Situated about 4 hrs from Kunming City, DongChuan is a relatively un-commercialized part of Yunnan. Famed for the reddish earth which lends beautiful and contrasting hues against the quiltwork of farmed land and surrounding mountains, DongChuan offers truly colorful and spectacular scenery along with a chance to explore the colorful rural lifestyle of the tribal people of the area. It isn’t unusual to see farmers tilling the fields with their animals and transporting their wares with their horse carts along the roads. The central market is a bustling hive of activity, with farmers trading live stock like fowl and piglets along with fresh produce, clothing, housewares and food too. Mothers with their babies strapped across their backs is a common sight as well. It certainly merits a visit and is most active until around noon, although I understand it doesn't operate every day.
Your guide should be able to bring you to cover the various sites to view the variations in scenery but the one that shouldn’t be missed is 落霞沟, which is by far the most spectacular. Sunrise and sunset are also good times to experience nuances in the color palette of the land. We stayed in what seems to be typical accomodation in a 3 to 4 storey guesthouse which was basically furnished but comfortable, with aircon and heated water. Food was cooked by the guesthouse and was simple but quite delicious, especially the fresh vegetables and cured meats. There was nothing to do after nightfall and although there was wifi, it was very slow.
For the photographer, this area will be like a kid’s playground and the casual traveller is well advised to bring a camera that can take panoramas to cover the wide vistas. Starting early, one full day might be enough to cover the main areas but a casual two days to soak in the rural atmosphere would be ideal. There are signs the mainstream tourism industry is starting to make inroads here so the things will change but for now, it’s still wonderfully rustic.