From sunrise to sunset and the spectacle of light

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January 18th 2012
Published: March 3rd 2012
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When still in Kunming we found out that there are two daily buses going to YuanYang – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We got up really early, checked out and went for a local bus that was supposed to take 1,5h to get to the station. When we finally reached it we were astonished with number of people queuing for tickets. We were almost sure that all the tickets had been already sold out. To our surprise we were not too late. The only difference was that the morning bus was not going at all this day and we had to take the 4 pm one. It was less than ideal as we would reach YuanYang around midnight. On the other hand we did not want to waste any more days in Kunming so we went for it. As I said it was very early in the morning so we had more than 8h to kill in the bus station. Ow well, it was not the first and not the last time that we had to wait long hours for our next mean of transport. We used this this time up on reading about Vietnam that we were to visit just in a few days.

In the bus station we met two Dutch girls – Marie and Sophie who were going to the same village. We compared pieces of information we all had and agreed on what to do next when we get there. Before we took a bus we all tried to contact Sunny Guest-house, mentioned as the only one in the village. We were told that because of the time of our arrival they could only send a private car to pick us up but it would cost us 120Y/12£. Initially we thought to stay overnight in the Old Town, somewhere around the bus station and head to the top in the morning with a local bus (there is 1h drive up from the village to the top) but because there was four of us now we could easily split the cost. YuanYang consists of two towns, 1h away from each other – New and Old and you need to make sure to buy a ticket to the Old one. Initially we were dropped in the New Town and then asked to get on yet another, small bus to the Old Town.

This was one hell of a ride. It was late and dark, the driver was obviously rushing home and we could see the edge of a mountain road and huge drop down just few meters away from the bus. People were packet on plastic chairs between our seats and they were smoking every now and then. I did stop few of them by saying that we didn't wish to inhale smoke in such a small space and for some weird reason they listened ;-) Somewhere midway up the mountain our bus started to overtake a truck and suddenly we saw bright lights of car coming at us. I remember wheels breaking and squeaking and then we were just waiting for a hit. Not sure how it happened but the other car managed to stop less than 0,5 meter away from us and there were no damages. Well, maybe apart from the fact that everybody on plastic chairs fell forward and one guy possibly had something wrong with his neck. The driver got really stressed, smoked a cigarette and continued driving in exactly the same way. Surprisingly, we did not feel frightened but very alive. Strange feeling.

When we finally reached the Old Town we started to look for some taxi to Duoyishu village and we got offered to be taken by Jackie – owner of the guest-house located just 3 min walk from the Sunny's place. He was picking up his customer – Scottish photographer who came to YuanYang for an assignment. Price was the same so we took it. When we got to the hill top (1h away) we looked up and we could not believe how clear the sky was. It was full of stars and we probably had not seen anything like that in years. In the morning it was all clear why the view was so beautiful. We were really high up in the mountains and there was thick layer of clouds below us providing this place with an amazing sunny weather. We were sure it was pouring down with rain in villages at the bottom of the valley. We could say were were literally walking above the clouds;-)

Even though we went to sleep around 1 am we agreed with girls that we would get up for a sunrise around 6 am. Tomek got up with no problems but me, ow well, I really wanted to sleep more. I was just about to say I am not going when it suddenly occurred to me that we went through so much trouble to get here so I might as well get up and see this amazing sunrise. Believe me, it was worth it. YuanYang is the only place in China that is recommended to be visited in January and we quickly found out why. Only in the winter all rice terraces are covered with water and every sunrise and sunset offers amazing spectacle of lights reflecting in water. The view is nice from any of the guest-houses but you need to get a little bit higher up to see better view. That is just simply because the hill side is not very steep and the lower you are the more flat it looks. There is a viewing platform just above the village but you have to pay 60Y each for it. We went just up to the road and we had exactly the same view for free. This place is for sunrise only and to get great sunset spot you need to do some trekking away from the village. Sophie and Marie had exactly the same plans for the day as us so we teamed up for a daylong trek. Jackie showed us a path though the villages and we walked for few hours alongside the rice terraces admiring this astonishing view. We could not have wished for a better weather.

Local people are extremely nice over there and women still were their tribal clothes. Quite similar to the Longji tribes but instead of pink they are turquoise blue with black. When walking through one village on the way to the sunset point we were invited to one of the houses for lunch. Within our two months in China it was a first time that we were just invited from a street. They offered us some delicious food and of course local rice wine. They could not speak any English except for one small girl but there was no tension in a room at all. We did not need to talk - they were just happy to be able to host us. We wanted to pay them and Tomek (as the only man) offered money to the head of a household but he just smiled and waved his hand in refusal. That is the thing about customs. You never know what is appropriate to do – to offer or not to offer, and ho much to offer so that we don't offend them?

