When you arrive in XinJie, for the Yuanyang Rice Terraces, from whatever previous destination, I hope you’ll be lucky enough to have Belinda meet your bus.
It had been a shorter than expected journey from Hekou, where we crossed the border from Vietnam into China, on our little pink bus. We’d survived the spitting, sneezing and chicken attacks and our bus arrived at the bus station at 2 o’clock, 5 hours after leaving Hekou.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED AND AFFILIATE LINKS MORE INFORMATION IN OUR DISCLAIMER
Standing smiling as we got off the bus was Belinda.
“Do you have anywhere to stay?”
No, we admitted, as she showed us her leaflet and said in perfect English, its just 6 minutes walk up the hill. It’s 60 Yuan and yes, I have wifi. Perfect, we said, we’ll come and take a look. We had her Yingyoulian guesthouse on our list, but probably would have gone to the closer to the bus station, Chen’s Guesthouse.
The room was great, a fab view, if you ignored the building in front, over the valley below, clean, a double bed, clean bathroom, with a wall mounted shower, that, unlike the previous night had a shower head. Luxury!! And hot water, she promised, if you just wait a few minutes.
Our plans for Yuanyang had been to find ourselves a driver and take a trip around the rice terraces that the area is famous for. We’d planned to do this through a local cafe, Window on Yuanyang, But they hadn’t responded to our email, so when Belinda talked about joining another couple on a tour tomorrow, where she would be our guide and driver, we signed up for 150 Yuan each.
Pottering round the town that evening, we watched the dancing, gazed from the market square at the setting sun and the ominous clouds, imbibed an interesting milkshake from “Stop Cold Drink”, ate dinner at Lao Sichuan in the square and retired by 9pm.
We amused the local ladies in the bakery just up from the Yingyoulian Guesthouse with our selection for breakfast, enjoyed specifically the yellow bread that looks like noodle bread and then headed to meet Belinda and the “other two”, who turned out to be a German couple we’d spotted in the Lao Sichuan the previous night. Nigel’s guess on their nationality was on the money again, but, perhaps just lucky, as he explained he just guesses German every time.
There’s a 100 Yuan fee to use the scenic viewpoints and the authorities have started implementing the fee just to enter the area, it’s valid for two days, so if you have a guest house on the wrong side of the ticket area, you’re supposed to pay, regardless of whether you use the scenic viewpoints or not.
We didn’t use the viewpoints, Belinda is a local Hani woman and she used her local knowledge to take us to other viewpoints and rice terraces that were spectacular and where we were mostly alone. We visited Shenzhen village, met baby Water Buffalo and we meandered through the rice terraces at an easy pace.
We walked down through the terraces themselves at our own pace, took endless photo’s and gazed in awe at the thousands and thousands of terraces carved by hand out of the hillsides.
We stopped at the market in one small town, where Belinda bought vegetables and fed us on pomelo. In another town, we watched as local women were loaded up with huge stones, on contraptions attached to their back, and then as they walked down to the bottom of the town, where they dropped off the stones and headed back for more.
“It’s all women”, I said to Belinda, “Where are the men?”
“Ha”, she said, “drinking, and sleeping and NOT WORKING.”
So it was a surprise, when we stopped at her new guesthouse, and she introduced her husband, he can cook you lunch. We sat and had green tea, while he cooked us up a storm for lunch – fresh bamboo, beans, egg and local onion, smoked pork (ok, ok, I fess up,it was bacon..) and local rice. He was the chef at the Lao Sichuan Restaurant in XinJie for 10 years, and now it’s his brother there…
As we finished lunch a guest walked into the kitchen, going about his breakfast business. German, said Nigel, knowingly. Our Germans shook their heads in disagreement, “He doesn’t look anything like a German.”
Who knows what he thought when Nigel stood up and asked “Hallo, are you German?” To which he replied in the positive….
England 1, Germany 0.
Of course we laughed much of the way back to XinJie and again the next morning, when we met again waiting for the Kunming bus. German, said Nigel, nodding to the blonde, clean cut backpacker at the back of the waiting room. Of course, that’s obvious said our Germans, as the Australian then said hello.
XinJie and Yuanyang is unlike any other part of China that we’ve visited. The silence when I woke in the middle of the night was so absolute, the roads quiet, albeit filled with the strangest of vehicles. Westerners and other tourists absent ( although we did come in the off season) and extremely affordable. It wasn’t cold, but it certainly wasn’t baking hot, the views were glorious and the absence of smog was truly wonderful.
The Hani and Yi women we met, wearing traditional clothes were going about their life, not dressed for tourists, selling handicrafts. The food we ate was fresh, and we picked from a chiller, not a fading picture on a board or a random description or a bad translation. After the heat and frantic speed of Vietnam and the noise of a border town it felt relaxing, peaceful and a home from home.
This is the first of the rice fields we’ll visit in China, you can read about the others, at Longsheng here. We’ve also visited rice fields in Indonesia (near Yogyakarta) and there are some great ones to visit on a day trip from Hanoi, Vietnam.
Of course having a local look after you can do that for you. So look Belinda up, or be lucky and hope that hers is the first smiling face you see when you get off the bus and with that I will leave you with some gratuitous shots from the day.