Tag Archives: Red Earth

Rice Terraces

There aren’t many places in the world that present the traveler with such varied landscapes as southern Yunnan. From fields of rich red earth, to swaths of golden rapeseed, and glistening tiers of water-filled rice terraces etched into hillsides, it is a distinct experience to photograph these agricultural marvels for beginners and seasoned photographers alike.

Red Earth of Dongchuan

Yellow Rapeseed Field

The array of intense colours – red, brown, green, and white – at Dongchuan creates interesting patterns across the land that will challenge the photographer to construct an aesthetically balanced image. At Luoping, the vivid yellow flowers contrast sharply with the darker karst hills that intermingle with the fields. We will get amongst the rapeseed and explore working with depth of field and how to find and create order in a photographic environment where many different elements vie for attention. At Yuanyang, we will photograph the expansive rice terraces from a number of different locations, learning to isolate interesting sections and move beyond generic shots as well as observing the changing light conditions at sunset and dawn and their effects upon the landscape, as the sunlight creates fleeting and unrepeatable moments.

The trip, of course, wouldn’t be complete without fascinating roads to explore. The drive from Dongchuan is dramatic, climbing high along a fantastic valley with views to match, and the way out from Luoping follows meandering roads through bucolic countryside where you may be tempted to stop and soak it all in. By the time you roll back into Kunming, you will have experienced an incredible agricultural region with a complement of images to match, as well as new photographic capabilities that you will be able to take on your next journey, wherever that may be.


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I have been working for On the Road Experiences since 2013. I started as a host…

What does a “host” do? As a journey host I oversee the whole journey from greeting guests on the first day until we all say goodbye on the last. I am responsible the service we provide and for the experiences guests enjoy; our aim is to make each journey enjoyable for all parties involved.

Happy times during hosting!

Happy times during hosting!

My role has grown over the years, and now I enjoy researching new itineraries, enhancing our existing journeys, and meeting guests before they join a trip and developing the German market. Peter gives my colleagues and I the chance to grow – sometimes it seems that every day I find myself with a new project, which makes me busy and happy! 

On the way to Mount Everest Basecamp on our "Roof on a Top of the World" journey

On the way to Mount Everest Basecamp on our “Roof on a Top of the World” journey

Looking back at all the journeys I have hosted, I remember a lot of laughter and happiness, and my hard-drive is full of pictures of sunsets, beautiful landscapes and people. Two things that I can’t capture on film, though, are the hard work and long days that go into making each journey a success.

Explaining my job to friends isn’t easy, because it is not at all like being on holiday, and neither is it “just” being a tour guide. We have to work with the fact that on each journey there will be many unforeseen events along the way – hopefully these will be fun things, such as yaks on the road or coming across a colorful local festival, but they might include road closures or even landslides.

In March, for example, we got held up by market day in a small village on the way to Puzhehei, where all the roads were gridlocked with trucks both big and small. 

Making the best out of the traffic....

Making the best out of the traffic….,

Nobody could move until the stallholders began to clear up two to three hours later. Thinking of it now, the pictures it brings to my mind are of our guests sitting on the side of the road, relaxing – one smoking a cigar, and chatting with the market-goers.

Making new friends...

Making new friends…

Our drivers got stuck in, handling and coordinating the traffic while the policemen lolled about drunk on the pavement!  I love that our guests and my colleagues managed to make the most out the afternoon and still find something good in a situation that wasn’t so good. It was very hot that day. As I tried to get cold drinks to keep us all refreshed, I ended up going from shop to shop as I discovered that none of the fridges were working! Finally, in a tiny shop I found cold beverages and local snacks, which I took back for us all to share.

This kind of experience is a good reminder for everyday life – of course I had all sorts of worries going through my mind: “What if we’re stuck here forever? “How long will this traffic jam last?” “What are our customers thinking?” “Will it get dark before we arrive?” “Are there any short cuts we could use?”, and so on and on… And I wished that we might have had a smoother journey on that day, but the reality is that life doesn’t always go to plan, and sometimes you just have to make the best most out of whatever happens!

Curiously, almost without fail, it is the unforeseen events, well handled, that our guests remember the most after we return home. Sometimes it’s the bends in the road that are the most memorable and meaningful!

