In the eastern part of Yunnan province near the border with Guizhou lies a small little town called Luoping (罗平). It has been made famous by its rapeseed flowers that bloom every year and cover the landscape in a sea of yellow. Having heard a lot about Luoping from friends and students, we took a short overnight trip there to check it out. There are a few other things to do aside from looking at flowers, such as visiting a waterfall or a scenic park on the river. Here’s a little Gypsie Guide for those of you interested in adding Luoping to your Yunnan itinerary:
During the peak season when the flowers are in full bloom (February and March), there are buses leaving almost hourly from Kunming East bus station (昆明东部客运站). It’s also possible to take a train. From Kunming it’s only a 4-hour journey, and there are several trains every day. We Gypsies almost always recommended taking a train because it will never be slowed down by traffic. We opted for the hard seats for the cheaper price (about $12 round-trip per person). It should be noted that there was some epic Chinglish on display at the Luoping station:
As this was just a short trip for us and we were arriving and leaving by train, we stayed at a standard Chinese hotel near the train station. There are plenty of other places to stay in the town or near some of the attractions. If you have more than one day we suggest seeking out those places as the area around the train station is mostly construction sites and it’s very dusty. Our Chinese friend helped us book a place, as there are very limited options on English language websites. If visiting during peak flower time, you can expect rooms to be a bit hard to come by and more expensive than at other times.
You can see the flowers literally everywhere around Luoping, but there are three view points that come highly recommended: Hundred Thousand Hills (Shiwandashan, 十万大山), Golden Rooster Hills (Jinji Lin, 金鸡岭） and Snail Farms (Luositian, 螺蛳田 at Niujie 牛街). Unfortunately, we went a little late for the flowers. Most websites tell you that you can see the flowers until June. That is most certainly not true. It depends on the temperature; the warmer it is the faster they go away and the longer the winter temperatures stick around the longer the flowers stay. This year it got warm pretty early so there weren’t many flowers left when we were there in the second week of March.
We went to the Snail Farms because our driver thought it would have the most flowers left. Not 10 minutes into our drive, and his old hunk of junk car broke down on the side of the road. Thankfully, we were stranded in an area that still had quite a few flowers in bloom. Eventually homeboy’s brother came, they pushed the troubled car to the side, and we got in little bro’s ride instead.
Once the vehicle switch had been made, we finally got to the Snail Farms viewpoint. Although it was mostly green, the view was totally worth it. Despite the repeated claims of our driver that the landscape is “terrible” and “ugly” without the flowers, we quite enjoyed it. Plus, it was nice to not have to fight crowds of camera wielding tourists that descend upon the town when the flowers are at their peak.
The Nine Dragon Waterfall (Jiulong Pubu, 九龙瀑布)
This is a natural area about a 30-45 minute bus ride from Luoping. Supposedly, the collection of waterfalls along the river resembles nine dragons from above, hence the name. It is described as one of the biggest and most beautiful waterfalls in China. The entrance ticket is a bit steep (90 RMB) but worth it in our opinion. The area is quite large and you can easily spend half the day there taking in the scenery. There are plenty of places to rest along with the usual Chinese scenic area assortment of snack vendors and makeshift photo studios. Just see for yourself:
Go to the bus station near the train station, pass right by the ticket windows and head straight for the buses (you pay the driver directly once on the bus). There aren’t many foreigners traveling through Luoping so they will likely know where you want to go and point you in the right direction. If not, just show them the characters above.
Duoyi River Park (多依河), Yi Minority Villages and Market
Unfortunately we didn’t make it here on our trip because of our short time, but it is an option if you’ve got an extra day or are super motivated. Most websites say that it is a scenic spot catered towards Chinese tourists (which usually means it’s best avoided), but it is possible to walk along the river outside of the park and visit some Yi minority villages. They have a weekly market plus there are some small guest houses in the villages.
For people like us living in Yunnan’s capital of Kunming, places like Luoping remind us why we live here. Sure the city isn’t really anything special, but it’s pretty awesome that beautiful scenic spots like this are just a few-hour train ride away. If you’re just backpacking in Yunnan, we’d still consider making Luoping a stop, especially if you’re coming from or going to Guizhou.