Nujiang Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nujiang Prefecture contains Lushui (Liuku), Fugong, and Gongshan Counties (from south to north) all along the border shared by Myanmar and China. The rich biodiversity and little known ethnic groups make this spot a perfect place for those seeking adventure. It is not wise to travel to Nujiang Prefecture if you are nervous about driving on poor, twisty, and often dirt mountain roads. This area is also best if you or someone you are traveling with can speak Chinese. There are very few people in these areas who will know English.

Getting there

There are no airports or trains that allow you to get to Nujiang Prefecture. This is strictly a bus trip -- and typically it requires a very long night bus ride on bumpy roads (more than 12 hours from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, depending on where you are going). The roads are perpetually under construction due to frequent landslides. Before entering Lushui County, the bus stops at a military checkpoint and the IDs of all Chinese nationals must be checked. For foreigners visiting, you must exit the bus and help the military person fill out information about your passport, visa, and travel plans. This stop is always in the middle of the night and it can be disorienting and frightening to be woken up by people in full military gear. Don't worry, this is completely normal and the military people are very nice.

The night bus.



Unfortunately, the Chinese government is planning a series of dams along the Nujiang (Salween River) that cuts through Nujiang Prefecture. This will cause serious damage to the ecosystem and ethnic groups in the area. For more information see this link. On a more minor note, this may also cause issues for tourists trying to travel to the region.

Lushui County

If you are traveling to Lushui County, you will most likely stay in Liuku. Liuku is the largest nearby city and is the easiest city of the three counties to get to. You can get there by night bus form Kunming or Dali. There are several small hotels near the bus station and a handful of restaurants and shops. I quite like Liuku and had a few daydreams about moving here.

Fugong County

If visiting Fugong County, you will stay in Fugong City (pictured below). This is a small city with a few hotels. This city is mostly inhabited by people of the Lisu and Nu ethnic minorities. Try some of the local delicacies pictures below. Fugong City has a great park that often has dancing or singing or games in the evenings. In a few stores in Fugong, you can find traditional Lisu outfits, which are great to pick up as souvenirs. Fugong City has many nearby villages, which are fun to walk to and provide a fun outdoor hike and activity. You can get to Fugong by taking a night bus from Kunming (usually leaving at 5 or 6 pm and arriving in Fugong around 8 or 9 am) or taking a bus from Liuku. The night bus ride from Kunming to Fugong is about 15 hours long.

Fugong City

Down the river from Fugong City

A bridge crossing the Nujiang and connecting two sides of Fugong City

The Nujiang at Fugong City

A tributary of the Nujiang

Fresh bamboo shoots- a specialty in this area. Great grilled over an open fire and dipped in salt.

The weekly vegetable and fruit market in Fugong City. Note the fresh picked ferns in the foreground-another local specialty.

The Lisu ethnic minority version of yak butter tea. Very different tasting than the Tibetan version.

Special chicken soup Lisu style.

Fugong Stone Moon- a popular (but for me underwhelming) tourist destination

Gongshan County

Gongshan County is the furthest north of the three counties. Large night buses cannot travel on the roads to Gongshan County, so to get here it is best to take a night bus to Fugong then a large minivan (mianbao che) to Gongshan City. From Gongshan City you can get to the Dulong River Valley or Bingzhongluo (a popular tourist destination and great place to bike to the Tibet border). It can be a bit hard for foreigners to travel to the Dulong River Valley, but Bingzhongluo is a good alternative. Bingzhongluo is great for hiking and biking and does have a few small guesthouses and one or two restaurants if you are staying overnight. Keep in mind that you'll need to pay a fee to enter Bingzhongluo as it is a protected area.

Christianity was brought to Lushui County by the French many years ago.

Excellent signs in one of the hotels.

High Elevation snow near Yakou Mountain entering the Dulong River Valley region in Gongshan County.

A village in the Dulong River Valley region of Gongshan County.

Have you been to Nujiang Prefecture? Anything else to add?

Dali, Yunnan Province, China

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dali is a Bai ethnic group town. Dali is my least favorite of the places I’ve traveled to in Yunnan, yet most people prefer it to the other touristy cities. The Three Pagoda's Park is really worth a visit as is Cangshan, but I always preferred having shorter fieldwork trips to Dali and longer stays in Lijiang, Shangri-La, and elsewhere in NW Yunnan.


Hiking to the Cangshan tourist park is an easy but great hike; however, taking the cable cars can be expensive and unfulfilling. You can hike up Cangshan, then walk the walkway to the other side of Cangshan's tourist park (a paved path), and take the cable car down.

If you’re up for an adventure head over to the Yangbi (known for their walnuts) side of Cangshan and hike to Huadianba. I’d suggest packing a tent and warm clothes. For a memorable experience, try to stay in one of the lodges on the Yangbi side of Cangshan, where you can eat delicious food, watch meal preparation (e.g. making tofu), and spend the evenings dancing around the fire and singing local Yi and Bai songs. 

Entrance to the pagoda park is a bit pricey; however, the park is one of the most stunning man-made sites I’ve seen (see the photos).

Renting a bike and peddling around Er Hai (the lake near Old Town) is a beautiful trip for a sunny day.

Local Munchies

There is a restaurant on Renmin Road in Old Town that has the most delicious Inner Mongolian food. In several restaurants in the old town, you'll also be able to learn a bit about the Bai's "flower eating culture" by enjoying some local dishes.

Expat Hangouts

Bakery 88 is a perfect place to catch up on emails and eat some German baked goodies. I'd love to re-create their upstairs area in my someday home.


The Jade Emu Hostel located right outside of Old Town and near Cangshan. It has alright prices and a friendly staff.

Tips: New Town (where the buses and trains from Kunming arrive) is very far from Old Town, so you may consider taking a taxi to the old town.

Have you been to Dali before? What did you think?

A walking path on Cangshan

Old Town

Three pagodas park

Three pagodas park
Three pagodas park

Three pagodas park
Old Town