On the other side of the canola harvest
This past weekend, my friend CJ and I went on an adventure to Luoping, which is about a 3.5-hour train ride away from Kunming, in Yunnan province, China. Luoping has several scenic tourist spots but is best known for its canola fields, which snake around tiny cone-shaped mountains.
Every time we told someone where we were going, they said the same thing: the flowers are gone. The golden-yellow fields that make the area famous only stick around until about March, when the canola is harvested. But CJ and I love going to random places at random times, so we were undeterred. And when we arrived at the canola fields we were met with grey instead of gold. It was the end of the harvest, and farmers were burning parts of the fields. A haze hung over the mountains and the air smelled like smoke. We climbed up one of the mountains where during the peak season a monastery rents rooms to travellers. But there were no monks around—just a cat and some workers fixing part of the building. We sat on a pile of bricks and looked out into the haze. It was so beautiful.
Travelling in the off season is like going behind the scenes and seeing what a place is like during the ten months of the year that it’s not inundated with tourists. It’s not any more “real” than seeing the area at its peak, but it certainly does have a different feel to it. Lately, it’s become my favourite way to travel. Some people would say that you don’t get the full experience of a place during the off season. But how full would my experience of Luoping’s canola fields be if I didn’t know that they have to get slashed and burned this year so that they can be a golden yellow next year?