Honghe Hani Rice Terraces: Rural China At Its Best.
Back in 2012 we visited the stunningly beautiful Dragon’s Backbone rice terraces in Dazhai (near Guilin). This trip left us with some of the most amazing impressions. As travel photographers, documenting these man-made wonders is always a great priority during our travels. So when we heard about the new UNESCO world heritage site, the Honghe Hani rice terraces in the Yunnan province, we immediately started planning our trip.
How we got there.
We were on a 7-week long journey with China as our final destination. Travelling around in Asia is pretty easy and convenient thanks to Air Asia, because the airlines covers so many points of interest for a traveller around the continent. And it’s also one of the most reliable ones… Anyway, so from Bangkok, we headed to Kunming, which is the starting point for the Honghe Hani rice terraces. After an overnight stay, we hopped onto one of the buses to Xinjie, departing from the southern station. It’s a long drive, so calculate at least 6 to 7 hours. Make sure you clarify which Yuanyang you are going to when you hop on a bus, since Xinjie is also knows as Old/New Yuangyang, depending on where you are… yes, it’s pretty confusing.
The village of Xinjie.
The closer you get to Xinjie, the more interesting the landscape becomes. Xinjie itself is a neat town with a very interesting local market and community gatherings in the evenings on the main plaza.
Once a week every larger surrounding village has its market day and then the area gets really busy. Ethnic groups can be seen in their traditional costumes, since western clothing isn’t very common here; locals simply love their traditions, which also includes men smoking strange looking pipes that seem to be unique to this area…
The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces.
The Honghe Hani rice terraces are the largest landscaped area in the world made entirely by hand. Carved on the mountains by the Hani people, they have a history of over 1.200 years. In between those steep walls of rice terraces are little villages where time seems to stand still. Community gatherings are very common; people cook together and share the food. Ethnic tribes live in harmony, while maintaining the rice paddies, farming vegetables, taking care of fish-ponds with ducks living between the rice fields and the occasional buffalo or cow herder walking along the road with their cattle.
There are viewing points near each of these villages, but walking along the road will give you amazing views as well. Some roads lead to even smaller villages situated between the rice paddies. This is especially helpful during the main season to avoid the masses of (mainly local) tourist.
Guesthouse tip: Belinda Backpackers Guesthouse in Xinjie is not far from the bus station and is a nice place to stay at. It’s reasonable priced with good Wi-Fi connection. Belinda herself speaks English very well and this is the biggest bonus! She can always be reached by phone if a problem occurs.
There’s some great atmosphere in the region and we could have spend many more days exploring it. So our tip would be to simply base yourself in one of the many guesthouses and take it from there…