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Since our last update in December, Christmas and the Western and Chinese New Years have come and gone…

Looking back…

Burma Research with Mareen and Nancy

Burma Research with Mareen and Nancy


In January, Mareen and Nancy, accompanied by Htein Linn, a Burmese photographer, went to Burma for three-and-a-half weeks. This on-the-ground research, together with knowledge gathered over the years, formed the basis for our first Burma itinerary (about which more below).


Red Earth and Fields of Gold

Red Earth and Fields of Gold


In March, Mareen, Nancy, Ron, and Fiona hosted a group of guests, many of whom have previously joined quite a few of our journeys, on a new itinerary, Yunnan through a Lens: Red Earth and Fields of Gold.



Our Customer - Andrew and Glenis

Our Customer – Andrew and Glenis


One of the guests told us after the journey that: …we had a wonderful trip, passing thru the most beautiful scenery ever. Mareen, Nancy & Fiona served us really well with their heart, that we appreciate & Ron has been a most professional mentor, patiently coaching the least qualified photographer like us. Our driver Mr. Wu was such a cautious driver with excellent driving manners.

Looking forward…

Burma really is the next big thing for us. In the next few weeks, we are very pleased to be able to share more information about our first Burma journeys. For now though, we can tell you:

  • Burmese fishermen

    Burmese fishermen

    The first journeys will depart 9 November, 2016 (4 cars booked, 1 more car available) and 29 November, 2016 (available). January 2017 is fully booked and Feburary 2017 (available).

  • You can view our all-new Journey Dossier here.

  • For those of you in Hong Kong, we will organise a Burma talk-and-dinner event in May.


Join Us

Join Us


We’re hiring… We are looking for journey hosts. If you know anyone like Mareen, Nancy or Peifen, our wonderful journey hosts, please let them know that we are hiring and ask them to visit our “Join us” page.

Between May and September, we are offering journeys for photography lovers, for families with children and more. In case you’ve missed our announcements, please take a look at the schedule below:

Searching for SHANGRI-LA – April 8th & 29th and July 15th

  • Our most popular Yunnan journey…
  • Why go? Read our blog essay right here
  • In a nutshell
    • What?
      • In just a few days, see how beautiful China can be!
      • Discover where Shangri-La really might have been!
      • Stunningly beautiful boutique hotels, along back roads, far away from the crowds.
  • How long? 7 or 9 days
  • How much? Starting from CNY23,700/person
  • Click here for yet more info

PHOTOGRAPHY: Yunnan through a Lens:  Tea Horse Trails – June 3rd

  • For photography lovers…there’s nothing like working with Ron!
  • Read Ron’s recent short essay about travel photography in this region…
  • In a nutshell
    • Where? Hidden gems of Yunnan along the tea horse trail
    • What?
      • Capture moments with your camera like never before.
      • Work, hands-on, with Ron and learn his techniques for portraits, landscapes, architecture, low-light and many other situations.
  • How long? 6 or 9 days
  • How much? Starting from CNY29,600/person

FAMILY: Adventures in Yunnan  – July 4th and July 15th

  • An unforgettable adventure for the whole family!
  • In a nutshell
    • What?
      • Experiences, not things!
      • Haggling in the markets (in Pugonghua), gentle hiking, batik making, up-close-and-personal encounters with a Tibetan family…
      • Memories of a great time together!
  • How long? 8 or 10 days
  • How much? Starting from CNY78,000 (for a family of 4) less early-bird discount of 10% for those who book by March 31st!

FAMILY & PHOTOGRAPHY: Travel Photography with Ron Yue – June 24thand October 21st

  • Start the holidays with a Family Adventure with Master Photographer Ron Yue
  • Click here for more info and read Ron’s latest blog entry about photography…
  • In a nutshell
    • What?
      • Give your children the gift of photography…to see beauty everywhere!
      • See beauty where others don’t, learn to simplify life, re-learn the value of patience…
  • How long? 8 or 10 days
  • How much? Starting from CNY84,720 (for a family of 4) less early-bird discount of 10% for those who book by March 31st!

