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Snapshot: Spelunking in Puzhehei

By in Travel on

The small town of Puzhehei (普者黑) is known for its conical Karst landscape — sitting on a flat plain dotted with hundreds of conical hills and mountains interspersed with shimmering lakes. Much of the tourist activity in the area of focuses on taking boats across the water and climbing hills to find suitable places to snap pictures of the curious scenery.

One feature that many visitors miss, and that is equally breathtaking, lies underground. Karst rock formations are just as interesting below ground as they are above, and Puzhehei has several caves well worth exploring for those unbothered by descending into the netherworld for a few hours.

Three of the largest and most popular caves lie under Qinglong Mountain (青龙山), less than one kilometer west of town. Rising to a height of 1,555-meters, the mountain is one of the tallest on the plain.

Many people rent bicycles or horse-drawn carriages to get to the underground caverns. Although there are a total of eight underground caverns and passageways, Torch Cave (火把洞), Moon Cave (月亮洞) and Guanyin Cave (观音洞) are the most visited.

Admission tickets are 200 yuan per person and grant entrance to all three caves. Bright, multi-colored lights show the way and illuminate the most interesting rock formations and statues.

Local legend tells a long and convoluted story of how Qinglong Mountain came into existence. It involves a tiger, a dragon, a damsel in distress and the goddess of mercy, Guanyin, swooping in to the rescue.

Wooden walkways snake through the caverns past all manner of different rock formations and over small subterranean ponds.

At times certain features in the caves can be a bit disorienting. Stalactites and stalagmites occur in such profuse bunches that telling up from down becomes difficult.

Boat tours are also available through portions of all of the caves, although they are a bit expensive. Bamboo canoes that seat up to three people cost 200 yuan per person, while larger motorized versions run 260.

Once back topside, visitors may be hungry. The word Puzhehei is a Chinese transliteration of the Yi minority name for the area and translates roughly as 'pools filled with fish and shrimp'. Fish soup is highly recommended.

Getting there

We traveled to Puzhehei from Kunming by plane, wanting to save a little time. As it turns out, this strategy is not a good one. There are twice-daily flights from Kunming to Wenshan Puzhehei Airport (文山普者黑机场) and tickets are usually inexpensive. However, the airport is nowhere near the Puzhehei scenic area.

To get there, we caught a 120 yuan taxi from the airport to Wenshan (文山). Once in town, we boarded a bus to Qiubei (丘北), which set us back another 40 yuan. From Qiubei we then had to catch a public bus that stopped in both Xianren Dong (仙人洞村) and Puzhehei villages. This cost us a whopping two yuan.

We highly recommend eschewing flights entirely and instead taking a bus from Kunming's East Bus Station to Qiubei. The trip takes roughly five hours depending on traffic conditions and single tickets cost between 120 and 145 yuan. From the Qiubei bus station, tourist buses depart for Phuzhehei between 7am and 4:30pm. This leg of the journey should take no more than 40 minutes and tickets are two yuan.

If you are interested in visiting Puzhehei or traveling into or out of anywhere in Yunnan, we strongly recommend contacting the good people at Wonders of Yunnan Travel. They customize individual and group adventures to all points on the map, and specialize in making your trip South of the Clouds extraordinary.

Images: Yereth Jansen

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Wow - that looks interesting and adventurous. Thank you.

Looks like a publicly(?)-run tourist destination to me. Nice photos with the colored lights.

Admission is free unless you want to see the caves and take the boat ride which will cost you 200 yuan.

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