I stumbled upon the existence of Dongchuan Redland while I was surfing randomly for beautiful places to visit in 2012. The different layers of bold brilliant colours of the landscape captivated my eyes and I vowed that I will see it with my own eyes. In September 2014, I lost my beloved brother to liver failure and his death deeply traumatised me. I was wallowing in deep grief and drowning in great sorrow. Tears fell constantly and I was heading into a gloomy depression. My most effective therapy was to get away to reconcile my emotions and also accept the demise of my brother. Dongchuan was a balm to my sorrowful soul and a delight to my eyes.
Dongchuan Red Land is a new rising tourist destination about 250 km northeast of Kunming, loved by photographers and backpackers. These red lands, extending for nearly 50 kilometers are of the most striking and breathtaking in the world.
Tip to remember: There is no entrance fee to Dongchuan just yet. So hurry and make it the top of your must-see destination because it is really worth it!! My photographs will convince you if not anything else.
WHERE TO STAY
Trip Advisor has very good reviews of the guesthouse, Hong Tu Qing Yuan (Tel: 0086-13170612242, 0086-13211612477) that I stayed in Donghuan. One review gave very good information of how to get to Dongchuan and the contact of the guesthouse. When I got on the bus in Kunming, I gave them the name of the guesthouse and I was dropped right in front of it. The owner, Mdm Zhao was expecting me and greeted with me a wide smile. All my meals were cooked by the her and the her husband took another guest and I for a whole tour of Dongchuan at a very reasonable price. There are many guesthouses to choose from but it’s better to make a booking before you come.
Tip to Remember: Prebook your accommodation and write down the name of the guesthouse (in Chinese) on a piece of paper. Show it to the bus driver and he will drop you in front or very near to the guesthouse.
Tip To Remember : The prices of the meals in the guesthouse is very reasonable for vegetables, bean curd and noodles. Chicken and pork dishes are on the higher end. Avoid beef and certain smoked pork dishes if you are travelling on a budget because the prices are quite exorbitant.
WHEN TO VISIT
I visited Dongchuan in November 2014 which is a highly recommended time. This is because in autumn, some field are being turned over for new crops and the vibrant red earth is being exposed. The barley and wheat combined with the yellowish cole flowers provided an indescribable colourful gorgeous contrast against the bloody red soil.
Another recommended season to visit is summer which falls around April to May. It is high season for photographers as the farmers plough the land during this time and the large expanse of red earth are exposed. The contrast of colours are provided by the golden wheat and blooming potato flowers. With the cloudless blue sky as the background, it’s indeed a photographer’s fantasy land.
HOW TO GET TO DONGCHUAN FROM KUNMING
Kunming North Bus Station: The are only 2 daily buses to Fazhe passing by Huashitou Village departing at 0800 hrs and 1400 hrs. Travellers need to let the driver know that they are getting off at Huagou (花沟). The drivers know the name of the guesthouses and they are able to stop for the travellers in front of the place. To capitalise on the time you have in Dongchuan, it is best to take the 08.00 am bus. The bus will randomly stop to pick up more passengers to fill up the seats. The journey will take about 4 hours with one toilet break. The toilet is just a makeshift hut with a drain and it’s not that clean. Snacks like roasted potatoes are sold at a pretty cheap price.
Kunming Eastern Bus Station: Regular buses to Dongchuan County depart from 06:30 to 22:00 with a 3.5h journey. You need to transfer a bus to Dongchuan Red Fields, and the buses only depart at 8:30 and 12:50 every day with a 1.5h trip. Van can be chartered from Kunming to Dongchuan but at a much more expensive price.
HOW TO GET TO KUNMING FROM DONGCHUAN
Your guesthouse can make arrangement for the bus to pick you up on your day of departure. I waited inside the guesthouse and the bus honked when it arrived. Fare was 34 RMB per person. Unfortunately, the bus was full and I stood for almost an hour until a seat was vacated. Standing or sitting, bus fare is one price. Journey back to Kunming is faster and takes not more than 3 hours.
Dongchuan is not touristy and the villagers are very friendly except on one occasion. It was very refreshing to find typical village lifestyle in Dongchuan whereby horse-drawn carts are still being used to aid in agricultural and other activities.
