Yunnan: Yuanyang Rice Terraces, Sep 2023

After a long 6-hour drive, we arrived at the Unesco Honghe Hani Rice Terraces with the Yuanyang Rice Terraces at its core.  These beautiful curvy rice terraces, covering an area of 10,000m² from 150m to almost 3,000m high, have been cultivated by the ethnic Hani people for about 1,300 years.  I was told that there are close to 3,000 cultivated terraces here, tirelessly built following the contours of the mountain.  There are 17 Hani villages where the farmers still dress in ethnic clothing, work in the fields with their buffaloes, harvest using the sickle, and thresh rice by hand.  They mainly grow red rice where their ducks fertilize the young rice plants, their chickens and pigs provide fertilizer, and their water buffalos slough the fields for the new year’s planting.  The landscape here reflects the traditional “four-fold system of forests, water supply, terraces, and houses”.  The mountain top forests provide the water that are captured by channels and irrigate the rice terraces.  To the Hani people, the forests are sacred and are the lifeblood of the villages.  Autumn is harvest season and the rice terraces are all golden in color.  Surprisingly, it was not very crowded during our visit.  I was told that most people like to come in the winter months when the rice terraces are flooded in preparation for the spring planting season.  During this time, the water-filled terraces are like thousands of mirrors reflecting the sky, especially mesmerizing during sunrise and sunset.  I am already thinking about my next visit.  We stayed at the Yuanyang Shengcun Yunti Hotel (元阳云梯酒店) which is conveniently situated in the middle of all the scenic spots.
Laohuzui Rice Terraces (老虎嘴) or Tiger Mouth Rice Terraces is one of the best known sunset spots in Yuanyang.  It is the steepest of the Yuanyang rice terraces.  There was heavy rain and mud-rock flow causing parts of the terraces to collapse in 2018 and we are one of the first people to return after it reopened.  There are two viewing decks here, one located higher up near the road and the other one is at the middle of the hill, about a few hundreds steps down from the road.  I chose to shoot the sunset from the lower deck.  I was told that one can see the form of a tiger with its mouth open (which I did not see) while others claim the terraces form the shape of galloping horses.  All I saw were thousands of snakes wriggling around…
Laohuzui Rice Terraces (老虎嘴)

Another popular spot to shoot the sunset is Bada Rice Terraces (坝达梯田).  The 950-hectare Bada Rice Terraces have over 3,700 level terraces rising from 800 meters to 2,000 meters, resembling a ladder to heaven.  There are two viewing decks at similar heights with one facing the sun directly with the ridges of the terraces vertical to you and the other one offering a side view of the rice paddies.  There is a footpath linking the two viewing decks.  There are several villages here (Quanfuzhuang, Malizhai, Bada, Shangmadian) with the signature Hani mushroom-shaped houses, surrounded by the rice terraces.

Hoping the clouds will clear so that there will be a beautiful sunset at Bada Rice Terraces…

Bada Rice Terraces (坝达梯田)

Bada Rice Terraces (坝达梯田)
Woke up at 5am to head to the viewing decks of Duoyishu Rice Terraces (多依树梯田), said to offer the most amazing sunrise in Yuanyang.  The weather is extremely changeable here so it’s usually luck of the draw whether one can capture the beautiful sunrise.  We were there two mornings in a row.  The first morning it was raining quite a bit and then cleared up.  The second morning was much better.  Do make sure you get to the viewing decks early to secure a good spot to set up your tripod.  Together with the beautiful sea of clouds and Hani’s traditional mushroom-like houses, this spot is no doubt a photographer’s dream.
Duoyishu Rice Terraces (多依树梯田)

There is a motif of a woman at Duoyishu Rice Terraces (多依树梯田)

During the terrace-flooding season, the nearby Aichun Hani Rice Terraces (爱春梯田) is busy with photographers capturing its famous terraces reflecting the blue of the sky.

Aichun Hani Rice Terraces (爱春梯田)

Aichun Hani Rice Terraces (爱春梯田)

Other rice terraces we visited were Huangcaoling Rice Terraces (黃草嶺)s,  Lamadian Rice Terraces (倮馬點梯田), and Malizhai Rice Terraces (麻栗寨茶廠).  We were able to walk down into the rice paddies at Quanfuzhuang (全福庄) to get a closer view.

Malizhai Rice Terraces (麻栗寨茶廠)

Lamadian Rice Terraces (倮馬點梯田)
Lamadian Rice Terraces (倮馬點梯田)

Quanfuzhuang (全福庄)

Quanfuzhuang (全福庄)

By the end of my visit, I have to say I was completely rice-terraced-out.  Next post will be on the Azheke Village (阿者科古村), the most primitive of the the five Hani Village listed into the UNESCO site.  Stay tuned!

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