Hiking the Yuanyang rice terraces

Many of northern China’s migra­tory birds winter in bucolic Yunnan province and, as the mercury dropped in Beijing in November, I followed suit.

A journey south from the Yunnan capital, Kunming, trades kilometres for degrees and I’m in short sleeves by the time I reach Honghe Hani and Yi auto­nomous prefecture.

The air smells as rich as the claret hills that define this land, hemmed in by the Red and Mekong rivers. It’s the local dress sense, however, that tells me I’ve reached Zomia – an academic term denoting the uplands of Southeast Asia and Southwest China inhabited by minority peoples. The female commuters in Nansha township, where I transit from air-conditioned coach to mountain-bound minibus, are all sporting the flowery costumes of their tribe, be it Yao, Miao, Dai, Hani or Yi.

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