CROSSING BORDERS into Lao and Vietnam – May 13th  and September 16th

  • Travel through ancient Asian Border Lands
  • In a nutshell
    • What?
      • At the best times of the year…
      • … drive from Yunnan via northern Lao to Mai Chau in Vietnam.
      • Discover, along back roads, a region brimming with different minorities…
  • How long? 9 days
  • How much? Starting from CNY39,900  less early-bird discount of 10% for those who book by March 15th!
  • Alternative date September 16th : For a longer version “Summit to Sea: Yunnan to Vietnam”, please write to us for details.

On 16 April, On the Road will be a live-auction sponsor at the annual Gala Dinner of a Hong Kong-based charity called Kids4kids. Our sponsored prize is for a family of four to join our “Family Adventures – Travel Photography in Yunnan” journey. We have designed this journey to inspire an interest in travel photography – the art of seeing beauty everywhere – something that might become a lifelong passion for children, and an activity that parents and children can share. In this world of “insta-” everything, having a chance to explore a new environment as a family and learning a new skill together provides a particularly meaningful break from the frenetic pace of everyday life.

We are proud to be sponsoring several other charitable events in the months to come.

Happy Easter!

We wish you a Happy Easter!
We wish you a Happy Easter!

Over the Easter period, Angie and I will be in Europe. I’m selling it to her as a “holiday”. As she does every time, she will ask me “Do you call this a holiday?” Why? Because, during our trip we will be also researching a new itinerary that will run through the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy (Fruili and Alto Adige). Whether business or pleasure – fortunately the two often overlap, we can’t wait to go!

We wish you, too, Happy Easter and a Peaceful Qing Ming!



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The first trip I led with Ron Yue, our team’s professional photographer, covered familiar ground. I had completed the itinerary through southern Yunnan several times before, both for research and with groups of guests, so I knew what to expect. Except that I didn’t.

Red Earth Dongchuan

Red Earth Dongchuan

Over the course of our week-long trip I discovered that travelling with a photographer is quite different to travelling without one. The pace is a lot more leisurely, for one thing, with plenty more photo stops, both scheduled and impromptu. The conversation over dinner tends towards discussion of f-stops and exposure compensation, and you return home with distinctly better quality holiday snaps. But the most significant – and unexpected – difference was that I discovered a fresh new beauty in those familiar places, thanks to Ron and to my camera.

Following Ron’s example and with his coaching, our group of photographers became more and more observant of our surroundings as we travelled. I found myself stopping more, enjoying scenes and noticing details that would have passed me by before. An everyday market was suddenly filled with unexpected moments of loveliness – a child playing amongst piles of chilli peppers lying around her mother’s stall, or an elderly lady deftly binding piles of damp, field-fresh herbs into bundles ready for sale.

Luoping Rapeseed Fields

Luoping Rapeseed Fields

If photography can help us to appreciate somewhere as down-to-earth as a local market, the impact of a truly splendid sight is magnified many times for the photographer. On that first trip, we visited one of Yunnan’s many photogenic landscapes, the Yuanyang rice terraces. Patterns emerged where before there were none, light danced over the landscape in a newly entrancing way and fleeting moments captured on film (or in pixels) still give me pleasure now, five years later.

By opening our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us, and by providing a keepsake to remind us of treasured moments, photography is a wonderful complement to travel, whether we’re documenting a family holiday or a once-in-a-lifetime expedition, whether we’re in the wilds of Yunnan or in the middle of a city. But maybe we can also bring that awareness back home, to help us reconnect with the beauty of the everyday, from the reflection of a vivid sunset on an office building to the warm smile of a loved one.

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Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

While our original photography itinerary (The Exotic South) took in just one of Yunnan’s iconic landscapes, the province has many more in store – as Ron says “there is an incredible diversity of colours and landscapes in Yunnan – plenty to keep a photographer busy!” Now, we have introduced a new photography journey that features three of the most beautiful landscapes on a single itinerary, Red Earth and Fields of Gold.

From the vivid red earth of Dongchuan to the limestone karsts and blazing yellow rapeseed fields around Luoping (and one of our favourites, the Yuanyang rice fields) generations of local people have dramatically added their own imprint to landscapes across eastern Yunnan, creating patterns that fuse the manmade with nature and creating scenes found nowhere else.

Working with Ron

Working with Ron

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