Yuanyang's incredible rice terraces allows hikers to explore China's
most beautiful and peaceful countryside with great freedom. In
additions, one can discover one or two minority markets taking place in
different villages every day. The most exciting encounter is to
participate in one of the numrous local ethnic festivals such as Dragon Feast, Amatu, Torch Festval.
We can not help but upgrading Yuanyang to our Top Destination after
our visit in February 2007. The whole area is hilly and packed with
fabulous rice terraces bordering various villages. One can easily spend
4-5 days in Yuanyang, ideally two days for the markets and two to three
days for hiking. Laomeng
holds the most flamboyant market every Sunday when one can see people
from six different ethnic minorities, with women and children dressing
up in colourful dresses, different in their own traditional style.
Chinese tourists come here to photograph sunrise and sunset in rice
terraces. Few show interest in hiking and local minorities. Even during
the peak season, one can find peaceful and tranquil rice terraces
except some famous viewpoints during the sunrise and sunset time.
When to visit
We visited Yuanyang
in February 2007. The rice terraces are flooded with water in February
(in fact between October and March every year) as the farmers prepare
the soil for rice planting. The terraces look distinctly different from
other times of the year. In fact the terraces look different in
different seasons; in April the terraces are all green as rice started
to grow, in later parts of the year it is yellowish brown as the rice
ripens; in February, the terraces are bluish, with the water reflecting
February is the busiest month at Yuanyang because Chinese New Year
normally falls in this month. This is also the best season to enjoy the
majesty of the rice terraces when they are filled with water. It is
something of a photographer’s haven during this time of the year and
there are virtually hundreds, if not thousands of photographers, both
professionals and wanna-be’s. Accommodation is difficult to come by and
the favourite spots for sunrise and sunset photography are virtually
choked with hundreds of tripod-carrying tourists or those who believe
themselves to be photographers.
Things to see: Map
Rice terraces Viewpoints:
There are numerous villages that one can visit to enjoy the fabulous rice terraces in Yuanyang such as Duoyishu 多依树 (for sunrise), Bada 坝达, Longshuba 龙树坝 and Laohuzui
老虎嘴 (for sunset). They are close to the main road connecting them and
can be easily and cheaply visited by either public transport or
charter. From these viewpoints, the rice terraces are similarly
impressive with only minor differences eg. the terraces are flatter
with more mushroom-shaped thatched dwellings in Qingkou (the only
village with entrance fee of 15 RMB) while the terrace plots are
smaller but more packed at Laohuzui.
Yuanyang boast a wide variety of ethnic minorities. Other than Han’s,
Hani’s and Yi’s are the next biggest minorities; there are also Miao’s,
Zhuang’s, Dai’s and so on. In fact most of the terraces in Yuanyang are
carved by the Hani minority over the centuries. The Hani’s also
exported the rice terrace cultivation, method and culture to the rest
of South East Asia many centuries ago. Most of the minorities still go
about their everyday life dressed in their traditional costumes (mainly
the females). The best opportunity to see them in their splendor is
during the various Market Days (see Market Day article).
Apart from rice terraces, it is just as exciting to see the various
ethnic minorities, still garbed in their traditional costumes.
Furthermore one can also see the various unique festivals and
traditions of the minorities, especially during the lunar New Year
period (see article on “Dragon Feast”)
Chinese tourists make their way in
various means- be it chartered vehicles or self-drive- to the sunrise
spots as early as 5am. Parked vehicles will form long lines at these
places and people jostle for every vantage point to locate their
tripods. It is all fun and very festive in atmosphere but the
pandemonium will last only till the sun is above the horizon. People
start dispersing when the sun is above the hills. The majority will
head for their breakfast and then maybe another location for
photography. Then it is afternoon nap before heading out to
photographing sunset again. Afternoons are definitely quiet in and
Walking around Yuanyang: Map
One of the best ways to get close to the people and enjoy the views is to walk from one village to another.
There are walking paths that connect all the villages, away from the
main road. These paths follow the contour of the hills and some of them
criss-cross the terraces. One may have to engage a guide to avoid
getting lost especially since most of the villagers do not speak
Putonghua (we recommend an English-speaking Yi guide, Jacky Wen (email:
email@example.com, tel: 13769385810). On such walks, one will be able
to see the terraces in a different perspective from the road.
Furthermore there are a couple of villages and viewpoints (such as 麻栗寨)
that are simply breathtaking and accessible only by walking.
Yuanyang is situated south of Kunming, in the Honghe 红河 Region. It
has a new administrative town, Nansha 南沙, which is the transport hub.
However the main interests of most visitors are closer to Xinjiezhen
新街, which is about 30 km up the hill.
One can take a bus from Kunming to Yuanyang either via Gejiu or
Jianshui at Kunming Nanyao Bus Station 南窑汽车站 near the railway station.
There is a sleeper bus leaving at 8pm from Kunming and arriving at
Yuanyang the next morning around 5am.
From Kunming to
Jianshui 建水 (Y46) , 200km. One bus leaves every half hour between 7:30
to 16:30, and then 17:10, 19.10. The journey takes four hours. Then it
takes another 3 hours from Jianshui to Yuanyang Nansha by bus (Y30). In
Nansha one can easily find collective minibus for Yuanyang Xinjie for
Y10 (25km, one hour).
From Kunming to Gejiu 个旧: 275 km. Normal bus (Y55): 15 departures
between 7:25 and 19:00. Express bus (Y82): 8:40, 14:20, 15:40. Now it
takes one hour from Gejiu to Nansha. Gejie has directly bus to Xiejie.
We recommend the Jianshui-Yuanyang road. Make a stopover in
Jianshui, visit a surprisingly well preserved and peaceful ancient town
Most of the people who visit Yuanyang stay in the town area, namely
Xinjiezhen 新街镇. This is the centre of the Yuanyang area where one can
get transport to the various villages easily. There are a couple of
accommodation options here; the cheapest, value-for-money and most
popular is the Provincial Government Guesthouse ( 县政府招待所). The prices
here range from Y10 for a bed in a dormitory to Y180 for a double room
with toilets. Chenjia Luguan 陈家旅馆, near the bus station, offers a nice
view of terrace fields, (double room from Y40)
One can also find simple accommodations run by local families in Shengchun 胜村. Shengcun Kezhan, 胜村客栈，double room from Y40.
A better option is Sunlight Guesthouse (Yangguang Kezhan) 阳光客栈 in
Duoyishu village. It is a small but tidy hotel at the southend of the
village, nestled amongst the fabulous rice terraces. The prices range
from 40 RMB/bed in the peak season to 20 RMB during the non-peak period
with shared bathroom. This guesthouse sits right next to the terraces,
offering great hiking possibilities in the rice terraces to the nearby
villages It is only 5 minutes walk up the hill to a fabulous vantage
for sunrise viewing, the best in Yuanyang area.
Written by CBP in March 2007.
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