Winning the Travel Lottery?

I had won the travel lottery, or so said my trusty guide book.

As I attempted to shower by the light of a tiny candle, I kept my feet squarely planted on the floor, so as not to slip and fall into the squatter toilet.  The stench of garbage drifting in from outside was unmistakable.

At this moment in time, winning the “travel lottery” was the furthest thing from my mind. It felt like I was in travel hell.

Showering over a squatter, in a flea infested guest house, where the walls had leaked from all the rain, was definitely not my idea of a good night.

I like to think that my week spent in China’s Yunnan province toughened me up a bit; at least this is what I’ve been telling people.

Home to over 42 million people, Yunnan province borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. This province in China is stunning and I think I’ve finally begun to appreciate that fact, months later.

In the town of Yuanyang, the women can be seen alongside the men, carrying bundles of sticks back to the villages and working out in the fields. These are some pretty tough ladies.

The rice terraces of Yuanyang have been described as one of China’s most spectacular sites. The terraces were developed well over a thousand years ago by the Hani, one of China’s ethnic tribes and have become a popular destination for photo buffs from around the world. Sunrise and sunset are supposed to be the best time to see the terraces and we were excited to check it out.


 After a 10 hour overnight bus ride to Yuanyang from the city of Kunming, my friend Patty and I checked into our guest house, took a quick nap and cameras in hand made our way out to the viewing platform.  The clouds started to roll in around 5pm and we decided to go for a walk and catch a taxi back into town. We had already spent time exploring and taking dozens of photos anyway.  It had become obvious that we weren’t going to get in a sunset.  At least there was always sunrise to look forward!

We began to get mildly concerned when the sky started to darken at a rapid pace. Our concern turned to panic as the deafening thunder rolled in.  We were at least 15 kilometres out of town. It was looking as though we would be sleeping with the pigs in one of the farmer’s fields. Before we knew it, there was a torrential downpour.

We were stuck out in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t another person for miles and not a single taxi would stop for us. I started to think of only the worst case scenario.

What if we were stuck out on this mountain all night?

What if we got hit by lightning?

How would anyone ever find us?

If anyone did stop, my two words of Chinese, hello and thank you, weren’t going to get us too far. I’d have to stick to charades.

As luck would have it, a taxi driver going by with a full car finally decided to take pity on us. He stopped about ten feet away and we went running towards him with tears of joy.  He got out of the car and opened the trunk. So relieved that someone had finally stopped for us, Patty jumped into the trunk so that we wouldn’t lose our ride back into town. I guess we misinterpreted his actions.

He had opened the trunk so that we could put our wet things inside and not soak the two other people sitting in the back seat. We squished into the back with a local couple, soaking them in the process. My two words of Chinese finally came in handy!  We must have said xie xie (thank you) at least a dozen times.  I wanted to hug the taxi driver when we got out; he was by far the kindest person we’d met all week. Instead, I thought it might be more appropriate to say thank you, again, and pay the man.

We made it back to our guest house drenched, cold and ready to fall into bed.  Back in the room, we quickly realized that the power was out and that it had rained so much the walls had leaked, soaking the floor and our bags in the process. All that mattered was a hot shower.

The smell of garbage floating in from the window, combined with the thought of slipping and getting my foot stuck in the toilet, didn’t make for the most satisfying shower, but hey at least the water was hot.

At $4 per person, we certainly got what we paid for!

We set our alarms for 5:30 am in the hopes that at least we’d get to see the rice terraces at sunrise before making our way to Vietnam the next day.

Somehow after our luck the previous night, I wasn’t surprised to wake up the next morning to even more rain. I rolled over for a few more hours of sleep, frustrated and ready to move on to our next destination.  If only we had had better weather, our time in Yuanyang would have been a very different experience!

Later that morning, itchy and covered in flea bites, we sat on a dilapidated bus surrounded by people smoking, spitting and throwing garbage on the floor. One of the other passengers was even taken my photo. Too bad I wasn’t looking so hot that day. Facebook was blocked in China, so I’m still not too sure what he did with my picture.


Our supposed four hour trip to the Vietnam border took eight hours. We had two flat tires along the way on separate occasions.  By the time we arrived and walked across the border, which was really just a small bridge, I wanted to kiss the ground. Things could only get better from here!


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About AdventuressAbroad

adventure seeker.traveling lover.occasional PR professional.

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