Dongchuan Red Soil is regarded as the world’s most imposing red earth. Some say it is even better than the one in Rio de Janeiro.
I can say that it is a hidden gem for every photographer. The colors are stunning; the red soil, different shades of crops, blue sky. Because of the fantastic colors, Dongchuan is also called “God’s palette.” It has been discovered recently; therefore it is not that popular yet. However, they are building a lot of hotels now so that it will change in the next 4-5 years.
When I was there in the middle of October, there was a total of 10-20 people taking pictures with me. And everyone that has ever been in China can tell you that 20 people are nothing 🙂
Fellow photographers and I were squeaking because of joy when we saw the sunset and sunrise. The views were stunning. I think this was the best picture location that I have been to in the whole of China.
When to visit
The best time to visit is from May to June and September to December. I was in October, and the local man told us that it would be better to arrive in November.
May: red soil, golden yellow wheat, highland barley, green potato plants.
September: red soil, golden yellow buckwheat, white rape flower grown in winter, green potato plants.
November: red soil, golden yellow rape flower, green plants.
March: If you would like to take pictures of fields covered in snow.
How to get there
Well, that is the complicated part. As it is not that famous yet, it is quite hard for a foreigner to get there on their own. There are already many companies that offer assistance for a price but if you would like to know how I got there on my own then read on 🙂
First, you need to get to Kunming. I slept for the night in the hotel in the city and then took a taxi to Kunming North Bus Station. You need to get the bus that goes to Fazhe. There are 2; one at 8:00 and the second one at 14:00.
When I got to the cashier, I wrote on my phone that I want to get to Dongchuan and then showed her the picture of the fields. She gave me a ticket that stated that my bus leaves at 8:00, and that was the time of the bus departure I read on the internet, so I assumed that it might be a correct ticket 🙂
Having it in my hand, I went through security to the bus station. There were a lot of small busses with times written on them. I went from one to another showing my ticket to the driver until one started nodding his head. Yey, I thought that this is probably mine 🙂
Before I entered, I showed him my phone with a message that I want to get to Dongchuan and pointed to the picture of the field, indicating that is where I want to get off. After that, I hoped he understood that I want to get off there.
The thing with those busses in the remote villages is that they don’t have any bus stops. And I wasn’t even sure where I want to get off 🙂 I have read on the internet that I need to get off in Huagou, so I decided to figure it out when I get to that point.
The bus ride took 5-6 hours, and it went through some villages and forgotten places. As I was really unsure if I am even in the correct bus, after 1-2 hours, I started checking my GPS to make sure that the bus is driving at least in the direction of that place.
At this point, I got fortunate. When we stopped, I heard some girls complaining in English about Chinese toilets, so I joined that conversation. One thing led to another, and we bonded over the traumatic experiences in the bathroom 🙂
They asked me where I want to go and we found out that we are going to the same place. I have not booked any accommodation as there was nothing on the western websites. When the girls heard it, they offered to ask the owner of their guesthouse if he has some empty room. One of them spoke some Chinese, so it was much more convenient than me trying to Google Translate it:)
At some point, the bus stopped, and the girls told me it is our stop. I had no idea where I was 🙂
How to get back
The girl that spoke Chinese told the owner that we want to get back to Kunming the next day. And he somehow made the bus stop in front of our guesthouse at 9:00 🙂
Where to stay
As the girls were little more fluent in Chinese than me, they asked the owner, and he gave me a room in his guesthouse. It was quite cheap – 60 ¥.
I have read before that, as the village is usually not busy, it is enough to arrive and ask for a guesthouse. It turned out to be true.
The guesthouse was nice. It was chilly in the night, but the beds had some heating mattress. The owner also offered to cook us some dinner. He asked us to go to the fridge and point at ingredients that we would like to eat, and he would do something with them. Neither of us had any idea what we would want to eat, and I couldn’t recognize half of the things, so we just told him to do whatever. It turned out delicious!!
What to do
Moving around Dongchuan without the car is hard. The girls had already booked a local driver to drive them around the place, and I have just joined. It was cheap – 200¥ total (divided by all of us), for the whole afternoon and the morning.
The driver drove us to the most photogenic spots and local attractions. He made sure we get to the correct location when the sunset arrived and then gave us plenty of time to take as many pictures as we wanted.
When we were in the Sunset Valley – Luoxiagou, a Chinese girl that joined us talked with a local mushroom seller and found out that this is a perfect spot for the sunrise. The seller showed us some of her pictures, and we were immediately hooked up.
Initially, we were supposed to go to another place, but the girl we met was there the day before, and the views were not that great. Therefore we asked the driver to take us back to Luoxiagou. We had to wake up at 6:00, but it was so worth it. It was the first time in my life that I thought I could get an orgasm just by taking pictures 🙂 And judging by how others looked I was not the only one. You have no idea how hard it is to decide whether to take a shot with a camera or a drone!!! It was amazing!
- No one speaks English there. Noone. So the best way is to have a translator app that can read up whatever you write, as some people can’t read either. Or go the old fashion way and just use gestures.
- Near the place where we were staying, there was a small shop where we could buy water and other little munchies.
- The locals were super friendly. Of course, they asked me for a selfie 😀 Yeah, I was quite popular, being the only white person in a rural village 🙂 When they took it, they gave me a potato with some mushroom paste as a thank you!!! It was so delicious! Then the led me by the hand to the stall where a couple of them were eating and offered more! The baked potato with whatever paste was the best thing I have eaten during my whole stay in China!!!
- Don’t step on the fields. Locals might not be too happy, or they will ask you for money
- If you are into mushrooms, there are a lot of locals selling them.
Overall, Dongchuan was the best place I visited during my whole stay in China. There were no crowds, the pictures turned out fantastic, I was so proud I managed to get to that remote village, and I met great friends that made the whole adventure even better! And don’t forget the potato!!!