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One of the most beautiful seasonal events in Yunnan is the arrival of the winter fog that blankets the valleys and lower slopes of the Ailao Mountains, between the Red River and the border with Vietnam. The verdant mountains rise several hundreds meters higher than the fog, mottled with villages all the way up the slopes, separated by little clumps of forest and great swaths of terraced fields. These terraces are cut into every contour of the slopes, at angles up to 70 degrees and are the most ancient and the most impressive in the entire region. Most terraces are irrigated and filled with water all year around. They are mostly used only to grow rice. Filled with water they make glistening stairways up and down the slopes, catching the colors of the clouds at sunrise all the way down to the fog line. Terrace farming is by no means unique to the Ailao Mountains, but its own history here—in some areas the same terraces have been producing rice for over a thousands consecutive years—attests to the ecological wisdom of the ancient Dai, Hani and Yi who built them. Elsewhere in the province, terrace farming depends mainly on the rain for its water. Here the water from high mountain springs and creeks is channeled in ditches that are directed to run throughout the farming area. Divider stones and bamboo tubes divert part of the water from the main irrigation channel to individual terraces, from these dropping through notches in the terrace walls to feed those below and so on, all the way to the bottom of the slope.

Watching sunset over this natural wonder was one of the highlight of our trip in this province. Earlier today—on our way to Yuanyang—we made a stop in Geiju. This city does not represent any particular interest as such (we should say it is not on the tourist map). An industrial town, big and modern, it is the Chinese capital of tin mining. It has some historical and cultural significance though and we feel like having a look. We end up in a nice square, which turns out to be a park where people gather for their favorite pastimes. What we encounter here is a crowd of people, dressed traditionally and dancing energetically for hours. Hani, Yi and Zhu ethnic minorities are original from here, and we are glad to start recognizing which is which, thanks mainly to their different dresses and ornaments. We did not expect finding all this in such a city. Time for lunch and we stop by a nice restaurant. The menu handed to us does not have any latin characters and it will take a lot of patience (and a lot of laughs from other customers) to make ourselves understood. Lunch turns out to be a great choice. We are delighted to try once again local specialties. We take another bus and arrive 2 hours later to Yuanyang, with a magnificent scenery on the way. Yuanyang is a small village lost in the mountains, with a very colorful market, that we shall use as a base to visit the area.

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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 472 W: 128 N: 2360] (8578)
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