At present there are only two buses per day serving this area, both of which are 5-6 hour journeys over bumpy, unpaved roads. Travelling by private car cuts that time down to just 3 or 4 hours, leaving much more time to explore this lesser known part of the Himalayan foothills. Although large steel platforms and boardwalks have recently been constructed for visiting photographers, there are still no buses connecting these locations and therefore, a car is essential if you want to avoid long hikes between viewing points.
There are at least 30 hotels and guesthouses in the area but most are very simple, often with shared bathrooms and squat toilets. We recommend that our guests stay at the Shanju Hotel, the best accommodation in the area. Do not expect many of the locals to speak English. This is a minority area, and many of them even struggle with Mandarin. Even so, they are friendly, outgoing and usually quite willing to have their pictures taken.
In the first three months of the year, many of the fields will be filled with water, while others with be displaying the first shoots of early growth. There might even be some snow which makes for a stunning contrast against the bright oxide reds. By the time spring arrives in April and May, early flowering potatoes and tobacco will add subtle hints of colour to the landscape, followed with yellow splashes of rapeseed. By the end of May, the early wheat begins to ripen, created an intoxicating blend of greens and golden yellows, bringing to mind Van Gogh’s most iconic impressionist landscapes. By June, almost everything is in full bloom, and the clear blue skies creates a captivating quilt of vibrant colours.
Once August arrives, the variety of white rapeseed begins to blossom, providing a stark contrast to the ploughed red earth. In September the fields are cut into a colorful patch work of golden buckwheat, white winter rape flower and green potato seedlings. Throughout the harvest season, large expanses of highland barley and wheat continue to ripen under the autumn sunshine. In late October/November, the savviest professional photographers begin arriving, as it is at this time when the freshly exposed soils of the recently ploughed fallow fields stand out most vividly from the last of the annual crops. Combined with the green shoots of winter wheat and late soy crop, this is perhaps the broadest spectrum of the whole year. Add to this the golden leaves along the roads and in the villages, and your friends at home will all accuse you of photoshopping every picture you show them. Not only does the scenery change throughout the year but the landscape itself is constantly altered as thick clouds roll by, bathing the fields in sunlight and shadow. Almost every minute here is a brand-new picture.
If you wish to travel even further into this off-the-beaten-track area, Jiaozi Snow Mountain is only another two hours away, where the slopes are covered with snow from October to mid-April.