© 2011 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated Yuanyang Rice Terraces China

China – Yuanyang Rice Terraces – 16th-18th December

We left one big bag behind at Cloudland hostel as they offer a free luggage storage service for 3 days (thereafter its 3yuan per day). So we took advantage of this and packed most things into one main rucksack and had the smaller ones for cameras and so on. The bus left from the one bus station in Kunming which is way out of town, it takes around 45 minutes to get there and will cost 50 yuan by taxi. We were lucky as two girls from the hostel were making their way to the bus station so we shared the taxi ride with them. They were also going all the way to Yuanyang so it was good to know there were more travelers making their way there.

The bus left at 10am but it was a chilly start to the day, much cooler than previous days and all the way to Yuanyang this weather seemed to stick with us. There were a few stops along the cliff edged roads, one of which led us to some interesting outside toilets others were drop offs for extra parcels and passports the driver seemed to be transporting. There was a bit of a traffic jam coming into Xinjie where the main buses will stop at for the terraces and we eventually pulled up at 4pm. Greg from Sunny’s Guesthouse was there to meet us, he’d been staying there for some months helping out and as their English speaking guide for the guesthouse. His English was perfect and this in itself was very helpful in negotiating the mini bus fare back to their village. The two girls we had met on our way to the bus also joined us, so all in all we had managed to save a few yuan by sharing taxis and so on.

It was pretty foggy which we’d heard is very common at the terraces as they are set at altitude so often the mist settles into the valleys and takes a day to clear. We stopped at a few vantage points along the way which gave us a hint of what to expect when the weather clears. Sunny’s Guesthouse is one of very few accommodations in the Douyishi village. It is run by husband and wife and their sun Frank, they are currently doing some renovation work (as is often the case in off season China) and they are limited when it comes to heating, but it has amazing rooftop views and is located at the foot of the rice terraces in the village so we were spoilt for choice! We opted for a double room mainly due to body heat, it was freezing!! We did have an electric blanket though so there was comfort in that. The mist didn’t clear but we got a few shots of the landscape before dinner and two of the other guys staying there turned up from a stroll so there was a good group of us around the table. Dining takes place in a separate outer building from the main guesthouse, Frank is the chef and he kept churning out top quality home-cooked organic dishes one plate after the other. We also enjoyed the red rice which is grown in the Yuanyang rice fields. The family ate at the table next to us which is great in itself as they really do welcome you to their home. We stayed up and chatted next to the little fire in the communal area and then settled in for the night in anticipation of a good sunrise the next morning.

We woke early but the fog was still with us so we stayed in the warm bed a little longer before getting up to join some of the others for breakfast. They were disappointed as the whole time they were there the fog was too! Still even the fog offers some great opportunities pictorially. For breakfast we enjoyed an eggy bread style theme; egg pancakes with jam (very tasty) eggy french bread (good) and fried egg…it did the trick but was a little too stodgy! Still it was hot food and the air was cold. Nathan from San Francisco had arrived at 5am so he joined us and we chatted about plans for later on hoping to catch the sunset if the fog cleared.

After breakfast we went for a stroll into the village. Still foggy, adding atmosphere to the surroundings, we wandered past the pigs, chickens and cows roaming around people’s houses. There is very much a sense of community here and we learned that the rice terraces belong to the villagers and they share out between themselves what they grow, we figured it must be the same for the animals. The houses are very simple, many with straw roofs and it’s a very basic way of living (although we’re sure they have large flat screen TV’s tucked away in some of them!) It’s a very picturesque place and making our way down to the terraces was really rewarding even in the fog. You can walk into them quite far on the small paths, the terraces can be quite abstract too with left over rice plants sticking out of the water. At times the sun peeked through the cloud and offered some strong reflections, but the fog would soon swallow it up again.

We arranged to meet Nathan, Frank and one of the girls at 4pm to head out in search of some better weather later on. This meant we had the day to catch up on editing, the electric blanket was turned on, we wore all the clothes possible and every so often we would pause for a run up onto the roof terrace to catch the views before going back down again. Helen got pretty cold so along to the Chemical Brother’s Push the Button album she had a boogy in the room to warm up!

