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Dongchuan Red Land Luoping Rapeflower Yuanyang Rice Terraces Stone Forest Tour - 9 Days

Destination: Kunming - Hongtudi - Luoping - Jiulong - Puzhehei - Yuanyang - Jianshui - Shilin
Duration: Nine Day
Tour Code:
Transportation: Vehicle
Best Travel Time:All Year
Price From
US$2000/persons
 
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Yunnan Photography Tour Route:Kunming - Hongtudi - Luoping - Jiulong - Puzhehei - Yuanyang - Jianshui - Kunming - Shilin


This journey is an extraordinary immersion through many unknown places in Yunnan. Yunnan province is a festival of colors with a vibrant atmosphere making it a paradise for photographers. Angles, lights and flowering seasons were studied while developing the itinerary to provide the best possible conditions for any photographer. A patchwork of oxidized land, fields of flowers, karsts peaks, lakes, waterfalls, rice terraces and improbable rock formations keep travelers compelled as they travel though the regions.

Full price of this tour (per person in US$):
Price Price Instruction
US$2000/persons 2000USD/Person

Day 1 : Kunming - Dongchuan (L,D)
Departure for Dongchuan. It takes its name from the rich minerals found in the earth, in particular iron which, due to the oxidation process, gives this region its characteristic red-orange colour.

En route you will stop off in Tangxun at a Hui Muslim minority restaurant. The Hui are indirect descendants of Persian and Arab merchants who started to trade with the Chinese in the 7th century and who settled more permanently in the 13th century, mixing with Uyghurs (Muslims from Northwest China), Han (the principal Chinese ethnic group) and the Mongols. They practice a moderate form of Islam, celebrating Ramadan, abstaining from the consumption of alcohol, and not eating pork. Hui men can be recognised by their white skull caps and the women by their headscarves and conservative dress. The Hui, like a majority of Muslims, are very concerned by cleanliness, and locals thus consider Hui restaurants as some of the most trustworthy and hygienic on offer. Some of you may have already had the chance to visit the large Hui district in Xi'an, if you have engaged in other trips prior to this one. 

You will pass through some nice traditional villages .

Arriving in the small hamlet of Huagou, you will check into the hotel and then set off for the spectacular views at Yuepu'ao, one of Yunnan's many perfect photo opportunities.

Photographers are particularly drawn to the region in spring, especially in February and March, when the flowers are in bloom providing a marvellous array of colour.

Head to Damaka, passing through Jinxiuyuan, you will enjoy a relaxing journey through the peaceful countryside, far from the hustle and bustle of modern Chinese cities.

You can watch the locals working in the fields, the majority of who is from the Yi Minority 每 otherwise known as the Lolo and who number almost 8 million in China, the largest grouping to be found in Yunnan Province.

Your driver will bring you back to Damaka from where you will go just a few kilometres away to admire the sunset from Luoxiagou, a small village in a valley whose colours are particularly vibrant in the evenings, where you will enjoy dinner.

Overnight in Dongchuan

 

Day 2 : Dongchuan - Luoping (B,L,D)

If we find the time and you have the desire to do so, the day will start rather early to watch the sunrise at Jinxiuyuan. Although you will have already been there the night before, you may not recognise it in the blue dawn light. We recommend that you wrap up warm 每 the nights and early mornings are particularly fresh in this region.

We will then head back to the hotel for a well-earned breakfast.

Before noon we set off for Luoping, The first hour of your journey will allow you to further appreciate the unusual countryside of the region. We will take a small photo opportunity break at Yueliangtian where the panorama is particularly stunning. We will then stop for lunch in the early afternoon in Qujing, the biggest town along the route.

Upon arrival at Luoping, we will either visit the town of the nearby village of Jinji, or you will climb the steps to the top of Golden Rooster Peak, which takes its name from the village it surrounds. You will firstly visit the small Lingyi Temple which is more of an improvised place of worship for the locals than an official Buddhist site. The view from the promontory just below the temple is stupefying, in particular between January and March when the green-black Karst formation hills are adorned by fields of vibrant yellow colza flowers, or in summer when chrysanthemum are in bloom. From here you can admire the sun setting over this astounding vista.

