Upper Yubeng Village beneath Bawu Bameng Peak 5,000 m (16,404')

Upper Yubeng Vil­lage beneath Bawu Bameng Peak 5,000 m (16,404′)

Introduction to Yubeng Village

Nes­tled in a farm­ing val­ley on the bor­der of Tibet, amongst lush green forests, sur­round­ed by rugged glac­i­er cov­ered moun­tains lie the 2 small vil­lages of Upper & Low­er Yubeng. There is a dirt road that goes to the vil­lage, how­ev­er, you must hike in (or take a mule for the less walk­ing inclined “hik­ers”). The val­ley is amaz­ing­ly beau­ti­ful with spec­tac­u­lar views of the moun­tains, alpine hikes to water­falls and glac­i­ers, but sad­ly can also be quite trashed on the trail. The towns have a rur­al farm­ing feel even if at least half the build­ing are guest­hous­es or restau­rants. It’s well worth the trip and in the approx­i­mate­ly 4 months I’ve been in Chi­na so far, this offered the best wilder­ness experience.

Sunrise over Meili Snow Montains Viewed from Feilaisi, China

Sun­rise over Meili Snow Moun­tains viewed from Feilaisi

 

Helpful things to know

Time required: 4–6 days

(from Shangri-La — Includes 2 trav­el days)

Entrance fee: 69 RMB

Yubeng Village Complete Itinerary:

Day 1: Bus from Shangri-La to Daqin, Con­tin­u­ing onto Feilaisi (5 hours). Stay in Feilaisi one night.
Day 2: Van to Xidang (~1 hour). Hike from Xidang to Feilaisi (5 hours — includ­ing over-priced lunch) Stayed in Upper Yubeng
Day 3: Hike from Upper Yubeng to Glacial Lake (5 hours hik­ing — round trip + 2 hours at the lake) Stayed in Upper Yubeng
Day 4: Hike to Sacred Water­fall (7 hours total — Which includ­ed a stop at the “med­i­ta­tion cave” and rest stops) Stayed in Upper Yubeng
Day 5: Hike from Upper Yubeng to Ninong (A bit over 5 hours — Includ­ed lunch and breaks) HIGHLY rec­om­mend­ed to hike out to Ninong and NOT back to Xidang! Shut­tle from Ninong to Feilaisi (1 hour)
Day 6: Ride from Feilaisi to Daqin. Bus to Shangri-La (5 hours)

Pro Tip: Bring snacks (and instant cof­fee) with you from Shangri-La or Feilaisi. The prices for snacks in Yubeng can be marked up as high as %1000! Although strange­ly the food at restau­rants while marked up isn’t out­ra­geous (about 30–40 RMB for meat dishes).

Cau­tion: DO NOT go to Yubeng from Oct 1–3. This is the start of the Chi­nese Nation­al Hol­i­day (Octo­ber 1–10) and as I’ve been told there are some 3,000 eager tourists descend­ing upon these two small vil­lages. Beds will fill up and peo­ple have been known to have to leave on mule back in the dark. If this is the only time you’ve got and real­ly want to go try to get to Yubeng as ear­ly in the day as pos­si­ble or bring a tent/sleeping bag.

Getting to Yubeng

From Shangri-La:
Take a bus to Deqin (58 RMB) approx­i­mate­ly 4 hours. Bus­es leave through­out the day. Your hostel/hotel can help you with the timeta­bles if you want to take the ear­li­est bus. To get to the bus sta­tion in Shangri-La (“Xianggelila Buster­mi­nal” on Maps.me) take bus # 1 head­ing North from Old Town.

When you arrive in Deqin the bus may con­tin­ue onto Feilaisi (anoth­er 15 min­utes) for 5 RMB. If not catch a mini­van or car. It shouldn’t cost more than 20 RMB.

