Yubeng is a Village in Northwestern Yunnan. The village is known for the beautiful valley it lies in and beautiful day treks which depart from it.
Yubeng Village is situated at the foot of the Meili Snow Mountain Range. The village has 2 halves, Upper and Lower Yubeng, separated by a gorge; it takes about 20 minutes to walk from one to the other. From Upper Yubeng, trekkers have access to the Base Camp, and Ice Lake hikes (8 hours round trip). From Lower Yubeng, you can find the paths to the Sacred Waterfall (6 hours), and if you are a hardcore hiker, Holy Lake, which from a higher vantage point, has an unobstructed view of the Kawa Karpo Peak (6,740 meters), and most of the rest of the mountain range.
Legend has it that for centuries Yubeng Village was unknown to the outside world. One day, an old man arrived in Xidang Village near Lancang River (the Mekong River) and tried to buy highland barley from the villagers there. No one knew where he came from, so some of the villagers followed him when he left, but on the way over the mountain the old man disappeared.
Later, the old man came back to Xidang to buy food again. The villagers objected and told him “we aren’t going to sell you barley or wheat, but just some millet.” When they loaded the food for the old man, one of the villagers made small holes on the bags. After he started his journey back home, the old man was followed again. He didn’t realize that the holes in the bags had spilled the millet along the way. However, when he reached a huge rock, he disappeared. So the villagers pried up the rock and Yubeng Village was discovered.
You will need to start your trip from either Deqin or Fei Lai Si. There are 4 buses available between Shangri-la and Deqin (¥40-¥65), departing from morning to 2.30 pm. Buy your ticket the day before if possible from the North Bus Station. The bus ride takes 3-6 hours, depending on the conditions of the road, and if the new tunnel is functioning. Fei Lai Si is a short drive away from Deqin (approximately 20 minutes), and you can easily get a Didi or a taxi, and sometimes the bus to Deqin will continue to Fei Lai Si for an extra ¥5.
The next step is to get to Xidang. There is a public bus from Deqin to Xidang every day at 3.00 pm, costing ¥30.
From Fei Lai Si, starting at about 7.45 am, minivans will be available on the road outside the Meili Shan scenic spot to take you there. The minivans will charge ¥140-150 per vehicle, so it's best to look for a van that's almost full, to avoid paying a higher price. You can also make friends with the other hikers in your car, as you will likely see them again during your hike! On the way to Xidang, you will need to stop and pay the entrance fee to Yubeng (¥55) (August, 2020). There is also a public bus leaving to Xidang Hot Spring at 8.00 am from the viewing platform gate in Fei Lai Si, for ¥20 per person.
From Xidang you can either begin your hike to Yubeng or choose to take a jeep into the village, which might be a good option if you're short on time and want to get to the other hikes available in the village. The jeep costs ¥200 per person (August, 2020), and takes 1-2 hours to take you in. For ¥150, you can get ride to the top of ridge (yakou) and walk downhill into the Village. They run throughout the day, and are also available to take you out of the village when you leave.
If you decide to hike, and the views are certainly worth it, it will take 4-8 hours depending on your ability. It is 12 km up hill and 6 km down hill. There are multiple shaded rest stops along the hike, and one convenience store selling drinks and food, approximately 6 km into the hike. There will be times when you are hiking along the road, but you will hear the jeeps coming before they see you. To gauge your progress along the trail, read the number painted on nearby the utility poles. It is 105 poles up to the hill crest and 50 poles down to the village. Just before entering the village, you will need to pay a ¥5 health fee (August, 2020).
You will be hiking in high altitude, so if needed, oxygen can be purchased in Deqin and Fei Lai Si for about ¥25 per bottle (August, 2020). You will also need a hat/sunscreen and a hiking stick is recommended (available for purchase for ¥20 in Fei Lai Si) (August, 2020). Hats and warm clothes can also be purchased in Fei Lai Si, but expect to pay a higher cost.
You may still be able to ride donkeys or horses part of the way, but in August, 2020, there were no donkeys or horses on the trail, probably due to the popularity of the jeeps. You can, however, still hire donkeys and horses for the hikes out of Yubeng.
Another option, if you want to have the real Tibetan pilgrim experience, is to stay the night at Xidang Hot Spring. There is one hostel there which sells food and another small cafe towards the entrance. Dorms are around 50RMB. The added benefit of this is that you can start the walk as soon as you wake up in the morning, forfeiting the journey from Fei Lai Si to Xidang Hot Spring which can take around 2 hours. Be warned there is no English spoken at the Hot Spring hostel - however if you manage to get a bed you'll undoubtedly be spending the night with real Tibetan monks and pilgrims, as opposed to Chinese tourists in Fei Lai Si.
Mostly by foot, although there are still donkeys and horses available for hikes around Yubeng.
Trekking into and out of Yubeng cost a day each. Each sight in Yubeng (of which there are 3: Holy Waterfall, Ice Lake and Holy Lake) takes a day. Therefore, a typical trek at Yubeng takes 3-5 days round trip from Fei Lai Si. Budget an additional day on each end to get to and from Shangri-la where the nearest airport exists.
Trekking around Yubeng is sheer joy, even for the experienced mountain trekkers. The landscape is dramatic and diverse: alpine forest, holy waterfalls, glacial lakes, pasture and quaint Tibetan villages. Yubeng is one of the most popular destinations in Three Parallel Rivers.
Caterpillar fungus, matsutake and snow lotus when it's the season
There are multiple restaurants available in the village, most of them attached to guesthouses. The price is relatively expensive due to the transport cost, but not outrageous.
There are multiple new hotels being built in the village, as the new access road opens it up to more tourists. You do not need to book in advance, but try to arrive in the village as early as possible, so you get a better choice of lodgings.
You can either leave Yubeng the same way you came in (hiking or jeep), or you can choose to hike out via Ninong. If you return to Xidang, there is a public bus back to Deqin every morning at 8.00 am, or you can hire a car back. Just like arriving at Xidang, the more people in the car, the lower the cost individually.
The trail starts from both Upper Yubeng and Lower Yubeng (merging later). It's 17 km long, but entirely downhill, and takes 3-5 hours. A road connecting Lower Yubeng to Ninong exists, and is in the process of getting concreted. You'll find most of the local Tibetan people following this road as well, which is on the right side of the river bank. Follow the road until it turns into a dirt path down to, and along, the river. After about 10.5 km from the beginning of the trail, you'll come a cross a restaurant selling drinks and food. There is also a toilet available for the cost of ¥1. Continue your hike, and after another kilometre, you'll cross the Yubeng River and continue the rest of your hike (approximately another 5.5 km) along a cliff face. The path is well-worn, but essentially along a cliff edge at this point, so travelers with vertigo or a fear of heights should reconsider. This path is also in the process of getting laid with concrete slabs. Eventually you will reach a parking area at the bottom of the hike before Ninong village, and minivans are available to take you back to Deqin, Shangri-La, or Fai Lai Si. You can expect to pay about ¥150 per minivan. You may need your hostel to arrange a car to be waiting for you in the off-season, or you can save the WeChat or number of the driver who originally took you to Yidang, and negotiate a price with him to have him waiting for you after the hike.
The hike between Yubeng and Ninong does involve some slippery rocks and a few steep sections, but after the hike into Yubeng, it should be relatively easy. If you have a decent set of hiking boots and ideally a hiking stick, you will be fine. Be careful along the last section of the hike along the cliff face in the afternoon, as it can get a little windy, and you will also be sharing the path with motorcycles.