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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

LC2 Adventures at the Yuan Yang Rice Terraces!

During one of our free weekends in Kunming, China, we decided to visit the Yuan Yang rice terraces in the southern part of Yunnan Province, which are beautifully terraced fields of rice carved into the hillside by the Hani people. Yuan Yang is about a 7-hour bus ride from Kunming, where our study abroad program was based. We took an overnight sleeper bus there on Friday night so we would arrive early Saturday morning just in time to catch the sunrise. The Chinese sleeper buses we rode on were really something else! The beds were only long enough to fit a child and wide enough to fit a petite Chinese person, the sheets on the beds looked (and smelled) like they had not been washed in a while, and the floor was sticky. There was no air-conditioning and no concept of personal space on the bus.
When the bus arrived at the Yuan Yang bus terminal early on Saturday morning, the driver merely turned off the engine and did not let us know that we had arrived. Around 5:30am, we were rudely awakened by a small Chinese man who shined a flashlight in our faces and yelled at us in rapid Chinese about hiring a private van for the day. So, disheveled and half-asleep, we stumbled out of the bus to bargain with the man. It looked like our slight disorientation and grumpiness came in handy, as we got the price that we asked for.
The day started breaking as our van drove us through the Yuan Yang countryside, which was lush green and beautiful. The hills and rice terraces were shrouded in mist and fog early that morning. As the fog lifted and the sun rose, it was mesmerizing to stare at the beautifully carved hillsides scattered throughout with small huts, colorful villages, and corn patches. We felt really insignificant looking at the vast fields and majestic hills.
After spending some time at various rice terraces, we visited a weekly market in a small hillside town, where locals who lived on the hills and in the valleys gathered once a week to sell goods, shop for groceries, and socialize. The market was full of people shopping and gossiping with each other. It was very interesting to observe colorfully-dressed people of various Chinese minority groups, with baskets on their backs full of vegetables, cloth, baby chicks, or even piglets. It was also interesting to notice that although many of these farming people worked hard and lived simple lives, they were still content with their lives. After a full day at Yuan Yang, we took another sleeper bus and arrived in Kunming at 3:30am, ready to bargain (again) for a ride back into the city.
The Yuan Yang rice terraces were quite a sight to behold and it was wonderful to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a day. We enjoyed experiencing minority hillside culture in the market and spending some time in the serene and beautiful Chinese countryside. Despite minor setbacks along the way, we made it there and back safely, with lots of fun stories and experiences to share.

>>written by Lye-Ching and Lewis

Photos: 2 pictures of us at the Yuan Yang rice terraces in Yunnan Province, China. The other 2 pictures are from the Stone Forest and Tiger Leaping Gorge, which are also in Yunnan Province, China.

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