Puzhehei, visiting the karst landscape of Yunnan

Between mountains, rivers, lakes and villages

After two and a half years living in Yunnan, when I thought I had already visited all the points of interest in the province and I couldn’t see anything more beautiful, just then, I discovered Puzhehei. Puzhehei means “Lake full of fish and lobsters” and is the name given to the area which covers a total of 85 square km of mountains, lakes, rivers, caves and waterfalls.

This name is given by the ethnic minority Yi (彝族), which is the majority in the area, although you can also find villages of different ethnic groups such as Zhuang (壮族), Miao 苗族) and Bai (白族). As I mentioned earlier in the blog, if Yunnan is characterized by anything, it is its multicultural ethnicity.

Trip to Yunnan - Puzhehei boat trip
Trip to Yunnan – Puzhehei boat trip

How to go to Puzhehei?

Puzhehei it’s not as touristy as Lijiang, Shangrila or the rice fields of Yunnan because of its remoteness from everything. It is located in the Whenshan Prefecture in southeastern Yunnan.

From Kunming to Puzhehei you have to take a 5 hour bus to Qiubei (丘北) en Kunming East Station (昆明). Then change to another half-hour bus that will take you to Puzhehei (普者黑). In my case, when I arrived in Qiubei it was after six o’clock in the afternoon, it was about to get dark and there were no more buses to Puzhehei. A few taxi drivers outside the station offered to take me for 80 Rmb (10 euros).

In China, almost everything is negotiated, and the better you negotiate, the more they respect you. In the end, many times I only end up negotiating for pride and to practice Chinese. So, stubborn of me, as they didn’t want to negotiate the price, I decided to try my luck hitchhiking. I got in the middle of the main road and after 5 minutes I was picked up by a very nice woman who was with her son. They weren’t going to Puzhehei, they were going nearby, but they didn’t mind taking me and doing a few more kilometers.

Where to stay?

Once inside the Puzheihei area, I was dropped off at the Immortal Cave Village, which is where everyone usually stays. Upon arrival, a friend who had been there for a day was at the entrance of the village waiting for me. We stayed in a very familiar hotel, in a joint room for 5 euros each with two beds. If you want something of more cache, you can stay at the Puzhehei Yeniu Buluo Inn for about 35 euros a night for a private double room.

Travel to Yunnan - Puzhehei Viewpoint
Travel to Yunnan – Puzhehei Viewpoint

What to see and what to do in Puzhehei?

The next day we rented a pair of bicycles and, accompanied by a Vietnamese hat to cover us from the sun, we went on a tour of the surroundings. We spent most of the day pedaling among mountains, lakes, rivers, bridges, towns and villages; enjoying that calm and quiet atmosphere that nature always offers you and everybody needs from time to time.

Just before sunset, we went up to a viewpoint to enjoy the sunset. On one side of the vantage point was the village from which we came, a more distant village and a lake that flooded part of the meadow, while the mountains were lost in the horizon.

On the other side of the viewpoint, the green mountains, now closer than before, reached as far as you could see. They were surrounded by water and green meadows, and the sun was shyly hiding among them. It was difficult to choose which side of the viewpoint was more impressive as both were simply amazing.

Trip to Yunnan - Puzhehei
Trip to Yunnan – Puzhehei

Puzhehei’s Viewpoint

I had seen the sunset on one side of the viewpoint, and now I had to see the sunrise on the other. So, next day, at 5 a.m. I ran to the viewpoint, which was about 40 minutes away. I climbed the mountain as fast as I could so as not to miss the sunrise and to burn the alcohol from the night before. Once on the top, I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen in my life. The mountains, the clouds, the lake and the sun had agreed to say good morning to me.

When I returned to the hotel my friend was packing. Just as their vacation started a day earlier, so they ended a day earlier. We said goodbye and I packed too. I preferred to stay in another village to see more things.

Yunnan - Puzhehei Viewpoint
Yunnan – Puzhehei Viewpoint

Visiting the surroundings of Puzhehei

While I was having breakfast accompanied by my inseparable backpack, a Chinese family stood beside me. He was a dentist, two of his employees, his wife and his young son. It was a rather peculiar group.

We started talking and they asked me where I was going. I told them I was going to see a lake that I had heard was fine. It was called Hongqi Reservoir (红旗水库). Then I would look for a village to stay one more night, and then the next day I would go back to Kunming. That was the plan.

They told me that they were thinking of going back to Kunming right now, but that they had time and that they thought the lake was a very good idea. They invited me to go with them so just after breakfast we left. I was already a co-driver in the car while his wife, his son and his two employees squeezed into the back.

Once we found the lake, we took a boat ride for no more than 6 euros. We were the only tourists that day so we were able to navigate an hour in complete silence through those calm waters and full of floating islets.

Yunnan - Visiting the surroundings of Puzhehei - Hongqi Reservoir
Yunnan – Visiting the surroundings of Puzhehei
Yunnan - Making new Friends
Yunnan – Making new Friends

Return from Puzhehei to Kunming

When they finished, they invited me to lunch and offered to drive back to Kunming with them. I was very happy with what I had seen and surely there was nothing better to see so I accepted their invitation.

We arrived in Kunming at night. The trip was comfortable, but a bit heavy. At that time my Chinese was not so good and I had to spend 5 hours where they harassed me with questions. Still, I can’t complain. They were always very polite, friendly and respectful. I practiced a lot of Chinese, they wouldn’t let me sit in the back at any time and they wouldn’t let me pay them anything for the trip either.

Already on the sofa of my house I thanked the destination or providence for having crossed with them. I had enjoyed Chinese hospitality and had visited another area of Yunnan that had been pending for some time. I could cross it off the list. One less thing to do.

If you found the article useful or interesting, don’t forget to comment on it. If you want to visit China or Yunnan, you can have a look at our route of 11 day trip around Yunnan and or the 14 day route around Yunnan, both with guide and car driver. Before go, check also our list of tips for traveling in China.

Things end, but memories last forever.

Kumar Milan
Yunnan - Puzhehei by bike
Yunnan – Puzhehei by bike


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