Monday, February 13, 2012

Gap Year - My trip to Yuanyang rice terraces

Read Lizz's third blog as she talks about her current gap year experience.

I am currently taking a year out before starting full-time work and thinking about post-graduate studies. Thanks to the Chinese Govt Scholarship I have one year to study Mandarin in a University - Yunnan University of Finance & Economics with all expenses paid, including monthly allowances. The only thing I had to pay for was my flight ticket. 

Having grown accustomed to the Chinese way of life, going on short-breaks is the norm, especially when there is a public holiday. This prompted the moderately organised trip to the Yuanyang Rice Terraces with other foreign friends from all over the world (Ecuador, Turkey, France, Latvia, Yemen and Cambodia):

So off we set at night eight foreign friends from all over the world where a situation of studying at the same university conveniently brings us all together. (We are all doing either language study or an exchange program or masters).

Thirty minutes taxi ride and 50yuan later we arrived at Kunming South Bus Station with snacks in hand. We take our beds on the sleeper bus, yeah… heard correct – A SLEEPER BUS! No chairs, just comfortable mattress (truly comfy, soft in all the right places). But the journey was something of a hangover-esque disaster. If I said I slept 50winks, I would be a vicious liar. It was more like 10winks interrupted on and off. I know – I mentioned the comfy mattress, but it was the fact that I was at the top bunk at the very back of the bus. It was like sleeping on stilts – I felt every single movement of the bus, even when it drove over a stone; every movement! Both my head and shoulders felt it repeatedly against the window as I tried to get comfy several times. Which never happened! «Insert sad face» Seven hours later we arrived at Xinjie, which requires another 40 mins to get to our destination, where we can get a guest house to sleep at.

On our way to the rice terraces, we saw some beautiful views of the terraces and the sun slowly coming up against the back drop of the fog and mist that presented itself at the valleys below the rice terraces, it looked like a scene from a fantasy novel. We saw some photographers taking the perfect opportunity to capture this beautiful serene moment, the kind that you only dream about and close your eyes to get a better definition of it.

Luckily for us, we had the HD view with our eyes open, though in an incredibly crammed mini-van that sat 8 people with huge backpacks and involuntary exercises taking place, such as butt clenching and stomach sucking in techniques.

We tried to hurry our driver along, unfortunately since road safety and courtesy is not the highest on the list of priorities for him, he managed to bruise the van and break a side window of another mini-van. We didn’t get involved; we just took more pictures.

We paid a student discount entrance fee to get into the tourist spots of the town, it cost 30Yuan each for us. Since it is now a world heritage wetland, it would be incredibly hard for them not to charge, so they did and we paid.

After much back and forth looking for a suitable guesthouse to stay at, we settled on Jacky’s Guesthouse. Jacky is a local and it is a fairly new guesthouse, he speaks English well, knows the area well, speaks a bit of French as he travelled with a French Photographer. It was truly a great place to stay at, so unexpected amongst the buffalos, the mess from all animals. (No I don’t receive commission for my advertisement services).

On this same day after having what can only be called a continental breakfast at Sunny’s Guesthouse not too far from Jacky’s guesthouse. It was a good breakfast, tea, coffee, crepes, eggs, French toast, etc. We trekked to the local Hani people market. The journey was fun, we took pictures, laughed, sang some songs, but after a while when hunger attacks your stomach and the strength in your muscles, the trek felt harder, longer and “are we there yet?” thoughts came as often as the need to tweet. An hour and a half later or so, we got to the market, looked, browsed, amazement in some people’s eyes of so many foreigners in their mini town. We ate to our hearts content! «Smiles all round» However a drunken local took a liking to one of our friends, it was an unrequited bromance.

We went to another location to see the sunset against the rice terraces. Watching the sunset slowly was nothing short of beautiful, you saw the rays of the sun pierce through the mist and whatever fog was left. The sun reflected its yellow wonders on the flooded rice terrace valleys below and looked like the sky was admiring itself.

Quick fast forward to end of day – another 30-40mins journey in a crammed mini-van (this was a consistent feature anytime we were in a mini-van). Ate some dinner, drank Bijiu whilst eating, then shower, chat-chat-chat, bed (electric blankets – was soooooooooooo warm). My room overlooked the rice terraces, needless to say, my dreams were amaaazing!!! «Stupid Grin»

TARGETjobs offers the largest choice of graduate jobs, internships and placements. Independent reviews on top graduate employers and career planning tools and expert guidance. Become a TARGETjobs blogger by getting in touch with me at