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A polished indigo waistcoat and hundreds of braids

Well, I have seen some rice terraces in my time, but the ones at Yuanyang take the biscuit!

I think I can safely say that this is one of the most beautiful manmade landscapes in the world.

The trick is to get here when the weather is clear and the view unobscured by clouds – which can descend at a moment’s notice. We arrived in swirling mist and we left in thick freezing fog but in between we had two beautiful days.

The Hani people have lived in these mountains for at least 2,000 years and they still continue to maintain and work the rice fields which their ancestors built. The result is a sublime landscape which people like us travel to see (much to the rice farmers’ bemusement I should imagine)

Lovely or what?

These fields are probably lovely at almost any part of the growing year; bright green with fresh new rice, golden with mature rice ready to harvest but right now they may be at their best, flooded with water for a few months before planting begins in March.

There is not much point saying anything as the photos say it all (sorry but you’ll have to see just a few of the dozens I took) Our “Sunny” guesthouse had a sublime view and we spent hours gazing out at the beautiful patterns the sky, clouds and light make.

Oh yes, and the hill tribe women in these parts wear a wide variety of lovely garments too – some pink with lots of embroidered embellishment and others dark and subtle.

A woman making braids

A woman sits at her braiding stool

The old ladies and the old chaps still wear real indigo jackets and waistcoats in layers but the younger ones go for the ready-made ones they can buy at the market.

Two Hani womenNevertheless lots of women are still busy making textiles – indigo dyeing, stitching and embroidering, knitting, spinning yarn and braiding – the first I’ve come across so far.

They are making very fine thin braids which are sewn onto the ends of traditional indigo head scarves. The hundreds of metres of braid hang down like thin dreadlocks.

Hani women with baby carriers

Two Hani women at the market with baby carriers

We managed to buy one of the lovely indigo waistcoats the old ladies wear – it was on a stall we didn’t just wrestle it off someone’s back. The local market was one of the best, the rice fields are better than they were cracked up to be. So what’s the catch?

Only the Chinese Tourist Board’s insistence on building viewing platforms in the best spots. Then they can charge you to watch the sunrise or the sunset! But luckily there are usually a few friendly locals around to show you the way to get a great view for free!

(Building rice terraces like this takes generations of dedication and they start young. look at this photo of a little rice farmer practising to take on the job )

little boy digging

They start working young in Yuanyang

sunset over rice terraces

Now that’s what I call a view!

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