Overnight in Luoping

 

Day 3 : Luoping - Jiulong - Puzhehei (B,L,D)
After breakfast you will take a walk to the colza fields, dotted with the rock formations typical of Southern China, and equally of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. It is advisable to have a good, strong pair of shoes with you.

You will then visit a factory specialising in the production of canola honey, famous in the region. However beware the roadside canola honey hawkers as some of them have been known to sell fake honey!

Your countryside jaunt will continue with a visit to a tobacco field. The Chinese are big smokers and the tobaccos of Yunnan and the neighbouring Guizhou province are some of the most sought-after in China. It is common to see local farmers smoking their water pipes at all hours of the day. Maybe you'll be tempted to have a try.

Onwards to Niujie, where you will see the ※snail-shell shaped fields§ 每 another eccentricity of the region that is only really of interest during the January-March period when the colza is in flower. The local country folk farm the colza flower in small circular terraces which when viewed from afar strangely resemble the shells of snails.

Afterwards we will head to the Jiulong Waterfalls, Jiulong meaning ※Nine Dragons§, which are counted amongst the most beautiful in the country. It will take around half an hour to get there if the traffic is clear. You'll head into a region populated by the Buyi Minority who number at around 3 million and are mostly concentrated in the province of Guizhou. Contrary to popular belief the Chinese do not eat a lot of dog meat, however the Buyi buck this trend and are rather fond of this delicacy. It's not uncommon in some villages to find restaurants which specialise in serving dog based dishes. The majority of the Buyi are Animists (believing that all natural objects have souls or spirits), contributing to their respect of nature. The clothing is coloured indigo and white, directly reflecting the two principal colours of the heavens above.

You will take a cable car ride in order to get a better view of the biggest waterfall, known as the ※Spiritual Dragon Waterfall§, measuring 56 metres high and 112 metres wide. Climbing on board the cable car you will be taken around 3km upstream so that you can truly appreciate the beauty of the falls, villages and colza fields below.

The site is made up of 10 different waterfalls, all of around the same size. The ※Lovers' Fall§, the ※Wandering Stone Dragon Fall§ and other such evocative names give this place a particularly mysterious charm.

We will then travel on to Puzhehei. The first part of the journey which passes through heavy wooded areas is referred to by the locals as the ※Guilin of Yunnan§. You will have the opportunity to discover this area in more depth the following morning.

We will spend the night in a typical village in the heart of countryside just a few kilometres away from local mass tourism in the region.

Overnight in Puzhehei

 

Day 4 : Puzhehei (B,L,D)
You will start the day with a bike ride in the surrounding countryside and you will even  have the choice between riding a traditional bicycle, a tandem or even a three-seater bike.

The route will pass through a number of ※sugar loaves§ (the poetic name given to a specific type of karst formation), patches of private land, past traditional red brick houses and through paddy fields that are almost fluorescent green due to a combination of the sunlight as it illuminates the crops.

You will take a refreshing stop at a peach farm where you will be able to try some of the local produce. Peaches originate from China, and those from this region are particularly succulent thanks to its especially rich soils.

We will then return to Puzhehei to enjoy a pleasant boat trip on the lake lasting around an hour. You will be able to marvel at the natural beauty of the water-lilies covering the lake, which bloom in the summertime.

Your day will end with a walk along the embankment admiring the sun gently setting over the lake and reflecting the ※sugar loaf§ hills. Arched bridges and some traditional wooden houses where people come to play Mah-jong punctuate this superb walk through a beautiful natural setting. The walk can last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on your speed, and runs alongside a perfect flagstone path upon which electric cars run for those who are tired from the day's activities. You will finally arrive at a small fishing village and there be able to feast your eyes and your stomach on the catch of the day, which you can later try for your dinner. In the language of the Yi (one of the principal minorities in the region), Puzhehei means ※the lake with many fish and prawns§.