Feilaisi

Tibetan styled Feilaisi a good place to stop on the way to Yubeng Village

Tibetan styled Feilaisi a good place to stop on the way to Yubeng Village

For the detailed guide on Feilaisi click here

I think Feilaisi is a wor­thy place to spend the night as there is a chance to see a spec­tac­u­lar sun­set and sun­rise over the Meili Snow Moun­tains. It’s some of the most beau­ti­ful light I’ve seen. Tru­ly, it’s a unique inter­play of gold­en or pink light in and out of the clouds and across the glaciat­ed peaks. The Chi­nese have a name for the first light at sun­rise “Ri Zhao Jin Shan” which means “The sun ris­es and shines up above the moun­tains like gold” (Thanks Jing for explain­ing this to me).

The town itself (when viewed from afar) is quite pic­turesque with all of the build­ings paint­ed in the same Tibetan style of white and Maroon. Although as far as I can see the town is most­ly guesthouses/hotels a few stores & bars and restaurants.

You can stock up on snacks for the hike at one of the small stores in town.

Lodging in Feilaisi

I freaked out a lit­tle as I couldn’t find many lodg­ing options on book­ing but there are a few hos­tels in the 30 RMB range. I stayed in Feel­ing Vil­lage Youth Hos­tel which is a 5‑minute walk down­hill from where the bus drops you off. You’ll see a sign in a dri­ve­way on your right.

Feel­ing Vil­lage Youth Hostel
30 RMB — Dorm Bed
0887–8416133

Decent place though the wall are super thin and the lev­el of hygiene in the bath­rooms have some­thing to be desired. On site restau­rant with good afford­able food. Tri­pad­vi­sor review

There is anoth­er hos­tel down a side road next to the Regal­la Resort and Spa near the bend in the road.

Feilaisi to Xidang

Xidang is where most peo­ple start the hike to Yubeng. It is also pos­si­ble to start the hike in Ninong (described at the end of the page in “Leav­ing Yubeng Vil­lage”) In Feilaisi there are usu­al­ly vans on the street in the morn­ing leav­ing to Xidang (a lit­tle over an hour dri­ve). Expect to pay 20–30 RMB if the van is full (pos­si­bly a lit­tle more if there aren’t many peo­ple). Or you can arrange a car/van with your hotel/hostel. There is a bus from Feilaisi to Xidang that leaves from the view­ing plat­form area between 8–8: 30 am if there are enough peo­ple who need to go to Xidang (I’m not sure what or how this is deter­mined). 20 RMB.

The van will stop at the entrance gate to the region where you will pay 69 RMB (64 + 5 for some kind of insur­ance). If you are under 25 and have a stu­dent ID you should be able to get a %50 dis­count. (I’ve heard of peo­ple using any kind of card with their pic­ture as a “Stu­dent ID” of course it can’t be in Chinese).

If you want to start the hike ear­ly and avoid Feilaisi I’ve read that it is pos­si­ble to stay in Xidang (Xidang Hot Springs) for 50 RMB. So if you arrive in Feilaisi ear­ly in the day and don’t care to see sun­set or sun­rise over the Meili Snow Moun­tains and want to check out the hot springs you can get a ride to Xidang, stay there and start your hike ear­ly the next morning.

Pro Tip: Leave your heavy lug­gage in Shangri-La or Feilaisi and bring the min­i­mal gear you’ll need for your stay in Yubeng.

Hiking to Yubeng Village from Xidang

Dis­tance: 18 Km (11 Miles)
Ele­va­tion Gain (Total): 1,100 m (3,600’)
Start Ele­va­tion: 2635 m (8,645 feet)
High­est Ele­va­tion: 3,729 m (12,234 feet)
Time: 4–7 hours

