In Which the Same Sketchy Plan Doesn’t Work Twice: Hiking in the Rice Terraces of Yuanyang, Part 2

Kelsey Breseman
5 min readApr 1, 2020

Pugao is known for its beauty at sunrise. The town overlooks an eastward-facing valley which is covered in thousands rice terraces, flooded this time of year. They should reflect the pink and orange of the sky.

We wake up in time to see the sunrise, but the weather has changed. We’re in a cloud; visibility goes to about four terraces. Everything is white.

This story is the continuation of a series that begins here.

We shrug it off. There’s a long day of hiking ahead, so after a few bananas and some plain bread for breakfast, we’re off down the road.

All morning, the weather fluctuates as though someone is fiddling with the dial for rain. I wear a T-shirt and carry an umbrella, which I open and close again and again throughout the morning.

I learned the T-shirt/umbrella trick in Taiwan: it’s optimal in humid climates. It serves me well through the hours as we hike up a road, through a village, across a guessed-at shortcut which fortunately pans out as an off-map trail past a pagoda and a blueberry farm.

It starts raining more after noon, and I put on long sleeves and a raincoat while Ert and Rick retreat from another attempted shortcut.

It rains steadily into the afternoon. We arrive in a town and have a hot, late lunch of bok choy, pork, tofu, and banana flower.

It’s day two of hiking, and we’re soaked, but we have a long while yet before our hotel in Longshuba. We catch a taxi to our next trailhead and set off again.

It’s still beautiful: Hani women in embroidered blue clothes carry heavy things on their backs, shirts protected by pieces of plastic burlap against the brick piles, stick bundles, baskets of vegetables, bags of cement they carry by way of a wide forehead strap.

It’s hard to resent the weight of our Osprey packs when barefoot old women are passing us carrying heavier loads.

We don’t take pictures after a while, because things don’t seem strange. Villages have mud houses with thatched roofs, water buffalo graze in fields, the rain falls.

Ert’s routes, traced solely from satellite imagery, are implausibly good. We track each left and right bend of the trail. We gauge distances down roads and know to turn off onto narrow footpaths which…