Saturday, 25 January 2014

Captivating Yuan Yang, China

A sight to behold: The mesmerising and beautiful rice terraces of Pugao, China.

A sight to behold: The mesmerising and beautiful rice terraces of Pugao, China.

On her trip to Yunnan province in China, a reader and her friends were mesmerised by ‘man-made’ nature.

WE feasted our eyes on rows and rows of “rice terraces” when the shroud finally lifted on the third day of our stay in this newly appointed Unesco World Heritage site. The Hani tribe in Yuan Yang, Yunnan province, south China, comprises skilled farmers.

These terraces were crafted over approximately 1,500 years, transforming these mountain slopes into magnificent padi terraces, with water glistening under the sun’s rays and various colours, especially blue, reflected on the surface of the water. A form of red algae grows on the water, further enhancing the colour mystique.

My friends and I started our journey from Hanoi, Vietnam, in a sleeper train to Lao Chai, the town bordering Hekou, China. Comfortably enough, we slept in a quad cabin. A friend, who had been in the electrical business for aeons, had us guffawing at his jokes about his electrical mishaps.

We soon drifted into dreamland. The next morning, we were awakened by a knock on the door – a wake-up call.

Hani children, some in traditional gear, playing near the rice terraces of Pugao, China.
Hani children, some in traditional gear, playing near the rice terraces of Pugao, China.

We reached Lao Chai in the early morning and after a signature Vietnamese breakfast of soupy rice noodles with either beef of chicken, we crossed over to Hekou.

From there, it was another four hours’ journey by bus, with occasional toilet breaks and a surprisingly sumptuous lunch before reaching our final destination – the village of Pugao (the entry sign read, “Pugao Laozhai Folk Village”).

By this time, it was pitch black. Fatigued from the bus journey, we hoisted our backpacks and walked for about 20 minutes to reach our accommodation; we would stay there for the next three nights. This place is equipped with mobile and WiFi connections.

The food served consisted of simple Chinese dishes – broth or noodles for breakfast; a variety of vegetable dishes with pork for lunch and dinner.

The men in our group were mainly carnivorous and they were naturally not too pleased with the fare!

After dinner, we re-collected the day’s journey and retired to our beds with electrical blankets to keep us warm. Temperatures hovered around 5°C at night, in late November.

The next morning, we visited a market which sold all the usual stuff. However, a scene of dentists at work and a client actually having a tooth extracted proved to be memorable!

The writer (standing on the far left) and her friends at the entrance to the Hani village.
The writer (standing, far left) and her friends at the entrance to the Hani village.

I will not divulge the details of how exquisite the rice terraces appeared at different times of the day.

Avid photographers can tell you that lighting is key to a winning photo. Those countless pictures in the “Web of professional shots” easily overshadowed this writer’s amateurish efforts.

On my third and final day there, when the skies opened up, I stayed outside my room which had a nice verandah overlooking those magnificent terraces. I spotted village children frolicking in the mud or just having fun. Some of them wore elaborate ethnic headgear showcasing the intricate workmanship of the women folk.

These children were not shy with strangers and were more than willing to smile or pose for the camera. But then again, candid shots are better and, from the verandah, I zoomed in to capture children tailing the adult visitors on the bund of these terraces, giggling to a song or two, or just going about their daily chores.

On departure day, we were treated to a hearty breakfast of yam broth and a platter of plain and banana pancakes.

With heavy hearts, we bade farewell to this wondrous place. I would like to make a return trip near the harvest season to capture a different scene and colours; yellow would be the dominant colour when the padi ripens.

In our hectic city lives, perhaps a dose of Yuan Yang in different seasons will teach us a thing or two about true human prowess – working with the might of bare hands and basic tools to create terraces in mountain slopes and feeding many mouths in the process.

Tags / Keywords: Travel , China , Yuan Yang , Yunnan , Hani tribe , Unesco World Heritage , rice terrace , padi , reader


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