Overall we must have done around 15 km of walking up to the sunset viewing point in Bada village but it was the best day we had in China. Sunset was even more stunning than sunrise and this part of the mountain offers spectacular views. There are some tea plantations around to view is someone is interested. Unquestionably, YuanYang will remain the most beautiful place in China in our memory. It was also the most perfect ending of our Chinese part of the trip. All the mixed feelings we had about China were suddenly replaced with huge satisfaction. Also, this was the end to the 3,5 month long Leg I of our Round The World tour. South East Asia, here we come.....

Additional Note about staying in YaungYang

* Even though prices for rooms were not that bad (40Y dorm), Sunny Guesthouse is using it's LP position a lot. Food and drinks are quite expensive over there and they really trying to rip you off on anything. We were given map of the trekking routes but were very misguided by the owner with respect to time and distances so that we paid for the private car. It was the same with the transport back to town – they told us there is no local bus back and that we had to hire a car, which was first 50Y, then 80Y and finally 100Y because of the Chinese Happy New Year!!! Luckily we knew we could ask Jackie about the same and confirm what is true and what was wrong. Jackie is a local guy who spent years travelling around the world with some professional photography team, he speaks perfect English and has very 'western' way of conducting business. His guest-house is new and spotless when compared with 'Sunny Rip-Off place' and if only he had had dorms on offer (which he told us he would in near future) we would have moved to his place. He told us real distances to sunset viewing points and recommended some walking paths as well. As Dave – the photographer – was going for the sunset Jackie offered to pick us up from there in the evening for 100Y per car (20Y each,around 12km away). There was no pushing and no cheating. In the end he found another 2 people so it worked ever cheaper per person – really recommend Jackie and his place for a stay in YuanYang. We even ended up having food at Jackie's as his mother is a really great cook.

* There ARE local buses going to and from the village, starting from around 6:30, so you don't have to pay for a private car (20Y each, 1h)

Additional Note - Summary of China:

63 days, 11 provinces and 22 towns and cities
our favourite place: YuanYang and PingYao second
our favourite sight: Historic Tongli Village and Lijiang Town second
our favourite food: it is a very tough one but Beef Noodle soup in PingYao and all the food in Xian's Muslim Quarters
our favourite landscape: YuangYang Rice Terraces and Xingping village near Yangshuo second
train vs. bus: train, train and once again train (so safe and comfy)
our favourite activities: trekking along side rice terraces
our favourite hotel/guest-house: Jade Emu in Dali (40Y/pp dorm) and Courtyard hotel in PingYao (100Y per double room)
best thing we bought: Confucius wooden mask (100Y/15$) and brass Buddha decorative bell (60Y/9$)
our cost per day incl. visa and transport: 40£/62$ per day for both of us

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


3rd March 2012
Sunrise in Duoyishu village

Guys your pictures keep getting better, simply amazing!
5th March 2012
Sunrise in Duoyishu village

thank you very much Guys;-)
4th March 2012

"the only place in China that is recommended to be visited in January"...tough call
I note in a previous blog...when leaving Guangxi...not being able to get to sounded disappointed you were heading to Yunnan. Sounds like Yunnan has weaved its magic. The reflections on the terraces in your pics...sensational. Yet you have just touched the surface of what Yunnan has to have I. I have been twice to December/January...sensational...the colours, clarity, air quality, temperature, extraordinary diversity, about 26 minority ethnic can there be a better time of year to be there..? By the way, what ethnic group predominated at Yuang Yang?
5th March 2012

Hi Dave
yes we really wanted to go to Sichuan to sample spicy food, see Pandas and giant Buddha but it is also true that Yunnan amazed us and we now wish we could have spent more time over there not just 10 days;-( We should have been more specific about the only place to visit in January as of course it is not the only place you could - it was recommendation of LP from the things to do in January with respect to weather etc. If we had had more time in Yuanyang we would have definitely go around local tribal villages. Not sure about the tribe though...? cheers, Beata
4th March 2012

hi from Argentina
The pictures are awesome, well, the place is awesome. So you never too a package, you always did it on your own, right? I am planning a trip to China but I think I will be taking a package as I think it´s very complex. Hugs from Argentina. Graciela.
5th March 2012

Hi Graciela
YaunYang is stunning. Yes, we did everything on our own with the exception of Tulou trip. It is very easy to go around China, local transport has extensive network and even local buses go to almost every site you wish to go. We only started to appreciate it after visiting Vietnam and Cambodia as they dont offer such solutions;-( When already in China you could always take organised trip to places that seem too difficult to get to;-) We really recommend doing it on your own as then you may discover more than standard tour places;-) thanks for reading, B&T
6th March 2012

Great photos! Looks like the rice plantations were awesome! We also had a few scares in Chinese buses when we were there: they drive like crazy and don't care where they overtake... But India was worse for us!

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