Trip to Yunnan

China is full of diverse and beautiful places and I decided to visit one of the most breathtaking provinces this year. My roommate Marie and I decided to embark on a journey to the Southern province of Yunnan(云南). During a semester abroad in Beijing in spring 2013, I had heard so many good things about Yunnan; its friendly people, delicious food, and beautiful scenery. Since my experience studying abroad, I had dreamed of visiting Yunnan’s rice fields(稻田) and meeting the dynamic and interesting people who lived there.

The adventure started off on a good note for me. Marie and I took a late flight to Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan. With minutes to spare, I arrived at the ticket counter and was upgraded to first class for no other reason than that most of the seats were empty. Marie was already waiting at the gate but unfortunately(不巧), had not been upgraded. However, that didn’t stop us from sitting together in the large, empty first class, hoping that she would not be asked to move. She did eventually get kicked out of first class and in protest, took the slippers(拖鞋) that were included with the seat.

Yunnan has many beautiful, popular places to visit such as Tiger Leaping Gorge, Shangri-la, Lijiang, and Dali. Marie and I decided to venture in a different direction and went farther south to visit Yunnan’s famous terraced rice fields. The morning after we arrived in Kunming, we hopped on a seven hour sleeper bus to Yuanyang, Yunnan, a central location for a mountainside of villages(农村) that are bordered by terraced rice fields and farmed by the locals. It was an interesting ride to say the least, on an old rickety bus with smelly blankets, windy roads, and amazing scenic views. That night we finally made it to Yuanyang, excited for a trip of hiking and wandering around the villages and rice fields.

However, south Yunnan had other ideas in mind for us and for the next three days it didn’t just rain but an all encompassing fog(雾气) covered the entire mountainside of villages and the rice terraces we had planned to explore. Although this didn’t stop us from venturing about the countryside (in the rain a lot of the time), it did limit some of the scenic views. I was no less captivated by the gorgeous water-filled terraces and the villages full of happy children, friendly people, and farm animals. We also stayed at a cozy hostel called Jacky’s Guesthouse, with a porch view of rice terraces that is perfect for watching the sun rise and set and run by a very friendly and helpful(有助) owner who can speak Chinese, Hanyi (the minority ethnic language of Yuanyang), English, and French.

Besides hiking around the mountainside and among the rice terraces, we also had some friendly encounters with local minority ethnic families. More than once, a family kindly invited us into their homes to warm up and share some food, and on one particular occasion share some good laughs after I clumsily fell out of a chair.

So all in all, despite the weather, we had a lovely trip to Yuanyang, Yunnan and because of the beautiful views and friendly people, it is still on my list of places to visit, especially since the rice terraces offer different and spectacular views every season.

Tess Fairbanks is from Natchez, Mississippi in the United States. She graduated from Rhodes College with a major in International Business and a minor in Chinese Studies. She studied abroad in China for the first time in Beijing in 2013 with China Studies Institute at Peking University. She graduated and moved to Beijing in 2014 and has been studying Chinese since then. She works in the Marketing Department at the Sinology Institute.