After the Chinese golden week we spent hidden in Kunming, we headed south to visit the Yuanyang rice terraces. The views promised to be magnificent! Indeed, October is the season for water-filled rice fields. Each year at the end of the harvest, the terraces are filled with water, giving way to magnificent reflections and colours.
In addition, as you were told in our last article on tourism in Yunnan, the region has just been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So we were very impatient to board our sleeper bus to Yuanyang.
Sleeping buses in China
In order to save hotel nights, we often take the train or bus at night. For more details find our article on transport in China.
Whenever possible, we take the train because it is more spacious and we can get up, go to the toilet, sit down to eat…. Well this time, no trains connecting our destination! So we find ourselves at 8:00 p.m. lying in our cozy little bed, 70 cm wide and 1.60 m long. Fortunately, we’re not too tool with Fabienne. For people over 1m80 it’s hard;).
But hey, to be honest there are worse things and I’d rather lie down than sit for a long bus ride. We therefore fall asleep peacefully until about two in the morning. When the bus stops and the driver announces that we have arrived in Yuanyang. Some people rush to get up and get out…. We say to ourselves:
“WTF! What are we going to do in the parking lot until 7:00 in the morning????”
All right, we take our bags and try to find a quiet spot in the parking lot. It is at this moment that the driver, amused by the situation, chose to explain to us that it was the bus terminal station and that in fact we can sleep until 7 am inside the bus. “WOW!!!!!”.. Thus, these last 5 hours of sleep were just perfect… when the bus is no longer moving, this tiny bed actually turns out to be super comfy!
Yuanyang, it smells like a tourist boom!
Since the site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a major tourism industrial in Yunnan has been granted the right to develop the site for tourists in Yuanyang. In short, it means that they simply built 5 platforms with the 5 best viewpoints on the terraces. They have also set up a bus system to take tourists from platform to platform. That’s just to be able to visit the place in one afternoon!
For this “service”, they ask 180 yuan at the entrance… money, the local minorities, who take care of the rice fields, will most likely never see! Fortunately, as it is still recent, the system is not yet very well organized and it is still possible to pass without paying.
As we arrived very early in the morning, we simply took a local minibus instead of tourist buses to our guest house. The driver simply did not stop at the official entrance. At the same time, he has no interest in doing so…
He simply brought us to our destination. In this way, we were able to spend 3 days in the rice fields without paying the tax… only downside, we didn’t have access to the 5 official tourist platforms (but I reassure you, there are other equally magnificent viewpoints starting with the terrace on the roof of our guesthouse 😉 ).
Our guesthouse (it looked quite different back in 2013) 🙂
The is a darker side to it though….
After talking to a few people on the spot, we were told that many families invest all their money in tourism. Whether to buy a minibus (to drive tourists) or build a hotel.
Moreover, we still had the impression that the majority of the local people were more busy building their own guesthouses than working in the rice fields. Well all this remains for the moment quite discreet and does not harm the incredible beauty of the place. But we still thought that if we came back in 20 years, we might not recognize the region.
Yuanyang, breathtaking landscapes
That said, we were completely seduced by the landscapes we discovered in this region. From our hotel, we had our feet right in the rice fields. The images we had the chance to see at sunrise will remain forever etched in my memory. I got up every morning to enjoy the show;). Our guesthouse was called the Sunny Guesthouse for those who might be interested.
In my opinion, it is also very easy to simply go for a walk in the rice fields to observe the local people working and enjoy the landscapes. Although there are not really any trails set up for a walk (for the moment) on the terraces, you shouldn’t be afraid to go anyway. We never had the impression of disturbing people in their work and we were always greeted with a big smile. Come on, some pictures to make you want to discover the region (the sooner the better)).
End of our trip to Yunnan
So here we are, with this article ends our series on Yunnan (sniff!). We will soon tell you about the karst region of Guilin and the city of Canton, which were our last destinations in China before we flew to Taiwan (where we are now)!
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