Yuanyang Rice Terraces - 元阳县

by - June 06, 2014

The Rice Terraces
A local village in the mist 
One of the archetypal views of Asia are the stunning terraces that rice farmers carve into the sides of slopes in order to allow irrigation in hilly areas.  There are plenty of places to see this and many of my friends had done so around Guilin which is far easier to get to than Yuanyang, which is supposedly home to the most impressive terraces in the country.  Our journey from Dali to Yuanyang was tiring, but not difficult – we caught a sleeper train from Dali to Kunming which arrived at 5.40am, then got a taxi to the southern bus station and took the seven hour day bus to the town of Xinjie in the terraces.  As we made our way from Xinjie we were forced to fork out 100 Yuan for a ticket to the terraces area.  This ticket basically allows you on to any of the viewpoints that have been constructed for watching the sunrise or sunset – and proved to be a total waste of money for us.  I would advise people to hold off paying for the ticket as long as possible – until you know you will need it or somebody forces you to buy it

Some people choose to stay in Xinjie, which is the main town in the terraces, but the best terraces are located in the surrounding villages and we were staying in the small village of Duoyishu, which required us to take a local minivan for a further hour.   Sergei had left us in Kunming to fly up to Shanghai, but myself and Eleanor met an Israeli girl called Gaia on the bus and we were to stick together for our time at the terraces.  It was a full day’s journey, but arriving at about 6pm at the Yuanyang International Youth Hostel we were treated to some beautiful sunset views before eating at the hostel and going to bed.

Myself, Gaia and Eleanor
The next morning we were disappointed to find the whole area covered in heavy fog, which turned to heavy rain as soon as we left the hostel.  Our plan had been to hike through the terraces around our village, flagging down the frequent passing minivans from time to time to explore a wider area.  Having got a lift to a point about ten kilometres from our village we found that the steep slopes of the terraces were too precarious for hiking in the rain and we beat a sad retreat to a nearby village for lunch and then back to our hostels to change out of our soaking clothing.  Unfortunately the rain didn’t let up at all and we spend the majority of our afternoon in Gaia’s hostel playing cards.  Thankfully, from time to time, the rain would stop and the clouds would break long enough for us to take a few good photos – particularly towards the end of the day when we were able to glimpse a few patches of blue sky.  Our visit to Yuanyang was therefore not a total waste of time and we were able to experience a little of the beauty of the terraces – though like my visit up the Empire State Building in heavy fog and my taking a shower through part of the Northern Lights in Iceland, it has to go down in the ‘could have been better with a bit more luck’ category of destinations.

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