HOW TO VISIT ALL THE DIFFERENT PLACES IN DONGCHUAN?
The most effective and convenient way to visit Dongchuan is to hire a car and driver. It’s much easier to arrange than one may think. Your guesthouse can arrange for you at a very reasonable price. Normally guests will pool together to share the car. You will be taken to all the popular must-see sites. If you are able to get into Dongchuan early, then you can walk around on your own. I did that and I manage to see quite a lot just walking slightly away from my guesthouse. You are able to catch the sunset over the popular place as well as the driver will fetch you to the same place the next day. The next morning, get up early and your driver will drive you to Damakan to catch the sunrise and onwards to the remaining sites. In this way, you just need to stay 1 night but you will not have time to take in the sights at your leisure.
EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT
Sunrise at Damakan 打马坎
I was woken up at 5am in order to get ready to leave to 5.30 to catch the sunrise at Damakan. When I arrived, many photographers with huge cameras and tripod stands were already waiting to catch the first ray of the sun. Unfortunately, the morning was too foggy and we didn’t see any spectacular sunrise.
My Favourite – Luoxiagou 落霞沟
Luoxiagou took my breath away with its immense intricate yet splendid design of green, orange and red patches of land surrounded by mountains. How I wish I had a good camera and do justice to the intense colours that popped up everywhere. This was the place I stayed the longest. How I wished I had a cup of java while I soaked up this dazzling handiwork. The white-roofed houses that clustered in the middle contrasted stunningly with the surrounding bold colours.
Also know as River Snail Bay, this area is the most colourful of all with all shades of red, pink, green and yellow. Coming from Kunming, this field will be your first encounter with Dongchuan. I will let the photo speak for itself. No words can describe this palette of colours.
‘Music Hollow’is near ‘Flower Stone’ (Huashitou 花石头 /hwaa-shrr-toe/) village, known as “the best place for photography”. Get some sunset and sunset glow photos in Wafang Liangzi, or catch the sunset glow in ‘Music Hollow’ after the sunset.
Yuepuao translated as “music hollow” is the recommended place to catch the sunset. This old man and his dog is the icon of Dongchuan. He can be seen in every visitor’s album of Dongchuan. Make him happy and give him some money for taking a photograph of or with him.
Magnificent, gorgeous, striking, colourful, amazing Dongchuan!!! Feast your eyes on more photographs!! A must-see destination in China!
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY IN DONGCHUAN?
I stayed two nights and was very glad that I did that. On the first day, I only had a couple of hours to walk to nearby places. The next day another guest, Yun and I hired the car and driver (who is my guesthouse owner) to take us to all the places of interest. We came back to the guesthouse for lunch and took a rest. We left again at 2.00 pm and ended the day with the sunset. I took the bus back to Kunming the next morning. Some tourist only stay 1 night which is doable but less time to dwell and drink in the spectacular scenery.
Tip to Remember: Hire a car to take you to all the different places in Dongchuan. The price is very reasonable and the driver will allow you to take your time. It’s impossible to cover all the places on foot.
WARNING: Be careful where you stand, especially if there is a signboard stuck on a plot of land. Ask someone to interpret what it’s written on it and if there is no one around you, avoid the place like a plague. My fellow guest in the guesthouse, Yun asked me to stand at a certain place to take a photo. Suddenly an old woman started shouting at me and pointed at a tiny signboard, which I didn’t see. Apparently I was stepping on private land and I will need to pay a certain amount to money to stand there. Also, she claimed that I have stepped and killed some of her plants as well. She sought compensation and shouted very harshly. Suddenly a young man approached us with a menacing look and threatened us if we don’t pay. Yun was very calm and told me to ignore them. I told them that I had no money and if she wants, she has to follow me back to my guesthouse. As the guesthouse was quite far away, the old lady was very agitated with us after walking for 15 minutes. She grabbed me and demanded money but I said she had to follow me all the way. Eventually she cursed me and walked off. I never expected to have this kind of experience from villagers. Mdm Zhao said that if she had harmed me or took my money, then we should make a police report. Thankfully that was not necessary.