Upper Yubeng Village on the trail from Xidang

Upper Yubeng Vil­lage on the trail from Xidang

A Note on Altitude

The high­est point on the hike into Yubeng is the Nanzheng (Nan­zong) pass at 3,729 m (12,234 feet). So you will need at least a few days (more for some peo­ple) before this to accli­mate. If you are feel­ing the effects of alti­tude (headache, short­ness of breath, dizzi­ness or light-head­ed­ness, loss of appetite, nau­sea or vom­it­ing, rapid heart rate) take it slow with many breaks. Do not over-exert your­self even if you are extreme­ly fit. AMS (Acute Moun­tain Sick­ness) affects every­one dif­fer­ent­ly no mat­ter your fit­ness lev­el. If you have been in Lijiang, Shangri-La, and Feilaisi for 4–5 days already you may be accli­mat­ed but pay atten­tion and pace your­self. Small bot­tles of oxy­gen are avail­able for sale in Shangri-La, Feilaisi, and Yubeng. More infor­ma­tion on AMS.

The van will drop you off right at the trail­head with a bunch of Mules wait­ing for those “hik­ers” who have an aver­sion to hik­ing. The hike is on a dirt road the entire time through the for­est with mules, (when I went) trucks car­ry­ing peo­ple to fix/maintain the dirt road and pos­si­bly hik­ers who haven’t dis­cov­ered the seem­ing­ly lit­tle-known inven­tion of head­phones. There are 3 places to stop and eat on the hike as well as some view­ing plat­forms and bath­rooms. There is pret­ty much no way to get lost and there are big wood­en signs with maps in Eng­lish along the way.

The food on the hike in is extreme­ly over­priced (I ate at the Nanzheng Col and agreed to pay what I thought was “15 RMB” for a bowl of soup and a bowl of rice. To my utter shock and dis­be­lief (my jaw lit­er­al­ly dropped) it was 50 RMB!!! when I went to pay.  Need­less to say, had I known this before I hap­pi­ly ate the soup from the kitchen of fair­ly ques­tion­able clean­li­ness, I would’ve just wait­ed anoth­er 30–40 min­utes until I arrived in Yubeng Vil­lage, where the food is more expen­sive than nor­mal but not 50 RMB for soup! I should’ve asked for more!

It’s all uphill through the for­est with a few views of the gorge you see from Feilaisi, as well as views of Feilaisi perched high up on the oth­er side of the canyon. The real views are after you top out at the Nanzheng Col 3,729 m (12,234 feet) and begin descend­ing into the pic­turesque Yubeng Val­ley. Don’t miss a wood­en view­ing plat­form that gets you above the trees and (most­ly) above the ubiq­ui­tous tele­phone lines for great views of the vil­lage and valley.

There are lots of paths and roads going down criss­cross­ing each oth­er but they all seem to go to Upper Yubeng Vil­lage. You’ll pass a build­ing where they will check your tick­et as you descend into the val­ley. Some peo­ple get charged 5 RMB here (They didn’t ask me) but they will give you a tick­et and you can use it to get a dis­count of 5 RMB from your hostel.

Yubeng Valley

Lodging — Upper Yubeng

There are many lodg­ing options in Both Upper and Low­er Yubeng. If it’s not the begin­ning of Octo­ber (1–3) you should­n’t have any trou­ble find­ing a place. No need to book in advance. If there aren’t many peo­ple there it’s a buy­ers mar­ket, so try to bar­gain your rate down or get a pri­vate room for cheap! I stayed at MeDo Inter­na­tion­al Youth Hostel.

MeDo Inter­na­tion­al Youth Hostel
18008877518
Dorm Bed 40 RMB

Has some nice swing seats inside and out­side with amaz­ing views of the val­ley! Nice hot show­ers! On my third night, I had the 4‑bed dorm to myself.

WiFi:
It may not have been the case in the past but wi-fi worked well at my hos­tel (unless it’s the evening and lots of peo­ple are using it) and at the restau­rants I vis­it­ed. I even got basic inter­net on my phone (Chi­na Mobile) hik­ing to the lake and sacred water­fall at var­i­ous points.

Lodging — Lower Yubeng

I did­n’t stay in low­er Yubeng but I passed more than a few guest­hous­es when walk­ing through.