Overnight in Puzhehei

 

Day 5 : Puzhehei - Yuanyang (B,L,D)
We will set off in the morning for the rice terraces at Yuanyang.

En route a stop will be made at a Hui restaurant for lunch, before arriving at our destination in the afternoon.

It is hard to describe in writing the Yuanyang rice terraces, which are without a doubt the most beautiful in China. UNESCO recognises the natural beauty of the rice terraces and is in the process of registering them as a World Heritage Site. Cascading down the mountainside through bamboo canals, the water transforms the mountain face into a truly wonderful vision giving the impression that the rice terraces are steps for giants leading to the mountain top. In spring (between March and April), considered by photographers as the best time to visit, the sky is reflected in the paddy fields full with water, resembling a never-ending mosaic of mirrors. In summer they turn an emerald colour and from October onwards they look like pools of honey. Other than in December and January when the fields are dry, each season offers something different but equally breath-taking.

For the more adventurous in the group you will be able to savour the local delicacy of eel, easily found in many local restaurants, and which are used in the rice production process. Just before the rice is harvested they are added to the paddy fields saturated with water to aid in this process. We will eat fairly early in the evening in preparation for a heavy day to come.

Stop at the hotel and head to Laohuzui, literally ※The Tiger's Mouth§, to enjoy the sunset. Here rice terraces continue as far as the eye can see, and the panorama is breath-taking, even dizzying for some.

Overnight in Yuanyang


 
Day 6 : Yuanyang (B,L,D)
According to the location of your hotel / guesthouse we will set off extremely early to admire the sunrise at Duoyisu (that you can admire even from the hotel terrace if you take the standard option) where the rice paddies seem to melt into the valley floor.

It is recommended to wrap up warm as the early morning can be rather fresh.

Breakfast at the hotel.

From here we will visit a local market in a Hani Minority Village. The Hani, otherwise known as the Akha in Southeast Asia, number around 1.5 million and are mainly to be found in Yunnan. In spite of their modest numbers (compared with the scale of the Chinese population as a whole), they are famous for they mastery in the art of rice terrace sculpting and drainage systems. It is believed that they were the first people to implement this rice production method. Often living in rugged areas where fertile land is hard to come by, throughout the centuries the Hani have adapted their farming methods and have transformed 12,000 hectares of hillside into arable land making rice production their principal source of income. Nowadays tourism brings much money to the region, also considerably improving the local infrastructure. The Hani, also found in Xishuangbanna in the Southwest of the region, are well known for their tea culture. The market is held daily, rotating between different villages in the area.

It is mainly the Yi and the Hani who come to buy their supplies for the week ahead or who sell their produce on the market. The busy market is to be savored for its traditional hustle and bustle and its bright and vivid colors.

You'll then walk through the rice terraces starting at Duoyishu and finishing at Bada, taking around 4 to 5 hours depending on your speed. You will be able to see, without disturbing their toil, some of the local men and the buffalo working the fields while the women pick the rice.

You will be rewarded for your efforts upon your arrival in Bada from where you can enjoy the sunset. Although the view from Duoyishu and Laohuzui are more impressive, the view from Bada is special for its visceral beauty. Your view is from a less elevated vantage point, you are much closer to the terraces themselves enabling you to take in the full glory of the work of the Hani. Depending on the season you may be able to enjoy the sun sparkling on the water in the rice paddies and the crickets chirping in the trees. It's an unforgettable experience.

Overnight in Yuanyang

 

Day 7 : Yuanyang - Jianshui (B)
We will travel to the ancient Chinese garrison town of Jianshui, taking us back to a more traditional age. Yunnan, much like the majority of the regions on the peripherals of China, is stuck between two worlds, a kind of time warp between central China and its bordering nations. Lots of the local members of ethnic minority groups have ※cousins§ in Laos, Vietnam and Burma. Yunnan, just as in the neighbouring regions of Guangxi and Guizhou, has long represented the rebellious or ※separatist§ part of China, in part due to its inaccessible location far from the Empires' powerbases, and its rugged landscape. The ancient kingdoms of Nanzhou and Dali, the best known from this region's history, for a long time controlled the trade routes between Imperial China and Southeast Asia. Not until the Mongols conquered China (13th century) was the region truly integrated into the Empire, later becoming a place of refuge for members of the ruling class of the Ming Dynasty fleeing the Manchus. Jianshui was a centre for the military and politicians of the Yuan (Moongols) who sent their Hui soldiers here, going some way towards explaining the Muslim influence on and presence of the Hui in this region.