We met up with the others at 4pm to go in search of a sunset, Frank had heard that the sun was out in a few areas of the region so we went off to find them. Some of the best views were found at roadside platforms where we could catch the terraces for free, the bigger more well known viewing areas are all charged on entry so we had to toy with the plan…if the weather isn’t going to be good over there let’s see what we can find for free rather than getting there, paying and having no views. When we originally came into the Yuanyang region we managed to avoid the entrance fee by sitting in the back of the mini van and being unnoticed by the gateway keepers. To access the villages alone there is a 60yuan per person fee for tourists, but if it’s foggy, the weather is bad or you can hide behind local drivers then you will miss this fee. We were nearly charged on the second day but Frank managed to talk us out of it.

Finally we reached an area that had clear views and strong sunset colours reflecting off the water filled terraces. It was quite a special moment, we could see the fog coming in on different sections of the terraces. Wow! The terraces go on for what seems like miles, and this was only one section!

We did have to pay Frank for ferrying us around but it was only 30yuan per person so that wasn’t too bad at all, he also took off some money for us as he didn’t take us all the way to other viewing areas, this was mainly because the weather wasn’t as clear there anyway so it did us a favour. Back at Sunny’s we enjoyed another family meal, perhaps not as good as the first night, but there was plenty of choice and we were joined by some more guests. We stayed up with Nathan and Greg sipping on hot tea and chatting away until it was bed time. We were leaving early the next day but had vowed to be on the rooftop for the sunrise.

6.30am and we were on the roof watching the sun rise over the mountain tops and Dave shot some more slow shutter imagery on the Olympus Pen. If we’d have had more time we would have loved to stay for that day as we knew the weather was getting better, but we had other plans to go further north from Kunming and we were happy with what we had seen.

A quick breakfast and we were all squashed into the mini van to take us back to the bus station. This time we shared the journey with 4 others so once again costs were reduced. The bus left at 8.30am and along with Nathan we made our way back to Kunming. It was a much warmer day all round and we arrived in Kunming at 5pm, Nathan shared our taxi and covered the costs as a work expense which we were very grateful for. We said our goodbyes and landed at Cloudland at around 6pm in time for dinner.

A few hellos to other travelers we had met in Shanghai and we went out to one of the local eateries for some great cheap local food. This was followed by a quiet night at the hostel and arrangements to take a bus to Dali the following afternoon.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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  1. Posted 17 Jan ’11 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    rice terraces look amazing – like a desert scene. this area looks like existence farming. love the children shots and once again good dialogue – gives you a real feel for the area.

    keep up the blog


  2. Posted 2 Feb ’11 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    beautiful photographs of the terraces!!!!! xx

  3. sean
    Posted 20 Mar ’11 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Amazing photo’s, I’m in Kunming at the minute and going to head down there tomorrow morning.

    • Posted 20 Mar ’11 at 3:56 am | Permalink

      Thanks Sean, glad you like our photos. Appreciate the comment :) The rice terraces are amazing. Hope you get some decent weather.

  4. sean
    Posted 25 Mar ’11 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Cheers David, didn’t get off to the best start, my bus crashed on the way to Kunming south station so missed my first bus so went a day later. We got up at 5.30am to find thick fog so had a wasted morning but got some good weather in the afternoon but not good enough for the sunset. However we had a great guide who taken us round the terraces and villages and to his mother’s for some traditional hani food so was an amzing experience.

  5. Posted 15 Nov ’12 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    hi, this is Greg, the guy you met in the terrace ara. it has been two year since we met there. I can see me on your pics, and what impressed me most at that time was your camera, the very first time i saw a laica. i went back for the terrace this year, spent the august and september there, watching the rice turning from greee to yellow, and it was very colorful. hope you can go again, my suggestiong is going there at the early sept.

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