Upper Yubeng Village vs. Lower Yubeng Village

Lower Yubeng Village

Low­er Yubeng Village

Walk­ing from Xidang you will arrive first in Upper Yubeng Vil­lage. It has bet­ter views of the snowy moun­tains, more options of guest­hous­es and more peo­ple. Low­er Yubeng might be lit­tle qui­eter with a bit more of a farm vil­lage feel. It also has 2 small Bud­dhist monas­ter­ies. If you are hik­ing to the glacial lake Upper Yubeng is clos­er (prob­a­bly saves you 1.5 hours of hik­ing) Low­er Yubeng being clos­er to the sacred water­fall hike. I stayed in Upper Yubeng for three nights and loved it. Know­ing what I know now I might’ve opt­ed to stay my last night in Low­er Yubeng as it saves time on the water­fall hike and is clos­er if you are exit­ing via Ninong (HIGHLY recommended).

If you decide to hike in from Ninong you’ll arrive at Low­er Yubeng Vil­lage first.

Pigs roam freely in Upper Yubeng Village

Pigs roam freely in Upper Yubeng Village

Hikes in the Yubeng Valley

Glacial Lake and Base Camp:

Dis­tance: 11.6 km (7.2 miles)
Ele­va­tion Gain: 793 m (2,600′)
Start Ele­va­tion: 3,228 m (10,590′)
High­est Ele­va­tion: 3,900 m (12,800′)
Time: 5–8 hours
(Start­ing from Upper Yubeng Village)

Glacial Lake above Yubeng - 3,900 m (12,800')

Glacial Lake above Yubeng — 3,900 m (12,800′)

A beau­ti­ful emer­ald-green glacial lake with many water­falls cas­cad­ing down from the glaciat­ed peaks above.

Hik­ing Map for Glacial Lake Hike

In Upper Yubeng Vil­lage fol­low the main path head­ing West out-of-town, pass­ing the white stu­pa on your left. The trail is well-marked with wood­en signs and maps show­ing you where you are and which direc­tion to go. The path winds through the for­est before cross­ing the first bridge over the riv­er and climb­ing steeply uphill through the trees (trails can be quite mud­dy). The uphill is con­tin­u­ous until you top out at the Xiaonong Col at 3,623 m (11,886′) where you will be reward­ed with beau­ti­ful views of the val­ley ahead… and trash.

View from Xiaonong Col on the way to the Glacial Lake

View from Xiaonong Col on the way to the Glacial Lake

Con­tin­ue down the view­ing plat­form cross­ing the riv­er again, short­ly after arriv­ing at Xianong Pas­ture and Base Camp. You can get some­thing to eat here. It’s anoth­er 1.5 km uphill to the lake.

Glacial Lake Selfie

Glacial Lake Selfie

Pass­ing lit­ter on the trail up to the lake past a holy rock cov­ered with mon­ey it cul­mi­nates at a beau­ti­ful view­ing spot (cov­ered in trash) over­look­ing the pris­tine lake and fresh glacial melt flow­ing down in a myr­i­ad of water­falls. If you have time walk over to the water­falls and pon­der the fact that this water will go on to form the bor­ders of Myan­mar, Laos, Thai­land, Cam­bo­dia and Viet­nam flow­ing to the mighty Mekong, the world’s 12th longest river.

Shenpu 雨崩神瀑 (Yubeng Sacred Waterfall):

Dis­tance: 12.8 (8 miles)
Ele­va­tion Gain: 775 m (2,540′)
Start Ele­va­tion: 3,228
High­est Ele­va­tion: 3,657 m (12,000′)
Time: 5–7 hours
(Start­ing from Upper Yubeng Village)

A pleas­ant hike through a beau­ti­ful for­est lined with prayer flags, into a high alpine val­ley sur­round­ed by glaciat­ed peaks to a mist of a water­fall (when I vis­it­ed) with trash strewn about (holy trash?).

