Squashed in our narrow seats riding the bus for almost 8 hours from Kunming to Yuanyang, we often asked ourselves if this trip was worth the trouble. The air was stuffy and worst, some passengers smoked. When the first person was lighting a cigarette, Gilles immediately went up front to the driver to complain. However, when he saw that the driver was smoking as well and that no “No smoking” sign could be seen, he gave in. The trip took us along farmland where rice, tobacco and corn are grown. Often we passed long stretches plastered with greenhouses.
The old town of Yuanyang is on top of a mountain, an hour from the new town. To our surprise, we found the most relaxed place we have seen so far in China, without the typical crowds of tourists, souvenir shops, but lots of Hani and Yi women wandering around wearing traditional dresses. These two groups indeed constitute the larger minority groups in the area.
The best time to visit the “prime spots” of the vast rice terraces is at sunrise and sunset. There are numerous viewpoints near small villages about 20 kilometers west of the old town of Yuanyang. At our hostel, Yuanyang Chenjia Fangshe, we joined forces with Martin from Holland and Michael, Murielle and Camille from Switzerland to rent a small bus for 200 Yuan for the whole day.