Yunnan - Dongchuan, The Red Soil

Trip Start Oct 22, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20/11/2012 (Tue) - Photographers Gathered at "109"

We checked out of the hostel real early but still almost missed the last direct bus, at 8.30 am, to our destination in Dongchuan (东川) - traffic jams, of course. Our destination was a village named 花石头村 (Hua Shi Tou Village) where many photographers stayed during their visits to Dongchuan. However, we must specified "109" as the destination when buying the tickets at Kunming Northern Bus Station (昆明北部汽车站) - "Hua Shi Tou Village" was not in their ticketing system.

We had not booked any accommodations but there were another six Chinese tourists with the same objective as us and they were all staying at an inn called 张开全影友之家 (Zhang Kai Quan Photographer's Home). We tagged along with them as it would be easier to rent a mini-van for visiting the various sight-seeing spots - there was no public transport system in the area except the long-distance buses.

The journey took about five hours and we were dropped off directly outside the inn. There were only double or twin rooms. Of the eight of us, only two were a couple while the rest of us were all travel mates in twos. Jingyi and I shared a twin room. Lunch at the inn was cheap (shared by eight person) and good. We also rented their mini-van for ¥260 a day - starting at 3.30 pm in the afternoon, since the weather was very good this day, and ending before lunch the next day.

We visited three spots, 落霞沟 (Luo Xia Valley), 千年老龙树 (Thousand Years Old Dragon Tree) and (...?), in the afternoon, ending with a sunset at 螺蛳湾 (Luo Si Wan or Snail Bay). The farmlands here were mostly vegetables, such as yellowish maize plants, green vegetables and some with their white or yellow flowers, which gave the land its multi-colored fame when the fields were not harvested. Even if the produces were harvested, the red arid soil added more colors to the landscape - which was why the area was also known as 红土地 (Hong Tu Di) or The Red Soil.

Jingyi and I were travelers with our general purpose lens while the others were armed with heavy cannons - they came to Dongchuan specially for photography. When they stood with backpacks and tripods and in their warm clothing, they looked like soldiers going to war.

The unpleasant aspect of this area was the unreasonableness of the farmers - they would extort anyone exorbitantly for entering their lands. (As a rule of thumb, don't take photos of locals, including their animals, in Yunnan without permission or touch any of their things - they will either demand outrageous amount of money as compensation or smash your camera. I heard of similar encounters in Tiger-Leaping Gorge too.)

Despite the bright and hot sun during day time, it was still very cold when the winds blew, often very strongly in areas that were not shielded by any hills. It was even colder at night with strong winds kept knocking on the windows of our rooms.

21/11/2012 (Wed) - Photographers' Day

We woke up early and were driven to 打马坎 (Da Ma Kan) where we waited for sunrise. There were strong winds and it was extremely cold. Surprisingly, there were more photographers here than observed in the day before as all were gathered here for the rising sun. Sunrise was over by 7.30 am and we moved on. Seriously, I was not a "sunriser".

The next two spots were 七彩坡 (Qi Cai Hill or Seven Colours Hill) and 锦绣园 (Jing Xiu Yuan) with their different landscapes. Then, we were back to the inn for breakfast - hot minced meat rice noodle soup, wow! As an additional favour to us, the mini-van driver drove us to 乐普凹 (Yue Pu Ao) and dropped us there. We would sight-see and walk back to the inn by lunch time at our own relax paces - two person from our group would be heading back to Kunming after lunch.

After seeing all the different shapes and sizes of the hilly farmlands, Jingyi and I got a little bored and decided to leave the remaining four to their photographic interests. Both of us took to the hill in another direction, at 3.30 pm, to shoot something different, like trees and winding roads. It was the first time we exchanged pointers on our photo composition styles. Surprisingly, the trees and blue sky much more beautiful photos to my taste than the farmlands.

The worst thing that could happen in a cold season was the shortage of hot water for shower. The inn was expanding and had constructions at its site. Thus, cut-offs of water supply and electricity were pretty common. This night, the hot water was supplied separately from another source but was drained by those who showered first and we were left with lukewarm water. Jingyi and I decided to skip the shower until we returned to Kunming the following day.
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