Canyonlands of Eastern Yunnan, China – Part 1

DongChuan/Red Earth Terraces

In contrast to their gigantic sister canyons of western Yunnan, the earths largest and deepest, the canyons of eastern Yunnan would be considered mid-sized by world standard measurements yet very colorful and diverse.

In northeast the soil is made up of Iron Oxide red earth and  the southeast Karst (limestone) geology of a chalky nature dominates the canyons.

Both regions see very few foreign visitors but they are well developed for national tourist with average to excellent tourism services.

I was personally interested in photographing the DongChuan/Red Earth terraces but found it was very difficult to find information.  Most web pages led me to believe it was like visiting a very strange and remote region of another dimension. While being very descriptive of the land itself the trip was actually quite easy.  Just 3 or so hours drive (180km) north of Kunming on a new freeway and later state level paved road I came to “new town” DongChuan which has almost a dozen 2-4 star hotels and many eating and modern shopping establishments as well.

Above and directly west of “new town” a narrow paved road winds its way upwards about 3,000 feet through a small side canyon to the rim of the YiLi River Canyon a tributary of the mighty Yangtze River just down stream of Tiger Leaping Gorge. As I had the misfortune of leaving Kunming at noon on the first day of Chinese “Golden Week” mass travel, I only arrived to the overlook of the terraces just an hour or so before sunset.  None the less the area was so spectacular that I was able to obtain these “representative” photographs of the area in just a half hour or so. After so much investment in my efforts to reach the region I was very pleased with the out come for the photography considering the short time available to explore the area.

Dongchuan is a rural place in the Wumeng Mountainous area. The brilliant red soil, the yellow and white buckwheat flowers and the dramatic skies make the region around Dongchuan a paradise for photographers.

Dongchuan Red Land represents Yunnans mountain and canyon most attractive colors. It is decorated with multi-color crops. Fiery red soil, emerald green barley, golden yellow buckwheat and snow white oil flowers against the floating clouds, ever-changing light and the dramatically blue sky make a marvelous painting, bringing not only the strong visual impact but also an experience in natural rural life ways of a by-gone era.

While I did see 2 or 3 hotels that may have been completed up on the mesa, I did not have the opportunity to investigate the quality or cost of the accommodations and food services. I was very please to see that DongChuan is, so far, not “over developed”as are many areas are in the most remote regions of China. There were a moderate number of travelers in private cars from Chongqing and Kunming and no tour buses that I saw. Considering it was “Golden Week” one of the 3 most heavily traveled weeks in China it was very pleasant to see a few families out enjoying the fresh mountain air and benefits of being in a natural rural environment.

September – November is the best time to visit. The crops in this season get ripe and present gorgeous colors. The Dongchuan Red Land is basically an all-year-round destination. In spring it is the ocean of flower; in summer it is the wave of cornfield, in autumn it is the fairyland on earth.

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