Stairway to Heaven

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 28, 2013

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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20, 2012 - Yuanyang Rice Terraces
At 7:30AM we made it to the roof to watch the sunrise reflecting off the water filled terraces. Mindy and Kevin walked up with warm mugs of coffee. They had the only room with an electric water kettle and they offered to make us some. Breakfast was noodle soup with vegetables and was served in the small but cozy dining room. A small cup of strong coffee accompanied the soup. We had a nice conversation with our fellow guests. Then Dave and I packed cheese and crackers and a Snicker's bar we brought from Kunming, for a picnic lunch in the terraces.

We made our way through the village into the terraces along a cement path that turned into a foot wide strip for channeling the water. When that ended, we found ourselves balancing on narrow outside wall of a rice terrace. When that ended we found ourselves in the midst of the pools, fantastic. They reminded me of infinity pools. Our goal was a small village on the other side. Jacky had told us to 'just" walk in "that" direction. We found the Scot, Dave in a similar predicament a few pools down from us and joined forces.
We spotted a farmer wrestling in the mud with a plow behind a water buffalo. We detoured in his direction so that the two Dave's could position themselves to take some great photos. We must have spent an hour watching while the farmer coaxed his buffalo back and forth along the rice paddy. We decided to have our lunch there. It was a perfect spot. We shared our cheese and crackers with Dave and he shared photography tips with us. He told us that in such bright sun light is even stronger at high altitude and clean air. All camera sensors will over expose the bright areas and a neutral density filter is needed to compensate. We explained that we don't have any filters and he explained there is an ND setting on the camera to accomplish the same effect.  For the over-bright sunset, I tried a trick of my own. I shot a few photos through the lens of my sunglasses. It works!   

We never made it to the elusive village but what a great outing we had.

Laohuzui (老虎嘴)
At 4:30 we, seven of us, Dave Tate, Kevin and Mindy, a young American pair from VA and IN, and us; Dave & Michelle, agreed to share Jacky’s van and ride to Tiger’s Mouth terraces about an hour north of Duoyishu for view of sunset.

Laohuzui is popular place in Yuanyang to photograph sunsets. The name literally means tiger mouth. Somewhere in the curves of the terraces there is the shape of a tiger's mouth. The bright yellow ball went across the clear blue sky and dropped over the mountain without much drama. No exotic colors and only some reflections in the water. The 1600 year old terraces crawling over the steep ridges and hill side were interesting on their own without any help. Jacky explained that dense cloud coverage and fog that is typical for the area, and some rain, creates a cycle of evaporation and precipitation, enough to keep water in the terraces all year round without extensive irrigation. However, after the rice is planted in March and April, it grows tall and hides the water from view until harvest. At higher altitudes like here, they get one rice crop per year. Incredible

Back at the Guesthouse, the dinner menu is whatever happens to be in the fridge. It is usually several vegetables dishes, a meat dish and rice from these very terraces. I had requested very little oil please and got it just that way. We ate until we were satisfied.

Over the course of the day and evening, we learned the Scot is a bit ornery and complains a lot. Mindy and Kevin are leaving very early in the morning so we bade goodbye to them. They are heading to Xishuangbanna (Jinghong) also along the "road less traveled" route. We plan to follow their footsteps in a few days and agreed rendezvous there.

At this altitude this time of year it is cold in the evenings and we need our Polartec jackets. Jacky’s does not have heating but each bed has a length heating pad. We snuggle up and keep cozy. 

January 21, 2012 -  A second day hiking in the terraces of Pugao Laozhai, Duoyishu
It was another beautifully clear day. We watched the sunrise out the window from our bed then made it down stairs where we were served a typical Chinese breakfast which is not much different from a typical Chinese lunch or a typical Chinese dinner. I again asked if mom or dad could go easy on the oil and chilies. Several vegetable dishes and little meat with rice. We lingered in the sun on the patio until 11:00.

A sign board at the edge of town informs that Pugao Laozhai is a typical Hani town of 145 households and 740 inhabitants. Duoyishi must refer to the bigger area. The wording on the sign roughly reads: "Phantasmagoric” Pugao is a hut (this specific cluster of homes) on the Duoyishu terrace that is the ladder leading to heaven.  
We grabbed snacks for our lunch and we were off. We followed a different path through the terraces toward the village of Zong Wan Sishu. 

Jacky told us about the Sunday market in a village two hours away. Our Scottish friend was willing to join us and we wanted others to fill the empty seats in the van. Dave went to Sonny’s Guest House and found a German who said he and his friend might be interested. In the end, his friends had come up with other plans. It was a dark evening and while walking back to our guesthouse, Dave overheard three young French women arraigning an outing for the next day. Dave thought making any proposition at that moment would not be received well. Fortunately they later came over to Jacky’s for dinner and we invited them to join us. The eagerly accepted and canceled their prior plan.
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