Adventures in rice terrace country

Leaving Kunming, after a long rest, we decide to act on a tip from a French couple we had met. They recommended heading to Eastern Yunnan to check out some less visited cities and counties. The first stop was Jianshui an old historic city, abandoned by tourists but peaceful and friendly. The first night was a little bit rough for us, since we had no idea what there was in town, we ended up at a hotel complete with brothel on the second floor and kareoke until 3 a.m. The next morning I was opting to leave the town, but Yann pushed on and we ended up in the old historic part of town, it was a little bit clearer there w hy the town had been recommended. While visiting the Confucious temple in the afternoon, we stumbled upon a small orchestra ready to perform a show to the non-existant visitors. We tried to leave (we didn't want to have to pay for a show) but they insisted that their show was about to begin. A group of about 6 Chinese tourists arrived and they began to play. After playing two or three songs, in somewhat unison, they came around with a hat, as we had suspected. It was full of candy that they handed out to their listeners. I gladly stuffed my pockets.

After some debate as to whether we wanted to continue in uncharted territory, we bought a direct ticket to Yuanyang, a town reputed to be surrounded by spectacular rice terraces. We ended up about an hour away from Yuanyang. As you might know, the Chinese are pretty lax when it comes to copyright laws, and this also seems to apply to town names. If a local town is popular, the next town over will take its name. This causes foreign tourists a little bit of difficulty. We managed to get on a rickety local bus and get to the real Yuanyang. When we arrived, the town was bustling with people, the roads were completely blocked with buses, trucks, taxis and motorcycle taxis. We all got off the bus on the side of the highway and walked into town. Yuanyang county is populated mostly with non-Han Chinese, and with years of relative isolation their culture seems to thrive here. Most people on the streets of Yuanyang are in traditional dress, even children, and Mandarin doesn't seem to figure in the list of languages spoken here. The fog in the city creates a strange gloomy atmosphere, as you can't really see any further than a few feet ahead of you, but no one there seems to mind.

In the evening we ended up at a small local restaurant and as we were leaving a Chinese man carrying an extra large camera bag and a tripod. We left the restaurant, but then Yann made me go back to ask him what he was doing the next day. As we had no idea what to see, where the rice terraces were etc etc... After a few seconds of conversation we realised no English would be exchanged, but we understood to meet him the next morning at 6 a.m. in front of the hotel next door (which happened to be our hotel). The next morning he was there waiting at 6 a.m sharp with a local driver and a little three wheel van.

We drove in the most unbelievably thick fog for over an hour, until we reached a lookout spot, near the village of Duoyishu (we didn't know where we were at the time, this was clarified later). We couldn't see anything, we were completely engulfed in fog, but the local boiled eggs salespeople were there waiting for us. Within about ten minutes the clouds and fog started to shift to reveal the rice terraces. We watched the photographer wait for the perfect shot (film camera) and copied his moves, although we could shoot a little more freely. We waited patiently there for over three hours, watching the fog drift in and out of the valley and eating lots of boiled eggs. At some point another tourist arrived, an English speaking tourist from Shanghai. He was able to translate for us, and he tagged along with us the whole day, making communication much simpler. He explained to the photographer whose name we now knew to be Mr. Yang, that we would follow him wherever he wanted to go.

We spend the afternoon trekking through rice terraces in a different village called Mengping where we were greeted by many local farmers happy to pose for a photo or two. One local grandmother working barefoot in the fields asked our guide if we had any candy for her. I was happy to whip out my Confucious temple candies for her.
In the late afternoon we headed to an area of Mengping village overlooking the spectacular Tiger's Mouth rice terraces. We spent about 3 or 4 hours there, with 3 other professional photographers (other than Mr. Han) shooting away at the sunset over the terraces. We were slightly outclassed, but it was fun to watch them work. After over 14 hours visiting terraces, shooting photos and driving between villages, we were dropped off at the hotel where we subsequently pigged out and fell asleep.

We then had a full two days of backroad bus travel to get to Jinghong (where we are now). Our worst ride was a 10 hour one, mostly on dirt roads, where our bus broke down half way, the villagers smoked their bamboo bong right behind us the entire way, and the small children did their business on the floor. The constant gurggling of the bong and the follow-up hork is especially irritating. Thankfully the bus didn't have a dvd player blasting Chinese pop music, the bamboo bong, and possibly a small child might have been thrown out the window.


Super-Mario said...

Très belle aventure! Encore une fois au risque de me répéter, vos photos sont très belles, uniques et extraordinaire.

L'une des photos "Tiger mouth Riz Terrace" a remplacé la photo du golf du Manoir Richelieu sur mon desktop.

On pense à vous!

Super-Mario said...

Au sujet des plantations de riz, je me demandais ou ils prennent l'eau?