Yunnan: Yuanyang’s sculptured mountains

Rice paddies

Yuanyang is our first stop in China. It’s a town located in the southeast of the Yunnan Province. We arrived at nightfall, after crossing the Lao Cai-Hekou border with Vietnam, and a long day in buses and minibuses. We came here for a few days to enjoy the rice terraces that have made its reputation. We stay on the site in a tiny village named Pugao Laozhai, where the Hani community live. As we fall asleep, we think about the view that we will discover the next morning: our window opens on one of the three main rice terraces.

Chinese bus ticket

Hekou – Yuanyang, it’s written on the ticket…

View from the bedroom

Hello Yuanyang!

The everyday life in the village

Our hostel faces the main street of the village, a long and narrow concrete way leading to the main road situated slightly higher up. From morning to night, we can catch sight of the inhabitants going back and forth: women carrying heavy baskets loaded with stones for a construction in progress just below, an old man leading a few buffaloes up and down, a bunch of lively and cheerful children acting their stories until called for by a few women.

Buffaloes and carriers at the Pugao Laozhai village

Opposite from us, live a family of black pigs that comes round, sniffing from time to time the front of the hostel. They live in the basement of a house that seems to be coming straight from a children’s book, with its thatched roof and its entrance door shaped like a keyhole.

Hani house

A World Heritage but still authentic site

Yuanyang has recently been listed as UNESCO World Heritage, in 2013, and the site is developing very fast, providing economic benefits to investors but not so many to local populations at the moment. So, one builds, extends, rebuilds. New “traditional” villages are growing with all the infrastructures necessary to welcome the touristic flow. Fortunately, there are still small typical villages through which we went walking discreetly and rapidly until getting lost in the rice terraces below to catch the last rays of light and scenes of the day.

Walking in the rice fieldsRice terracesChildren of the villageBlack pig eatingDucks sleeping in the mud

Men are playing cards

Those men have a lot of fun playing cards. They’ve even stuck little pieces of paper on the face. Apparently, that’s part of the game…

Traditional houseGirls playing in the village

The buffalo takes the pose

Buffy’s striking a pose!

Corn and riceWomen looking for her ducksSunset on the rice fieldsRice field terraces - YuanyangIn the middle of the rice field terraces

So we are enjoying the beautiful and authenticity sceneries that surround us without thinking too much of the inevitable future reserved to this region. During three days, we will admire the work of those men to whom this earth belongs.

The rice terraces: a true work of art

The rice terraces are spreading on entire sides of the mountains: this is gigantic. It is a true work of art dated back from several centuries – these are the oldest rice fields in China! Thousands of “stairs” decorate the mountains, which are bright green in summer, yellow-green in autumn, and transformed into mirrors reflecting light during wintertime.

Terraces on the opposite mountainOverview on the rice field terraces

An ethnic mix at the market

While visiting different villages peopled by local communities – Hanis and Yis – we can see pieces of traditional lives. We went to the local market of Shen Cun village. Have a look!

Ethnic women at the marketShen Cun marketButcher at the marketGirls at the market


Super hot chilis

Old ladies at the marketBaby ducks at the marketMeat stall at the market




Our hostel in the middle of the rice fields:

Yuanyang Timeless Hostel – PugaoLaozhai, Xinjie Town, 662400 Yuanyang, China – +86 182 1397 0980
Alice, the owner from Shanghai is happy to advice.
Nota bene: The hostel is located on the UNESCO site and in theory you have to pay for an entrance pass that costs 150 yuans and give access to the three main view points. We recommand to buy it si you want to see them; it is valid for two days. Anyway, don’t accept the easy proposition made by the taxi/minibus that will drive you to the Hostel and that consists of hiding you in the car for only 50 yuans (instead of paying 150), you will lost 50 yuans as well as do something illegal.

We particularly enjoyed:
  • The wonderful around 4-hour hike in the middle of the rice fields: Start from QuanFu Zhuang village, via Bada village, Mali village then walk up towards Eagle Mouth (Directions are pointed almost all along the way; very easy to find). It is possible to rent a taxi for half a day to drive you to the starting point and pick you up at the arrival.
  • The Lao Hu Zu View Point (Tiger Mouth) is very crowded and full of various sticky vendors. Instead of going there, stop a bit before the View Point on the side of the road (when you face the Tiger Mouth it is on the right-hand direction), we can have a more beautiful overview of the rice fields from there and be almost alone. Walk beyond the safety barrier to reach a little platform.

Have you ever seen to rice terraces? Where was it? Tell us about it.










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