Yuanyang : The Rice Basket of My Soul
Yuanyang Travel Blog› entry 151 of 268 › view all entries
5.00am. Not again. The price of chasing the sun is always the cost of oneās sleep. Yes, yet again I am having to unglue my unwilling eyelids at Ridiculous Oāclock in the morning in order to be present to observe Mother Nature at her dawn-clad best. I mean seriously, couldnāt the sun just be a little more considerate? Wake up juuust a little bit later. Just for once, to put his hat on at some vaguely humane hour of the day?! Sayā¦I dunno? Nine oāclock or somethingā? Iām sure he needs the rest too! Itās hard work producing untold quadzillions of mega-joules of heat and light for countless millennia like that. Why not just rise a little bit later for once? Cāmon! Take it easy.
No doing. āHā (an Israeli guy Iām buddying up with for a couple of trips through the famed Yuanyang rice paddy terraces) and I jump into one of the small tin-pot conveyances that seem to populate Xinjie and that I have dubbed āMilk Floatsā. In part because of their tiny, 3 wheel fragile shabbiness and mostly because they pick you up and carry you along the roads before dawn and shake you up far worse in the process then any poor clinking bottle of silver-top moo-juice ever had to suffer! āBoneshakersā doesnāt even begin to describe the effect on the human physique of thumping and bumping along the potted hillside roads in one of these things!
Weāre heading out about 25 kilometres from Xinjie to the Duoyishu rice terraces.
There are a number of rice paddy terraces in the Yuanyang area famed for their beauty at certain times of day. Primarily sunrise and sunset as when the paddy terraces are filled with water there is fabulous potential for the colours of the skies to be reflected in these giant cultivated pools that act like mirrors to the heavens. Duoyishu is the one to hit for dawn apparently. Itās cost āHā and I Y50 ($7.50) each for our Milk Float here and back and as with a lot of the big terrace viewpoints in the area an entrance fee is levied (Y30 or Y15 for students / $4.
The spectacle of dawn and its effect upon the terraces is quite magnificent. As with the sunset terrace valley of Laohuzu that āHā and I had Milk Floated over to see last evening, the entire valley basin here has been crafted over the centuries into a sweeping, gently descending plateau of paddy basins, carved into the contours and slopes of the hills about. A myriad number of (from this distance) tiny stepped shelves. Each of them with their own mud-built boundary walls, acting as a dam to retain waters from either rainfall or direct irrigation and to facilitate the āwetā cultivation of vast, vast rice paddy crops.
Pre dawn, the crazy jigsaw conglomeration of arcing, curving paddy basins, here all filled with water ( unlike Laohuzu last eveningā¦ mostly dry this time of year and a little less spectacular because of this fact) shine silvery white below. The sun not yet arisen, the sky lightens but everything remains slightly indistinct in the valley below. As the lightness of the sky intensifies, the paddies start to shimmer into life. They appear now, spread out below, like a gigantic marbled painting composed of liquid mercury with black onyx trim for the terrace boundary walls. As the sun begins to lift from behind the hill line to the east, the pools of mercurial water begin to reflect the slivers of gold and subtle salmon pink that it begins to bestow upon their surfaces.
On the way back I get Milk Float lady to drop me off at a small town (whose name I neglected to note) as some guys at the guesthouse yesterday had mentioned there was to be a colourful weekly market there today. āHā carries on back to Xinjie, itching to catch an early bus north to Kunming.
The morning market is already bustling chaotically into life here. Although unfortunately I wonāt be able to impart information to you about the various ethnic minorities that inhabit the towns and villages of Yuanyang (as I had a little in Sapa, Vietnam) this is the real life pulse of the Yuanyang region. Distinguishable by the varying and always magnificent dress of the ladies, at least 3 - 4 different community groups are represented here at this market today. It is the Hani tribe who predominate in the region and who over the centuries played the biggest role in the slow evolution of the hillsides into the terraced slopes that exist today but unfortunately I am unable to identify for you which is their visual identity.
Chickens and ducks cluck and squawk from the confines of cramped wicker baskets. The wrenching squeal of small black pot-bellied piglets in the distance. Ancient seeming women with faces burnt to burnished bronze, weathered and cracked in infinite wrinkled tracery sit behind mounds of vegetable produce piled upon the street surface or sewing machines of even greater antique provenance than themselves.
I stroll down a side street to get away from the madness. I have some hours to kill as road works mean that the route back to Xinjie is closed between 8.00am to Midday for the foreseeable future. The path winds and steps its way waaaay down into the valley.
Getting back to Xinjie a little later, alone and linguistically paralysed as I am proves a predictable challenge. I try and utilise the public buses and am sat on one, stationary for 45 minutes or so (whilst it awaits the full height of the market frenzy to abate and the road to reopen) with chickens and ducks flapping around and under my seats whilst children gaze at me like Iām a stranger occurrence than a piglet trussed to an umbrella in a basket on a busā¦ which here, of course, I am.
In the evening I go for a stroll to a final site of some large rice terraces that are reputedly very pleasant. The terraces on route and around the tiny village of Longshuba. Itās only a 4 kilometre walk away and in a blazing hot but breezy, clear skies evening I have to say this is the most rewarding time I have in beautiful, beautiful Yuanyang. A dusty winding road. The blue-hazed hills over the river valley basin to the west.
It would be more than presumptuous to think that we humans could ever improve on the beauty of the works of Mother Nature, but here this almost seems the case.
Earlier in the day, reading in the bright sun without shades on I had closed my eyes, and as happens in such moments a sudden firework burst image of warm neon colours flashed across the landscape of my closed eyelids and I swear the image took the form of a large rainbow-silvered, slatted rice paddy terrace! Honest to G.! Burnt into my retinas Iād stared at them so long.
[ P.S. Has anyone else noticed how cretinous some of the people who have tagged detination coordinates on the Google Map of the World are that our blogs trail across?! I mean seriously, this entry for Yuanyang in CHINA seems to have me residing on some island of the mid-west coast of Africa for fricks sake!! What's that about?! LOL I will seek to rectify these errors when I have time and if it is possible.