Find out why is it worth visiting Dongchuan (东川) and when is the best time to visit this place not too far from Kunming, in Yunnan – China.
If you are organizing a trip to China you won’t find much info about Dongchuan (东川).
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 believe that traveling means finding new places to explore and I’m trying to give people a different perspective about China which is often associated with very negative things such as heavy pollution, overpopulation, and other serious issues.
I hope that this article about Donchuan will make you want explore more of China and its “hidden places.”
Yunnan’s Dongchuan Red Land: when is the best time to visit
Ok, I have to 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 yet.
Dongchuan is a rather 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 job by hand. If you take the time to explore the villages you’ll see that people are still living 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, although in recent years some have started using apps like Taobao to sell their organic products to customers that 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. No 5 stars hotels nor fancy restaurants but if you can adapt a bit 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 start looking for it. It’s always hard to find a hotel with a good location if you don’t know it very well the place. Alternatively, you can book this hotel, located in a very good position.
What to see in Dongchuan (东川)
Dongchuan Red Land extends for about 50km and is actually quite easy to explore it.
There are mainly two different itineraries, as you can see in the map above, but the landmarks are not really well marked along the road.
The area is quite big so you can’t just walk around unless you are planning to stay there for several days. Better if you hire a private driver or book a private tour.
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 and for this reason, you have to pay a small fee to access the panoramic platform.
The suggested spot (by the tourism bureau) to take pictures of the sunrise is called Hit Horse Hole, in Chinese Damakan (打马坎). When I traveled there the weather was bad and I didn’t take any good pictures but honestly, of all the places that I’ve seen, this doesn’t seem to be 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).
On the same location, there are several paths leading to the fields below or to the top of the hill.
Finally don’t forget to photograph the local people including this very popular jolly man.
He seems to be quite popular.
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 even if the temperature is comfortable the UV rays are quite strong. Bring your sunscreen.
- Get a VPN BEFORE you land in China if you want to use Google, Gmail, Facebook, and all other censored website. Here some of the reasons to always use a VPN while traveling.
- It can be quite cold in the morning but very warm in the afternoon, so bring a jacket but also a t-shirt.
- Language is a barrier in China and especially in places like Dongchuan where most of the people don’t even speak mandarin but only some local dialect.
- Bring a tripod and a set of graduated filters to take pictures at sunset and sunrise. I also suggest you shoot with a 24-105mm lens or similar.
- Finally, remember that in this part of China the food 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 here my Yunnan travel guide.
Here you can find more pictures and here my travel guide to Guilin, Yangshuo, and Xingping. Don’t miss this post where I talk about Shaxi, one of the most authentic old towns in China. If you are interested in visiting some caves in China don’t miss this article.