I must admit, when I see mountains, I have an inexplicable desire to climb them, to get to the top, to see what's on the other side. From what I can tell about the Chinese, when they see mountains they have an inexplicable desire to terrace them, to grow rice, tea, and/or vegetables on the steep slopes, to create brilliant mosaics with land and water. The land has been worked in unchanging fashion by thousands of generations, each in harmony with the earth. The artwork of their terraces is the beautiful result.
We have a very indefinite itinerary in China -or should I say more indefinite than the rest of our trip. I'm not sure why we chose to stop in Yuanyang -it wasn't far enough from Gejui to help us cover a significant distance, and the guidebook scarcely mentioned it, yet the views of the terraces are stunning. We were fortunate enough to get on a bus with a French family headed to just the same spot. The real boon was that one of the daughters lives in Kunming, studies Chinese, and helped us get set up in town. They also made great travel partners and we took in a stunning sunset with them. Over lunch and dinner we made significant headway in improving Franco-American relations! Viva la France!
The next day after the clouds burned off, Ann and I took to a well worn footpath among the villages for yet more terraces. (Sadly our French friends were moving on.) This time, instead of great vistas from overhead, we were surrounded by terraces and quite enjoyed walking between them. A couple of local youngsters accompanied us along the way and although we couldn't communicate linguistically, we managed to learn a good bit about each other.
As for the last photo, let me just say that those of you who read the update emails were warned. We don't feel like we need to apologize for the picture, but we do want to say that as we move through different places and different cultures, both Ann and I are trying to keep an open mind. Although this is something we might find abhorrent in the United States, I don't think its abnormal in China. As its part of our travel experience, we thought it was important to post. Hopefully no one is deeply offended.
Running tally of Chinese who speak passable English: 3
Running tally of other Westerners: 4