Check out my travel guide as I explore Maidichong village (麦地冲村) in Yiliang county, Yunnan.
I visited Yiliang county not long ago. During that trip, I had the chance to attend a Yi festival, see how the local Baohong tea is picked and processed, and taste the famous Yiliang Roast duck. Quite a memorable trip!
Yiliang county (宜良), which is about one hour from Kunming, is also famous for the extensive karsts caves near Jiuxiang (九乡)
If you are looking for things to do on a day trip from Kunming, I definitely recommend visiting Yiliang, especially if you want to experience a bit of rural life in Yunnan without spending 8 or 9 hours on a bus.
This time I returned to Yiliang for a different reason: to photograph the colored rice fields in the Maidichong village ((麦地冲村), but I ended up doing much more: having lunch with a local family, visiting a tobacco plantation and processing laboratories, photographing a brand new Hui Muslim mosque and, obviously, eating the local roast duck!
What’s up with all those coloured rice in China?
In recent years many villages have started planting colored rice to attract more tourists. Helped by the College of Agriculture and Biotechnology of Zhejiang, Yiliang joined this trend in 2017.
The first project was completed in a different village (马蹄湾村) and it depicted the mythological Ashima (阿诗玛), a girl from the Yi ethnic group that after falling in love was forbidden to marry and was instead turned into a stone in the forest (the Stone Forest near Kunming).
The experiment was repeated in 2018 in the Kawan Village (河湾村). The project became quite popular after CCTV TV made a program about it in November 2019.
The design of the fields is made with the help of specialized software and GPS tools. When the design is ready, local farmers plant the rice. The whole process takes about 2/3 weeks.
The most difficult part is planning the design and working out the GPS coordinates. Plantings the rice is surprisingly the easiest part.
If you are wondering if those colored rice plants are natural, the answer is no: they are genetically modified.
The project behind Maidichong Village
The rice patterns are part of a bigger project to boost tourism in the area. The whole village is under complete renovation and is following a new trend in many places in China (although this is NOT happening everywhere, unfortunately).
Many villages are being rebuilt using traditional materials combined with modern ones. In this area, for example, the houses are build using both concrete and mud bricks (for the exteriors). The result is actually quite nice: the buildings look traditional but are more resistant. Other examples of this are the two Bulang and Dai villages I visited in Xishuangbanna, Lijiang Old Town, Xijiang in Guizhou, and Hemu in Xinjiang.
Beijing is following closely the development of the area and the bigger project goes beyond Maidichong Village: there will be a total of 6 villages (including this one) all of them located no further than one hour and a half from Kunming, Yunnan’s capital. Hopefully, once completed they won’t be filled with stores selling cheap stuff mass-produced in Eastern China.
When is the best time to see the rice patterns?
The best time to visit the Maidichong Village and to see the rice patterns is shortly before the harvest season which usually happens around mid-September.
What to do in the area: visit the Tobacco laboratories
Yunnan is famous for the cultivation of tobacco and in the mountains nearby the village you’ll see a lot of plantations. Many locals are involved in processing the tobacco.
In the first two pictures below you can see the plantations. In the third picture, local workers are preparing the leaves for the desiccation process. The fourth picture shows the type of building once used for the desiccation and the fifth shows the buildings in use now.
After the tobacco leaves have been desiccated, the best ones are sold to the government and the others end up in the local market.
Xinjie (新街村) Hui muslim village
If you have some extra time, on your way back to Yiliang you can visit the Xinjie Hui village (新街村) where a new mosque has recently been built.
Hui is one of the several Muslim ethnic groups and it counts almost 10 million people. Most Hui people live in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, but there are many Hui communities in Gansu, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Hebei, Henan, Yunnan, and Shandong Provinces. They speak mandarin but also use some Arabic and Farsi words in daily interactions and religious activities.
The village overlooks the Nanpan river (南盘江) and the Puji bridge (普济桥).
This area has recently become a popular place among the locals to relax eating some Shaokao (烧烤), Chinese BBQ while watching the kids playing in the river.
How to get to Maidichong Village
At the moment, until the project is completed, getting to the village takes a while.
- The quicker way is to rent a car or have a local Chinese friend that can take you there. That’s what I did but, unless you live in Yunnan, this is not an option for most of the people.
- The best option is to take a bus from the Kunming East Coach Station (东部汽车客运站) to Yiliang. There is a bus every 30 minutes and it takes about one hour to get there. Once in Yiliang, you can take another bus to Jiuxiang town (九乡) which is about 30 minutes further away. Once there you’ll have to find a taxi or a minivan that is willing to take you to the village and wait for you to go back. Alternatively, take a taxi directly from Yiliang.
- Another option is to take the fast train from Kunming to the Stone Forest (石林). Once there you can find a taxi or a local minibus to the village.
- Finally, you can simply contact a local travel agency and ask them to take care of everything. Definitely the most expensive option, but literally zero trouble.
If you are planning to visit the Yuanyang rice terraces here’s my guide.