Hik­ing Map for Sacred Water­fall Hike

It’s eas­i­er than the hike to the glac­i­er lake” Every­one seems to repeat. Well, hik­ing from Upper Yubeng you must hike back up the 173 meters (567 feet)  from Low­er Yubeng at the end of the day, mak­ing it a some­what sim­i­lar hike in terms of effort. How­ev­er, if you are stay­ing in Low­er Yubeng you’ll avoid these last 567 morale killing feet at the end of the day.

From Upper Yubeng head down­hill fol­low­ing the signs to “Yubeng Low­er Vil­lage” and “Yubeng Sacred Water­fall” cross­ing the “Cold-hell Bridge” with the atten­dant sign explain­ing why it’s named as such. Walk­ing through Low­er Yubeng you’ll pass the Sidh Ribeng Monastery in the mid­dle of town and a white stu­pa (on your left) and the larg­er though seem­ing­ly unused Quinu Bengding Monastery as you exit town.

This next sec­tion of the hike through the for­est with a riv­er to your left is quite peace­ful and beau­ti­ful with moss-cov­ered rocks and trees, prayer flags blow­ing in the wind.

Before long the path starts to ascend though it’s a beau­ti­ful for­est and the trail seems to be on a bet­ter gra­di­ent (not as steep uphill) com­pared to the hike to glac­i­er lake. Signs mark the var­i­ous holy sites along the way.

The upper val­ley would have beau­ti­ful views of the peaks sur­round­ing you but today they’re in the clouds.

You’ll pass some small build­ings where you can eat and prob­a­bly sleep and use the restroom. Fur­ther along the trail there is a sign for a “Med­i­ta­tion Cave. If you want to vis­it the cave don’t turn right at this first sign as the trail is slip­pery and steep. A lit­tle fur­ther along there’s anoth­er sign where you’ll turn right, fol­low­ing a side trail to the “med­i­ta­tion cave”. (Or you could vis­it on the way down from the falls).

From here it’s a steep sec­tion up to the falls, pass­ing a large rock with an inter­est­ing sign telling of an ancient inscrip­tion (I could­n’t find it) and a wall of mon­ey, oppo­site a bunch of clothes hung on some branch­es. Fur­ther along the trail is anoth­er holy site cov­ered with trash where a sign tells you to “keep quiet”.

It’s com­mon to see peo­ple bathing in the water­fall, and per­haps if there was a lit­tle more water and was­n’t get­ting dark I might’ve as well.

After hik­ing in these extreme­ly beau­ti­ful wilder­ness areas and see­ing so much trash I would urge you take all of your trash out with you. I know if you’re read­ing this you are prob­a­bly one of the respon­si­ble ones but even using the trash bins on the trail seems to not be work­able as so many times they are overflowing.

Leaving Yubeng Village

You have two options. Hik­ing out via Ninong which is a far bet­ter hike along a gorge, through the trees with few­er horses/mules, no trucks and some beau­ti­ful scenery. Or you can hike back out to Xidang on the same dirt road you hiked in on. You should note that it is also pos­si­ble to hike in via Ninong though it is longer with over 2,000′ more of ele­va­tion gain com­pared to hik­ing in from Xidang but would make for a qui­eter more beau­ti­ful hike.

Hiking out via Ninong

4–6 hours, most­ly all downhill.

Views down the gorge from Yubeng to Ninong

Views down the gorge from Yubeng to Ninong

The trail out via Ninong is much more pleas­ant as it’s a nar­row­er trail (not a dirt road), fol­lows the riv­er pass­ing a beau­ti­ful water­fall com­ing in from a side gorge, is most­ly all grad­ual down­hill and ends with a hike along a gorge rem­i­nis­cent of Tiger Leap­ing Gorge (on a much small­er scale). (The trail is marked on the Maps.me app, as are the oth­er trails in the area, just ensure you down­load the map before­hand as cell ser­vice is quite unre­li­able in and around Yubeng.)

From Low­er Yubeng turn left at the large white stu­pa, cross the river/stream and con­tin­ue down the trail par­al­lel­ing the river.