You will visit the Confucius Temple, which despite its remoteness from the heart of ※Classical China§ is still considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country. It is particularly known for its green lotus pool which poetically symbolises the immense scale of knowledge# Whilst there you can absorb the unique ambience of Chinese parks, filled with the elderly chatting and playing Mah-jong.

The region is equally as well known for the residences of two families built in the 19th century, The Zhang Family Estate and The Zhu Family Estate.

The Zhu Estate is located at the heart of the old town and is one of the most stunning examples of traditional housing in the entire country. An intricate labyrinth of more than 2 hectares of bamboo groves, pavilions, courtyards and bandstands, it is entirely concurrent with one's mental image of Imperial China 每 and this at the heart of a border region! The Zhu brothers, rich merchants from Hunan province, took 30 years to complete the complex and quickly became noted celebrities in the south of Yunnan. The estate is today a hotel, but its old-worldly charm is well protected, and this tourist role will probably protect it against an uncertain future.

The Zhang Estate is located at Tuanshan, around 15km (10 miles) from Jianshui. This seemingly timeless village is an interweaving lattice of avenues that hide the stunning former residences of merchants, who made their money in the salt trade. These houses are interspersed with the more common ochre houses of the village, which are often left unoccupied. The Zhang Estate, with its square courtyards, sculpted doors and richly decorated friezes is the best example of such a house.

Before returning to Jianshui we will visit the Twin Dragon Bridge, taking its name from  the two rivers which weave dragon-like through its 17 arches. It is one of the oldest bridges in all of China, and is a wonderful piece of stonework. After this stop we will head back to the hotel.

Overnight in Jianshui

 

Day 8 : Jianshui - Shilin - Kunming(B,L)

Next on our itinerary will be the county of Lunan where we will discover one of the major attractions of the region and a must see, Shilin or literally The Stone Forest. Due to its proximity to Kunming, Shilin can become a bit of a tourist trap. However, only a small part of the 26,000 hectare site is crowded and it is easy t  o escape the hordes of package holidaymakers. We therefore will take you instead to the quieter and less frequented Black Stone Forest, which is roughly 10km away from the main site but just as impressive.

According to legend, the immortals (divine beings worshipped by Taoists) created the Black Stone Forest by cutting up mountains into a maze of rocks so that they could offer them as gifts to loved ones. This maze of ※stone trees§ is therefore fascinating, but it's also easy to get lost, so it's very important that you follow your guide!

Shilin is an endless maze of rocky peaks in an intriguing array of shapes and sizes that are a result of chemical erosion of the rock over time caused by rain and wind. Depending on the weather, you will be able to enjoy a picnic lunch in the middle of the ※forest§ which will not only give you the opportunity to enjoy the scenery but also to avoid the rather high prices of the restaurants on-site.

En route to the Kunming aiport, you will be able to see some of the old French train tracks. China was never fully colonised (at least by Western powers) unlike some of its neighbours in South-East Asia, but Concessions were granted to Western powers during the 19th century, one of the best known being in Shanghai. In 1910 the French launched a mammoth project in order to advance their expansionist desires by linking Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and at the time a French protectorate, to Kunming. They laid more than 450km of rail track, built more than 3500 bridges and 170 tunnels, requiring a workforce numbering more than 60 000 often working in extreme conditions. What remains of this epic project is one of the most significant traces of the French presence in China and you will have the chance at the end of your trip to ride on a portion of this line still in use by freight trains to this day. 

 

Day 9: Kunming Departure
Today transfer to Kunming Aiport for your departure.

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