Western Yunnan | Five places to explore outside Tengchong

Tengchong (腾冲) is a laid-back town in western Yunnan which is fast becoming an important destination for domestic travelers who come to soak in one the multiple hot-springs that dot the landscape of this ancient volcanic region and visit the famous town of Heshun (和顺) which is reinventing itself under the impulse of mass tourism.

In this post, I’m going to cover a few interesting locations outside of Tengchong, some of which I have already cover. The goal is to give a somehow comprehensive view of the different point of interests around town.

Rice terraces on the road to Burma, north of Tengchong in Yunnan.

Rice terraces on the road to Burma, north of Tengchong in Yunnan.

Yezhu Qing Bridge near Qingqiao village

If you catch a bus heading towards Jietou Xiang (界头乡) from Tengchong West Bus station, ask the driver to let you get off near the primary school of Qingqiao Cun (箐桥村) a few kilometers after the village of Qushi (曲石). Walk around the primary school into the village and follow the concrete path down until you see the paddy fields.

Depending on the season, the weather and the time you have, it’s worth going down towards the rice paddies and breathe in the lush green atmosphere that emanates from the fields and surrounding forests. Also, if you come in April or beginning of May, you will see farmers working hard under the sun to plant their rice.

Working the fields near the Yezhu Qing Bridge in Tengchong

Working the fields near the Yezhu Qing Bridge in Tengchong

After a walk in the middle of the fields, go back up. As you go, the concrete path becomes a muddy trails, and if you keep going you will stumble upon finally the Yezhu Qing Bridge (野猪箐桥). It’s a wooden bridge, protected at the township level, that arches over the river.

The bridge has an odd name, somehow… Yezhu (野猪) literally means ‘wild pig’ – I did not see any wild pigs, only a few quiet water buffaloes mindlessly staring at me – while qing (箐) means ‘to draw a bamboo bow’.

There is a small temple compound right next by the bridge. The gate might be closed when you get there, but if it’s not, you will probably find the temple care taker and some other villagers either burning incense or chatting over a cup of tea. Always friendly and curious about a bunch of foreigners seemingly lost in this part of the country, it’s a good time to practice or learn some local dialect.

The Yezhu Qing Bridge north of Tengchong

The Yezhu Qing Bridge north of Tengchong

If you feel adventurous, cross the bridge and turn left. A road stretches along the river and the paddy fields to a nearby village. On the same side as the temple, a rocky trail winds through the forest and leads to a sleepy village by the main road where you can catch a bus ride back to Tengchong.

Tengchong

Yinxing Village and its ginkgo trees

When fall comes in October, photographers flock to Yinxing village (江东银杏村) aka the Ginkgo tree village (that’s what Yinxing means), just 30-40 km north of Tengchong to capture the changing colors of the tree. According to locals, autumn is the busiest time of the year.

Buses unload an endless stream of tourists at the entrance of the village. Some carry a tripod, ready to immortalize the ginkgo trees turning yellow, others carry a simple selfie-stick and wander around the village, which, it seems, is built in the middle of the forest.

Tengchong Yingxiang

Dead leaves on the ground crack under the feet in the middle of the chatter and laughs of the travelers who strike a pose everywhere they can. There are quite a few ‘nongjiale‘ (农家乐), the local farmers’ courtyard house where stacks of corn dry under the sun and where one can have a home-cooked meal or a cup of tea.

From the West bus station in Tengchong, take a bus towards Gudong (固东) and get off at the intersection outside Yinxing village from where you can take a mini-bus for the last kilometers. Or you can bargain a ride with a taxi driver.

Tengchong, Yunnan

The old village of Yiluo

While most travelers flock directly to Heshun (和顺) dubbed the ‘Overseas Chinese Hometown’ (华侨之乡), the village of Yiluo (绮罗), which has a similar history as Heshun, sits almost lonely and forgotten in the southwest side of the Tengchong’ suburbs.

No entrance fee (so far) to wander in the streets of this ancient village, meet its locals whose eyes will open wide at the sight of a outsider. Yiluo is home to a century-old library, a large Wenchang Temple (文昌宫) which, hopefully, will be open to visitor one day, and a Buddhist temple which red color contrasts with the lush green forest of the hill it is sitting on.

If you made it that far into western Yunnan and plan on visiting Heshun, I strongly recommend you give Yiluo a short visit of a coupe of hours. Read my article about Yiluo (绮罗) to read the historical background of the village, places to see in the village and how to get there.

The Wenchang Temple of Yiluo

The Wenchang Temple of Yiluo

The ancient village of Heshun

Most travelers who head towards Tengchong come to visit Heshun (和顺). During the high season, Heshun is overwhelmed with domestic and international tourists. The number of guesthouses and local-style B&B in ancient courtyards which offer interesting alternatives to staying in Tengchong will undoubtedly rise like, I’m sure, the price of the entrance fee.

While the entrance fee (80 RMB last time I went in May 2015) might deter a few budget tourists, Heshun (和顺) remains a historically important ancient village of Yunnan and definitely worth a visit if you’ve come so far into western Yunnan.

Read my article about Heshun (和顺) – and feel free to comment – for more information about the historical background and how to get there.

Heshun, Yunnan

Lianghe, the gateway to Dehong prefecture

A short one-hour bus ride southwest of Tengchong into the autonomous prefecture of Dehong (德宏), you will find Lianghe (梁河). Home to ‘Dai Imperial Palace’ – the ancient headquarters of the local ruler, Lianghe, with its Burmese-styled stupa-pagoda in and around the town offer a welcome foretaste of Southeast Asia.

You can visit Lianghe either on a day-trip from Tengchong or it can be a stepping-stone to continuing your travels into the borderland prefecture of Dehong via Yingjiang, Ruili and back to Mangshi – an itinerary I have done in the past, but have not written about yet.

Read the article about Lianghe (梁河) for a historical background of the town, a list of different Buddhist temples, stupas and other sights to visit in town as well as information about how to get there.

The new Burmese-style pagoda outside Lianghe, Yunnan

The new Burmese-style pagoda outside Lianghe, Yunnan