From Upper Yubeng you can either walk down to Low­er Yubeng turn­ing left at the stu­pa as described above or fol­low the trail leav­ing Upper Yubeng and stay­ing on the East bank of the riv­er for the first por­tion of the hike before join­ing the main trail when it cross­es the riv­er to the West side.

The trail mean­ders down­hill along the riv­er for some time (pass­ing two places to eat the first of which has a water pipe down to a hydro­elec­tric gen­er­a­tor — fun fact). Short­ly after pass­ing the sec­ond and last place to eat the trail cross­es the river.

After cross­ing the riv­er the trail fol­lows a nar­row gorge with a 200–300 foot drop-off on your right. The trail is wide enough how­ev­er and I did­n’t feel in dan­ger of falling even when mules and then two motor­cy­cles passed check­ing on the water trough deliv­er­ing (drink­ing?) water to Ninong.

Soon you’ll be look­ing down on the mud­dy Mekong riv­er far below you. It’s a short walk to Ninong, the small town in front of you. A small trail leaves the main trail descend­ing to a park­ing lot where vans wait to col­lect hik­ers return­ing to Daqing or Shangri-La

Eating on the hike out

There are 2 places to eat along the way. I stopped at the sec­ond near the end over­look­ing the gorge, just before the trail winds around the moun­tain to Ninong. It was rea­son­ably priced food (30 RMB for toma­toes with eggs and a bowl of rice) with a store and a very friend­ly man serv­ing food. I believe you can sleep here as well.

Back to Civilization — Feilaisi to Shangri-La

A van from Ninong back to Daqing usu­al­ly costs 150 RMB (for the entire van) and takes about an hour. Dur­ing the Chi­nese Nation­al Hol­i­day, this price goes up to 210 RMB. Bus­es leave from Daqing to Feilaisi through­out the day until around 2:40 pm — 5 RMB. If you miss it you can take a car for 10–20 RMB (about 15 minutes)

Ninong viewed from the trail

Ninong viewed from the trail

There are also vans going back to Shangri-La. 100 RMB per per­son if the van is full. If you’re plan­ning on return­ing to Shangri-La after your hike you might con­sid­er leav­ing your extra lug­gage there instead of Feilaisi so you can get a van direct­ly back to Shangri-La from Ninong instead of return­ing to Feilaisi, which will save time and money.

Vans waiting in Ninong

Vans wait­ing in Ninong

Maps of Yubeng:

Legend of Yubeng Village

Leg­end goes that in the old times, Yubeng Vil­lage was unknown to the out­side world. One day, an old man was found try­ing to bor­row high­land bar­ley from Xidang Vil­lage near Lan­cang Riv­er. No one knew where he came from, so some peo­ple fig­ured out an idea and traced him but in vain because on the way the old man dis­ap­peared. Lat­er on, when he came back for more food again, Xidang vil­lagers object­ed and told him: “we aren’t going to lend you bar­ley or wheat, but just some mil­let”. When they loaded the food for the old man, some smart guys made small holes on the bags. After he start­ed his jour­ney back home, he was again; but he didn’t real­ize the holes on the bags had spilled the mil­lets along the way. When he arrived at a huge rock, again he dis­ap­peared. So the sur­prised and unin­formed vil­lagers pried up the rock and Yubeng Vil­lage was discovered.”

Yubeng Village Tour

If you would rather do this trip as a guid­ed tour to Yubeng and not have to wor­ry about any of the plan­ning or trans­porta­tion you can book it here. It is a 5‑day tour and rough­ly fol­lows my out­line above.

Additional Links

Wik­i­trav­el: Some addi­tion­al lodg­ing info.

Guide to Feilaisi

More pho­tos of Yubeng

For those that are new to vis­it­ing Chi­na, check out my Ten tips includ­ing must-have apps for vis­it­ing China!

Ten Tips for the First Time Trav­el­er to China