Yunnan China Adventure: Unbelievable Yuanyang Rice Terraces Hike and Trek

Monday, October 22, 2018 , 0 Comments

Unbelievable Yuanyang Rice Terraces Hike and Trek
With barely sufficient hours of sleep, and even before sunrise, I was already up and about, waiting for the ULTIMATE BUCKET LIST agenda: Trekking and Hiking along the Yuanyang Rice TerracesVisiting China, particularly in Yuanyang county, is very precious overall because it is where you will find the UNESCO Heritage site marked by remarkable rice terraces along the mountain ranges in  Yunnan provinceI am a pure Asian, and a certified walker, hiker, trekker, mountaineer, so the idea of mountaineering along this scenic scenery is the stuff of legends!

This is a rite of passage for any person who claims to be a “pure Asian / certified walker”! Why not test it in a historical countryside such as this, right? Who wouldn’t be excited to traverse this photography heaven of a place, especially since this has been handmade by the ethnic tribes of ChinaYes, it is possible, yes, it is doable, yes, let’s do this?

Never get jaded by the idea that these mesmerizing multi-colored rice fields in Yuanyang are just like the ones you’ll find in Indonesia, or in the Philippines, or anywhere in Asia for that matter; so much so that you don’t want to visit it anymore. Let me assure you this: YOU HAVE TO VISIT because they are not the same – they are different, and way better, in my opinion. The intricate simplicity and vivid sincerity of the Yuanyang Rice Terraces took the art of making rice terraces to the next level.

Before I walk you through (see what I did there?) the bests and highlights of this experiential adventure, I’d like to let you in an option - in case you are interested to sit back and let a Yunnan tour allow you to have that less touristy, tailor-fitted itinerary and adventure, you may want to consider Zomya.co to reveal that hidden local-preferred, off the beaten kind of worth it travel guide that can only be done in YuanyangYes, this includes this hike in the terraces.

Visiting the Yuanyang Rice Terraces
For those of you who are still unfamiliar with the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, let me give you some quick dibs. This mountain masterpiece handmade by the Hani Ethnic minority is now considered as the most beautiful curved lines in the world. From Duoyishu Rice Terraces (for sunrise), Bada Rice Terraces (for the sea of clouds and sunset), Laohuzui Rice Terraces (for sunset), there are different remote areas within YuanyangYunnan that you can explore and perhaps even trek.  This has been an appealing destination for travelers and photographers who are affectionate for everything picturesque – sunset, sunrise, sea of clouds, rice paddies, farm animals, ethnic houses – and, adding the fact that you get to get “lost” along the rice paddies, experiencing everything and anything in the mountains, how perfect would that experience be?

Now, the axiomatic question is – how? How in the world is this possible? No Google Maps, no civilization, no Chinese language, no ethnic language heck, no cell phone signal! available to help me with the whole trekking journey. What if something goes wrong? What if I get bitten by a snake? What if I get HANGRY? What if, what if, what if? Plus, add the fact that the weather in Yuanyang, since it belongs to the subtropical monsoon, is a bit unpredictable, and it can change according to the altitude and season. Well, with enough research, lots of luck, and hopefully, with Zomya.co, you got everything covered. Here are some quick basics that you need to take note of if you really are planning to visit the Yuanyang Rice Terraces:

Transportation and Accommodation 
To get to the Yuanyang Rice Terracesyou must choose an accommodation (if it is an option for you, better choose guest houses, or hostels, as they are often nearer to the center) that is quite near the area of the rice terraces, so that it will be rather easy for you to go and have a “quick trek” to see if it’s doable. If you are planning to choose an accommodation at the peak of the mountainside, or near the city center, it’ll be better to have a vehicle rented out to take-and-fetch you during your rice terraces trek. Long distance buses are available, but not recommended, unless you have someone with you who can speak their language.

Recommended Visiting Route and Time 
Take note of your estimated time of trek – depending on whether you want to do a short trek, a half day, or a full day that involves traversing through several villages, you need to do a quick estimation of your hike, especially if you target to see a particular view (sunrise/sunset anyone?). The route will always depend on your preference; but, if you are considering the best time to visit, November to April will be the best time – because this is where you will see the different colors of the rice terraces (red, green, white, purple, blue anyone?). Your estimates should account for quick and long stopovers, and room for mistakes of getting lost. Not to mention, add a bit of buffer, especially if you want to enjoy the view and take nice photos, videos, and funny mishaps along the way. Yes, true story.

Recommended Pre-hike Approach 
It’s not just a physical game, but also a mental, emotional, and spiritual one! It’s always a better idea to go here with a filled stomach and full soul so that you are prepared to experience all the surprises that the Yuanyang Rice Terraces should offer. The trek is good for everyone, be it beginners or super seniors, as there are varying degrees of hike approach for each area. Better to bring a bottle of water, shades, and a cap; the rest are just add-ons to complement your Trek experience!

Experiencing the Yuanyang Rice Terraces
Expect way more than expected. Well, for some specific and often envious reasons, it is quite rare to get a “way more than expected” kind of travel experience. I blame it on the filtered world of Instagram and social media, but the way bloggers, vloggers, travelers, and experts share an experience, sometimes aren’t at par with the actual adventure. This is what I what I was thinking on one hand, and still a bit hopeful and excited on the other. My nomadic instincts are telling me that the Yuanyang Rice Terraces trekking experience is different!

As soon as we exited a remote village, which served as the entrance to the scenic yet tourist-empty paths of the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, I felt a sense of awe right away. I was full of energy and excitement, and I couldn’t stop taking photos after every corner we passed by.

Every inch of Yuanyang looked so scenic, from a micro and macro view. I was so out of breath… more literally than figurately at first! Hahaha, My Chinese brother was already 10 million kilometers away from me, and I had no way of knowing if I was on the right path. The steps were raw and uneven, even more, underdeveloped than how it is in the Great Wall of China. Not even the buffalos and farmers were actively walking, but more like at a leisure pace. Do as the locals do, so I thought.

I slowly but surely shed my outer-traveler style, and wore my inner-local mindset and let the mountain range embrace me with its goodness. I immersed myself in this life of largest landscaped area in the world made entirely by Hani people. Every step reminded me of the privilege and rare opportunity to traverse the terraces. There was no noise pollution, air pollution, no worries, no anxieties – all I could hear were the active thoughts and musings in my head, as I marched around the mountains.

It took more than two hours, two damaged shoes, and two ethnic villages before we reached the final ending of it all. My legs were about to fall off on the first pit stop, but I played it cool and pretended I was alright! I had to put it back in to finish the “last leg”.

This heavenly destination for nature loversphotographers, and avid hikers is for you who would want to experience a glimpse of unspeakable UNESCO-approved beauty. Whether 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours or 4 hours of rice terraces hike, walking around the paddies and witnessing firsthand the primitive yet pristine nature around the Yuanyang rice terraces is an undeniably striking life experience.

As I’ve said last time, this cultural discovery and exploration, especially if experienced with nearly zero tourists, is one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever give to your wellbeing. If going up to a monastery, or meditating in a remote island, or even following an “Eat, Pray, Love” kind of moment is not easily obtainable for you (but you badly need it!), you should let try trekking around the Yuanyang rice terraces and allow your soul be on fire!

ZOMYA.CO: Experiential Adventures in China
Providing one of a kind travel experiences, through the off the beaten path adventures in China’s Yunnan and Eastern Tibet. Building bridges between local people and authentic cultures, like traditional villages, ethnic markets, and local cuisines. Tailor-made itineraries to give you a different perspective on traveling in China.

[YUNNAN EXPERIENTIAL ADVENTURES] Read the rest of the Yunnan China Travel Series:

Bowdy is an amateur adventurer, a coffee sleepyhead, and a start-up rooter, with a penchant for classic-looking photos. At last count, he has visited some 60 countries, and is now living in Singapore. He's always in search of fascinating routines to exploit, within the edges of after-office hours and (un)limited holidays.

For collaboration ideas, email bowdywanders@gmail.com.

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