Sunday, October 28, 2018

Visiting world heritage rice terraces of YuanYang China 1/2

My goal for this visit to China was to see the rice terraces of Yuanyang County, Yunnan – a world heritage site. I've wanted to go ever since seeing this photo on the Bing homepage.  The photo is by Jialiang Gao, who has an impressive collection of photos on wikipedia - and an equally impressive number of uncredited photos on posters and tourist guides around the region.

Like many things in China - the scale is most impressive. Supersaturated telephoto pictures like the one above make it look like painted terraces going on for infinity - but seeing them in person in the context of the larger mountain still is quite impressive. If you can't visit yourself, please take a tour YuanYang on Google earth:

The terraces are stunningly beautiful, and part of that is knowing how much effort went into building them, all manual labor by people sometimes waist deep in mud and always using hand tools. The scale is so vast that you can barely see the people when there in person.

Up above all this - there is a little tourist villa - with a jacuzzi I could see through the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the terraces. I travelled there to see the terraces myself – but sitting in a jacuzzi watching working people pile mud for kilometers around me ... seems a bit too similar to the Monty Python sketch with Arthur and the "peasant."

To make things at least slightly better, the actual farm workers don't appear to live in poverty. They have nice houses with out-of-place looking water buffalo wandering everywhere. Lots of babies and kids lived there, tended to by the older generation - but middle aged people and young adults seemed to be completely missing. Likely off working in the cities. After thousands of years, I'm afraid this World Heritage Site will quickly become an archeological site.

One thing that was interesting - is that the colorful local dress you often see in pictures of women from Yunnan - that actually is the way they really dress - and not even just on special occasions it seems they wear super-colorful headgear non-stop, even while working in the fields.

OK now for just a bit of detail on how to get there in case you want to see it in person for yourself. First fly to Kunming (one of the biggest cities you've never heard of - with a metro area population of over 6 million).

Then take a train to Jianshui, a nice little historic village (population 490,000). From there - the rice terraces are only a 3 hour drive away. There are tourist busses, but I shared a cab for a total price of about $80 for the day, which included gas for the trip - and stopping whenever we wanted to get out and take pictures. (email me to get the contact info of the local driver who was awesome).

Even the local Baidu maps was directing us down roads that were too narrow to drive down, but Google maps definitely cannot be trusted at all navigating the more remote areas since it doesn't even have roads in the right locations.

Some particularly scenic places were actually in just about the right google maps locations here and here.

And here are a few more photos that I took along the way. Notice the water buffalo in this one:

Stay tuned since the next post is going to be all about the engineering of these things!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Back in China

I'm back in China! Look here for more lessons on signage - and a probably giant post about rice terraces. This photo is actually part of a photo sphere - which you can probably see live on your phone with this link: