – Google Chinese arguments we just continued, leaving the yelling guys behind us.
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Into the heart of the terraces
The next day we wanted to explore more remote terraces, so we decided to take a shared van. In spite of we woke up to milky fog weather. As in almost every country, also there are taxi drivers not the nice guys and try to cheat you. We asked one of the guys who parked in front of the bus terminal. He asked for 60 Yuan although the Duoyishu village was only 27 km. We refused and went away, but he followed us in his car. After negotiating, we ended up with usual 20 Yuan. We got on, ready to depart. However, he started to find other passengers to cut the costs. After a few minutes, we rode to the main square to seek. Again no luck. Poor guy. No surprise for us. There was an incredible amount of vans and taxis in the village. With a bit pissed off driver we finally departed.
Just before the tourist office mentioned above, our taxi driver told us to close the windows and passed by without any attention. In reality, 100 Yuan is not incredibly much, but as the matter of principle, we refused to pay and not be organised. Despite we won’t see everything from the best angle on the viewing platforms. During the journey, we passed the fields in Bada village, where is an official viewing platform and we saw one free, where we wanted to go on the way back.
We got off the taxi close to the Duoyishu village. The platform there was under renovation. It is big unattractive structure violently placed in the landscape. Of course with a dense tall hedge to avoid any look from every angle. It is maybe the best spot to take pictures, but who cares. There are lots of places available around with beautiful views in the walking distance. Indeed, in a car, it is much easier and quicker. As a day before we had to return earlier than we wanted because of fog and rain. We tried to hitchhike, but without a piece of luck. After a few hours of hiding and walking we reach the free platform close to Quanfu village, but through the fog, we saw nothing. Luckily some family on vacation took us the rest 10 km.
This part of China is undoubtedly wonderful with its nature. And despite the miserable weather, we enjoyed it very much.