Find out why it is worth visiting Dongchuan (东川) and when it is best to visit this place not too far from Kunming, in Yunnan – China.
If you organize a trip to China, you won’t find much info about Dongchuan (东川). Traveling means finding new places to explore. I’m trying to give people a different perspective on China, often associated with very negative things such as heavy pollution, overpopulation, and other serious issues.
If you regularly read my blog, you know that I recently wrote about many off-the-beaten-path places in China, such as Dashanbao, Yuanyang rice terraces, Luoping rapeseed flower fields, and the conservation efforts to save the Yunnan Golden Monkeys.
I hope this article about Donchuan will make you want to explore more of China and its “hidden places.”
Yunnan’s Dongchuan Red Land: when is the best time to visit
Ok, I must admit it: from the pictures above, Dongchuan doesn’t seem to be that red. The reason is that there are two seasons to visit Dongchuan: May/June and September/October. In those months, you can see the typical red color of the fields.
When I went there, the crops had not been harvested yet, and the fields were not red.
Dongchuan is a poor part of Yunnan, whose economy is mainly based on agriculture. The farmers work in the fields without the help of any tractor or agricultural machinery and do all the jobs by hand. If you take the time to explore the villages, you’ll see that people still live like in the past.
Men and women work with the help of their water buffalos, and then they sell their crops in the local markets. However, in recent years, some have started using apps like Taobao to sell their organic products to customers who live in big cities on the east coast of the country.
Visiting remote places in China will certainly help understand why Chinese people often have a reputation for being impolite and uneducated: many of them are really poor and have spent all of their lives in the fields. They don’t have a good education and don’t know what is considered polite and impolite from our point of view.
Visiting this kind of place has pros and cons: if you are looking for comfort, you won’t find many in Dongchuan. There are no 5-star hotels nor fancy restaurants, but if you can adapt, you’ll appreciate the beauty of visiting a stunning place and paying only 8€ per night in a simple hotel.
The best way to find one is to get to Dongchuan first and look for it. It’s always hard to find a hotel with a good location if you don’t know very well the place. Alternatively, you can book this hotel, located in a very good location.
What to see in Dongchuan (东川)
Dongchuan Red Land extends for about 50km and is actually quite easy to explore. There are mainly two different itineraries, as seen in the map above, but the landmarks are not well marked along the road.
The area is quite big, so you can’t just walk around unless you plan to stay there for several days. Hiring a private driver or booking a private tour makes the trip much easier.
The best place to take pictures at sunset is the Sunset Valley, Luoxiagou (落霞沟).
Luoxiagou is the only area with some touristic structures, so you have to pay a small fee to access the panoramic platform.
The suggested spot (by the tourism bureau) to take sunrise pictures is Hit Horse Hole in Chinese Damakan (打马坎). When I traveled there, the weather was not the best, and I didn’t take any good pictures, but honestly, of all the places I’ve seen, this doesn’t seem particularly beautiful. It is also quite hard to find it since there are no indications.
The best spot to take pictures, during the day and at sunrise, is called Embroidery Garden, in Chinese: Jinxiuyuan (锦绣园).
Several paths lead to the fields below or the top of the hill in the same location. Finally don’t forget to photograph some of the local people.
Some tips for your trip to Dongchuan Red Land, Yunnan
Organizing a trip to remote parts of China can be a bit challenging, but I assure you that you will be rewarded with amazing landscapes and the warmth of local people.
Here are some more tips for arranging your trip:
- Remember that Dongchuan is on a plateau, so the UV rays are quite strong even if the temperature is comfortable. Bring your sunscreen.
- Get a VPN BEFORE you land in China if you want to use Google, Gmail, Facebook, and all other censored websites. Here are some of the reasons to always use a VPN while traveling. I use this VPN, one of the few that still works in China.
- It can be cold in the morning but hot in the afternoon, so bring a jacket and a T-shirt.
- Language is a barrier in China, especially in places like Dongchuan, where most people don’t speak Mandarin but only some local dialects.
- Bring a tripod and a set of graduated filters to take pictures at sunset and sunrise. I suggest you shoot with a 24-105mm lens or similar.
- Finally, remember that the food in this part of China is quite spicy. If you can’t stand spicy food, this is a very important sentence to remember when you order food: Bùyaolàjiāo.
- Here’s my travel guide to China and my Yunnan travel guide.