What is the colour of rice? White? Brown? Sure thing. But also bright yellow and fiery green. Let me show you, let’s take a walk.
Getting off the beaten track (a little bit)
Things taste better when you work hard for them, and getting to the rice terraces of Yuanyang, and in particular the village of Duoyishu is not a walk in the park. After a 20h overnight train from Chengdu to Kunming followed by a 9h bus and a bumpy 1h journey on a tiny minivan it is fair to say that we were a bit tired. But the views were well worth it:
The whole valley around Duoyishu is covered in rice terraces yet so little can be produced each year due to the climate and altitude that all of it is to be consumed locally. Harvesting happens only once a year, in October, and families need to make sure they keep at least 2 years worth of rice in preparation for any bad years that may lie ahead.
Although theoretically the government’s property, rice terraces are farmed by the same family for generations. There is a great sense of community and people from different families and tribes help each other during the harvesting season. Even young folks who had fled to the city return during this part of the year.
The plants are picked up and smashed against each other to collect the grains. Afterwards, they are left horizontally in the fields to dry out.
Later on, they are arranged in picturesque cone-shaped formations to help removing any moisture. Despite not having any rice left, these plants are still valuable as water buffalos will feed on them in the winter time.
In just a few weeks all fields will be harvested and water buffalos will be used to farm the land. The farmers will then repair the walls of the terraces before they are flooded in preparation for next year’s crop. So many things happen behind the scenes that we sometimes underestimate what it takes to have a plate of food on your table.
Walking around the fields
The few tourists that do venture this far stay on the viewpoints dotted along the main road, away from the fields. Which was precisely where we wanted to be. Our five hour trek through the rice terraces took us to a number of small villages with breathtaking views of the valley.
Special thanks to Jacky, our host. Its guesthouse was superbly located. More importantly, Jacky was incredibly helpful providing us with inside knowledge of the villages, hearty food and good conversations about rice and life in Duoyishu.
The colours of the local market
Yuanyang had a little surprise in stock for us. Jacky took us to a local market where we got to witness what an important role they play in the social life. You can find pretty much anything you could need here, from cattle to textiles, tobacco, electronics, toys, meat, vegetables, fruit and, of course, rice. And when you have had enough of it all, you could even have a game of pool or just sit down and enjoy some dumplings.
One part of the journey is over, another begins – Time to decide where to go next. Will it be high up in the mountains or will it be 30 metres under water? One thing is for sure, it will be in Thailand.