A dense fog enveloped the world around us, effectively making that world very small. Besides, it was pitch dark at this early hour of the day. Once inside the car, my travel companions and I wondered how the driver was going to take us anywhere as we could not see anything ahead of us. Still, he drove off. Sometimes, we could vaguely discern the contours of an object on the road: a car, a street sign, a house. But otherwise, we did not have a clue how the driver was able to prevent us from colliding head-on against a wall, or even worse, drive straight off the road in this mountainous region. Suddenly, we realized that the darkness of night was lifting, that the denseness of the fog was dissolving and that we were actually seeing the contours of houses and trees. The driver seemed excited, too, and stopped immediately. We jumped to the side of the road and, below us, we saw the outlines of some of the fames rice terrace fields of Yuanyang. This was, however, only a small area of rice terraces, and we quickly continued to Duoyishu. While we had hardly seen any traffic on the way, we were completely taken aback by the amount of cars, minivans and tour buses on the parking lot. My worst fears became true when we started going down the hill: it was swarming with domestic tourists, spread all over viewpoints at different levels, all with one or more expensive cameras. I almost had to fight my way to conquer a place to finally see what we were here to see.
Once I managed, the spectacle unfolding below was nothing less than breathtaking. While on the other side of the valley the darkness of the sky was being chased away by a whitish-pinkish light that slowly was turning into orange, below us the thick clouds were sometimes moved away by an invisible hand, thus allowing a view over the slopes of the hills, completely covered by rice terraces neatly carved out of the terrain. At first, I did not know where to look: all rice terraces had different shapes, and since all were filled to the brim with water, the perfectly still water pools mirrored the brightening light of the skies above in a different way. I stood there, mesmerized, as the scene below me was constantly changing. Now, there would be a clear view over the terraced fields, with even a slight reflection of the trees lining the fields in some of the pools and a pink-orange light shimmering in its shallow waters. The next moment, the invisible hand would draw the curtain again, clouds would be pushed up, covering up all the fields below and blocking our view. I found the moments in between the most amazing.
Clouds enveloping the hills on which the terraces were crafted by the admirable Hani would provide a dramatic background to the centuries-old man-made natural setting. As the day was drawing to a close, we moved to the Tiger Mouth fields. On the way, we had a walk on the rim of several rice terrace fields, which heightened our appreciation and admiration of the Hani people who built these terraced fields over the last 13 centuries. Located in an area roughly between 1000 and 2000 metres high, Yuanyang rice terraces are built on the slopes of mountains in the valleys of a southern region of Yunnan province. Not only were the Hani masters at building rice terraces in a difficult terrain, they also managed to build an irrigation system that allows the manipulation of water as needed. Looking down at the valley, as the sun was setting over a mountain ridge at the horizon, the late afternoon sunlight was reflected in rice terraces that seemed to stretch to the end of the valley. The Yuanyang rice terraces are so beautifully constructed and blend in so well with the landscape, that it seems as if these lands have always looked this way. Yet of course this is not the case: this is an example where human hands have forever changed the landscape on a grand scale.
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Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Yuanyang rice terraces (China). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Yuanyang rice terraces. Read more about this site.