Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Trip Start Sep 04, 2010
Trip End Sep 26, 2010

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Where I stayed
The Hump Hostel
Yunti Xin Jie

Flag of China  , Yunnan Province,
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My first stop in mainland China was Kunming, Yunnan. I stayed overnight at The Hump Hostel in town. Very cozy place with free wifi, English speaking staff and decent food. Plus they have a lovely rooftop terrace that overlooks the city. If you want to do it on the cheap this is the place to be in Kunming.

In the morning I set off to the bus station armed with my English/Chinese slip from the hostel to show the taxi. I made a concerted effort to learn Chinese before I left the states, however, I would soon find out it wouldn't get me too far.
The driving in Yunnan was quite a sight to see. My road rage would do me no good here. The things they pull would probably give me a heart attack or ulcer if I complained every time someone did something to piss me off. I'm not quite sure why they have lane lines because they do whatever the hell they please including driving the wrong way down the street, coming within inches of the neighboring car in order to butt in front and turning where there is no turn allowed. Even though I am a pretty aggressive driver at home, I definitely couldn't handle driving here. They would chew me up and spit me out and then run me over.

After an enlightening ride to the bus station I entered only to find I couldn't decipher the characters enough to figure out which ticket window to go up to. Not being able to communicate is one if the most humbling experiences. I can't imagine immigrating into a country where you have never even been to live, let alone knowing very little of the language. So, I chose a window and in my best Chinese asked for a ticket to Yuanyang. The lady looked at me and yelled out something quickly in Chinese and pointed down the way. So I went down a few windows and asked again and was successful.

I thought I better hit the facilities before boarding the bus and it was another "Welcome to China" experience. I knew it was coming eventually but was hoping it wouldn't be so soon. I got in line for the toilet. Lines--a concept many Chinese fail to understand but in a place with 4.23 billion people it's survival of the fittest even in the public bathroom. After fending off a few ladies I managed to get a stall. I opened the door to find my first filthy squat toilet and immediately came back out, hoping I'd score a sit toilet that was a bit cleaner. Yeah didn't happen so I succumbed and when in China did as the Chinese.

Next obstacle figuring out which bus to board. I went outside and compared the characters on my ticket to the ones written on the bus window. Not too bad. I was relieved to be bound for my destination. The bus driver drove like a bat outta hell the whole seven hours, running up on vehicles, swerving, and honking every time he passed another vehicle. My fellow passengers were smoking on the bus and spitting luggies into the small trash cans that lined the aisle. When we finally arrived at the first stop I was ready, willing and able to get off the bus and proceeded to do so. Bad move number one. I was gathering my things and courage to go out to hail a taxi and tell him where I wanted to go when I noticed the bus pull away with people still on it. I thought it was strange as I was on the express bus which didn't return to Kunming until the following morning. I quickly remembered that I had read this was the old town and I wasn't to get off until I reached the new town an hour up the mountain. So I went to the street and hired a taxi to take me to the tune of 40 Yuan ($7.00). Not bad considering the distance.

I finally arrived in Xin Jie and quickly went to the nearest hotel the Yunti Shunjie Hotel, got me a room and booked a guide and driver to take me to the various rice terrace spots the following day. After settling in I went out to the square with camera and tripod in tow for the sunset. There were many curious onlookers. While I was waiting for the waning sun the local minority women began dancing in the square while the men smoked and spit. There was also a makeshift sandbox on the square which consisted of a tarp with some dirt spread on it for the children to play. It was quite a gathering which I imagine takes place every evening.

The following morning I was picked up at 5:00 a.m. in order to reach the first terrace spot Duoyishu before sunrise. We drove about 45 minutes and came to a crossroad where one side had a guard hut and the other did not. We proceeded shortly up the unguarded road and were told to get out. I thought we had arrived. I couldn't tell because it was pitch black out. I began gathering my photography equipment and the guide told me to leave it. It was too heavy to carry. We were given flashlights and the driver drove away. We proceeded through the forest in the dark. It dawned on me that we were being smuggled into the pay area. It afforded me a tiny glimpse of what illegals must feel crossing the border blindly in the dark. But whatever works to skirt the entrance fee.

So we arrived fee free at Duoyishu for first light. After enjoying the sunrise we proceeded down the road where the driver made another impromptu stop to gather spring water. He literally filled the big five gallon jug right from the stream. This brought a new meaning to those plastic bottles of spring water that we all drink so frequently. We then stopped at a local market in Shengcun in which I was able to capture some colorful shots. Last stop of the morning was the Bada rice terraces.

After the morning excursion, I was dropped off at my hotel and even though I was dead tired I told myself I had to capitalize on every free moment I had. I hired a taxi to take me down the mountain 4 miles to Longshuba rice terraces. I knew good and well that once I got down there I was gonna have to climb all the way back up to town, in the beating sun, with camera gear and my bad leg stumpy, who had only worked up to 2.25 miles on flat terrain at this point. Stumpy didn't fail me though and was a trooper throughout this whole adventure.

I arrived back in town with enough time for lunch, a shower and a nap. My driver came back for me at 4. He was the sweetest man. He spoke as much English as I did Chinese but we managed to exchange simple information about ourselves and teach one another a few words in our native tongues. He stopped frequently for me to take many shots and even carried my camera and tripod when we ventured away from the car.  Plus we unleashed his hidden talent of photographer too.

My favorite spot of the day was Qingkou.  There was a local farmer out with his water buffaloes. The water buffaloes were busy feeding on the tea leaves and flowers. The last spot of the evening was Laohuzi or Tiger's Mouth. It was a massive place that extended deep into the gorge. The sunset wasn't much to write home about but while I was there another group of sunset seekers arrived, Stephanie from Manchester, Virginia from California and Avivit from Israel. We chatted a bit and found out three of us were on the bus back to Kunming the following morning and all staying at The Hump, while Virginia was headed via bus to Vietnam.

The ride back to Kunming was much more pleasant with new friends, and as an added bonus, only one passenger lit up about an hour before we arrived. We settled in and had dinner at The Hump and met a few guys, Harry from England, Michael from Belgium and Murtaza from Australia. We all went out to a local club and danced till 4:00 in the morning. After a brief rest we said our goodbyes the following morning and we each headed off to different parts of China.
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Lisa Wariner on

Hey, Bridget! I have very much enjoyed your travel posts! Your photography skills make me realize I really have none to speak of. I have always thought that you are very brave to venture to new and completely foreign places on your own. I'm looking forward to reading your next travel post!!

Take care,

Linda on

I love the photo of the bumblebee butt Bridget. (alliteration) That was great!

Chanda Reyes on

I think Lisa said it all. Way to go Bridget!

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