Dongchuan Red Soil
Dongchuan Red Soil (Hongtudi) Travel Guide, Yunnan
Dongchuan, a rural place in the Wumeng Mountainous area, about 180km north of Kunming, becomes very famous among Chinese photographers for its red soil.
In the mid 1990s, the first Chinese photographers came to discover the Wumeng's scenery. The first came and scooped award-winning photos, but kept their location a closely guarded secret. But slowly the details leaked and now more and more photographers are making their arduous trip into the arid mountains. The brilliant red soil, the yellow buckwheats and the dramatic skies make the region around Dongchuan a paradise for photographers.
Speaking of Red Soil, the scenery is in fact centralized around Huagou(means colorful valley) of Xintian Township, which is about 50km away from Dongchuan County seat. Those locations are too small to have a name. Locals simply call it 109, 110...the number on the kilometer marker along the road. 109 is almost the highest point on the road, which branches here to another small hamlet. From all around 109 glorious vistas stretch to Guizhou and Sichuan. Dongchuan, as the crow flies not more than 20 kilometres away, is barely visible in the valley far below.
Best Time to go: May, Sept. & Nov.
Getting there and away
Option 1: Kunming-Huagou
Kunming North Bus Station:Fazhe-bound buses departing at 8:00 & 14:00 daily pass by Huashitou Village. Just try to let the driver know that you want to get off at Huagou(Y25). Bear in mind that the bus moves on extremely slowly and it takes 5~6 hours to arrive, as there are a few chaotic local markets along the road.
Option 2: Kunming-Dongchuan-Huagou
Kunming Eastern Bus Station(Dongjv Qichezhan): frequent buses run to Dongchuan County from 6:30am to 10pm, Y28-Y38 (depending on bus type) / 3.5hrs; There are only 2 buses from Dongchuan County to Red Soil at 8:30 & 12:50:00, Y15 / 1.5hrs. Charter a van if you missed the scheduled buses.
Chartering a vehicle from Kunming to Huagou costs around Y250 one way.
Getting Around: trek on foot to the few scenic spots around 109, like Jinxiu Yuan,Qicai Po & Yuepu Ao, but for more spectacular view points farthur, like Dama Kan and Luoxia Gou, it's necessary to rent a car or minivan (Y200-250 per day).
109 has become a must-see destination for the photographers.
Damakan, a viewpoint some 9km away from 109 along a bumpy dirt-track, is one of the photographers' favourites. Just when the light is coming out, the small village several hundred meters below is getting busy and smoke starts rising from the farm-houses smokestacks. As the farmers are starting their working day, the photographers' morning shift is almost over.
After lunch, it is time for another shoot as the light turns warmer and brings out the best in Dongchuan's colours. All over the hills the photographers wander in search of an undiscovered view.
But at sunset, everybody gathers at 110, another nameless spot along the road. Among all the shooting spots, Luoxia Gou is the ultimate shot.
There are a few guesthouses spreaded in 109 and 110. Most photograpghers stays in Chundong Lvshe (Spring & Winter Hostel) on 110. Y40/twin room and Y30/single room without attached bathroom, Y80/std. room in the new building. Y25 per head per day for meals if you eat together with the family.
Early in the morning, the guesthouse is busiest, as everybody gets ready for the long drive or trek out to the sacred spots from where the first rays of light over the red mountains are the most dramatic.
The boss Zhang Kaiquan himself usually drive to take photographers around, so he knows very well where and when the best spot is.
If you want to spend more time in capturing Louxia Gou, there is a nameless guesthouse just 5 minutes ahead of the view point, Y20/bed. Its rooftop offers great view. In front of the guesthouse, there is a parking lot.