how to go from hekou to yuanyang

How to Go from Hekou to Yuangyang Ricefields – bus to Xinjie

Our next stop after crossing the border from Vietnam to China and our overnight in Hekou is to go to Yuanyang.  There are two ways to get from Hekou to Yuanyang, first you can book a private transfer or secondly you can take a bus from Hekou to Yuanyang.

The whole reason we’re in Hekou right now is because we wanted to head to the Yuanyang rice terraces. The Yuanyang and Yunnan rice fields were carved out of the hillsides by the Hani people thousands of years ago they’re a UNESCO site here in South West China, but they’re also not really on the beaten track, so it requires a little effort to get there.    Even if you’re travelling from Kunming to Yuanyang you will have to take a bus (or two).


Most folks who come from Vietnam into Hekou are heading either north to Kunming, the major city in the area – from there they’ll go to Dali and Shangri-La, but we wanted this detour to Yuanyang.

Where to Get Buses in Hekou China

Long distance buses in Hekou leave from the Bus Passenger Transportation Centre, the Hekou Bus Station.  The bus station in Hekou is about 2.5 miles (4km) from the Hekou border crossing.  The Hekou Bus Passenger Transport Centre is also where you book and buy a ticket from.  We bought our tickets the day before we travelled, to be sure of having a ticket to our next destination.

It’s very easy to find as you can see from the map.

Hekou Bus Station Map

Hekou Bus Station Map

How to get to the Hekou Bus Passenger Transportation Centre

Hekou’s bus station is easily accessible by the “little green bus” .  The little green bus runs from 0630 – 2200 right along the river road, BINHE LU and each trip costs 2 yuan.  The trip takes about 15 minutes.  Simply put your money in the box as you enter the bus.

Little Green Bus Hekou

There aren’t many seats, but there is plenty of space for standing.

Little Green Bus Hekou

Looking for what and where to eat in Hekou? Our guide is here.

Where and What is Yuanyang?

Yuanyang describes many things. For us, it’s the UNESCO world heritage site that is the Hani Rice Terraces that were carved out of the Yunnan hillside thousands of years ago. Yuanyang can also mean the town at the top of the mountain, but that’s known locally – and for buying bus tickets – as XinJie China or XinJieShen (or XinJiehen). Yuangyang also covers the town at the bottom of the mountain, which is also called Nanshe or Nansha. Confused? Yes we were too.

It was especially nerve wracking, when we boarded the bus the next day, we saw another boarding sign for Xinjie (lower case j in the middle). It makes for an interesting first few hours, when you’re on the bus just hoping that you got the right XinJie.

We recommend pre booking your accommodation in Yuanyang – here’s a selection of places we recommend to stay in in Xinjie.

The Hekou to XinJie Bus

The Hekou to XinJie Bus Timetable

There are two direct buses a day from Hekou to Yuanyang China.  The bus times to Yuanyang from Hekou are 0610 and 0900, every day.

Hekou to Yuanyang Bus timetable

Theoretically you could cross the border from Lao Cai to Hekou and jump in a taxi and get to the bus station and catch the 0900 bus on the same day, but we weren’t chancing it. There is a time difference between Vietnam and China.  The Vietnamese border opens at 0700, which is 0800 Chinese time, and the Chinese border at 0800. The chances of catching a 0900 Chinese time bus were virtually non-existent. Our border crossing took us 16 minutes, but we figured that was somewhat unique… and I guarantee if we were trying to do that to catch a bus it wouldn’t have gone that quickly.

Bus Travel Time from Hekou to Yuanyang China

The bus to Yuanyang from Hekou takes 4.5 hours in total.  The price of the bus from Hekou to Yuanyang is 59 yuan. 

How to Buy Bus Tickets in Hekou Bus Station

There is no online bus ticket booking for this journey.  All buses in China now require a name and ID to buy the ticket.  So if you arrange for someone else to buy your tickets you will need to provide them with at least a copy of your ID.

Knowing that it could be confusing, I’d written it all out in Chinese characters on my phone and handed my phone over to the ticket seller. No she said, shaking her head, and crossed out the 17th, and circled the 16th. That’s today. We know, we want one for tomorrow. Shakes head.

Hekou Bus Station

There’s no information booth, but I did find the next best thing.  A teenage girl buying tickets with her mother.  She spoke a little English and 3 minutes later we had two tickets.

Hekou to XinJie – Catching the Bus-2673

We believe we have seats 1 and 2 on the 0900 bus to Xin jie, we even have the bus registration plate.

Here’s what the Chinese bus ticket from Hekou to Xinjie looks like.

Chinese Bus Ticket

Catching the Bus from Hekou Bus Station

We arrived at the bus station to get our ride from Hekou to Yuanyang the following morning at 0830 for a 0900 bus.  Immediately we attracted our fair share of attention.  There was no end of folks willing to help, wanting to see your ticket and then point you in what you hope is the right direction. Of course none of these folks are wearing any sort of uniform and having arrived recently from Vietnam I wasn’t letting go of any tickets!

It turns out that one of the guys who wanted to help ended up being our bus driver, After a breakfast of jam sandwich and orange juice from the shop at the bus station we were heading out through the “wicket” (yes that’s the sign above the door) to find our bus.  There’s also a noodle place to eat here too.

Hekou – Yuanyang / Xinjie-2656

The Bus Journey from Hekou to Yuanyang

Those tickets we’d had trouble buying yesterday were for this little pink bus that would take us from Hekou to Nansha and then onto XinJie.

Hekou to XinJie – Catching the Bus-2675

Conveniently, bus tickets in China also display the registration plate of the bus, so it was easy to find. If that wasn’t easy enough, then there’s a huge sign hanging down from the roof saying Yuanyang. Scarily, two along from our bus to Yuanyang there’s also one for Xinjie. (with a lower case j in the middle)  We went with Yuanyang and our bus registration.

As you can see, there’s no under bus cargo area, although there is a crate area on the roof. The seat numbers printed on our ticket don’t seem to work here.  There were already several bags of coconuts, king fruit and various other cargoes littering the floor of the bus and someone had claimed 1 and 2 behind the driver. Or maybe 1 and 2 were the single seats to the right of the driver. Either way, we found a seat, stored our backpacks on the floor and waited.

The road from Hekou to Yuanyang

We weren’t full when we set off on time at 0900. Only to stop at the barrier while the driver signed out the bus. Then to stop in the parking area at the front of the station, while we waited for four more passengers, sauntering across the street to us.  Jumping on and taking the final seats. So it was 0920 before we actually got set off.

It was only 2km down the road before the tarmac ran out. Lonely Planet has reported this bus journey as 4 hours, other reports say up to 9. After seeing the road, we just wanted to get there and suspected that it would be closer to 9 hours.  It’s hard to describe how low my heart sank when we bumped onto the mud – and it had been raining, so it was a VERY muddy, road.

Hekou to XinJie – Catching the Bus-2676

It’s a fun little pink bus. Full of life. We stop at small towns and villages throughout the journey. In the first small town we stop at (as Google doesn’t give me a name, I can’t give you one), we pick up some more folks and drop a couple off.

The spare seat behind us is now occupied by an ageless, brown, wrinkle faced lady in brightly coloured Hani traditional dress. She carries two chickens. They’re each tied into a sack and put under the seat.

Hekou to XinJie – Catching the Bus-2681

You need to carry your ID on Chinese buses.

At 10:27 we stop. There’s a police checkpoint and we’re boarded. Identity cards are brandished, reviewed and returned. Our passports are taken off the bus to a small shack, where they’re more than likely painstakingly reviewed and copied.  They’re returned through the open window by the driver, who’s taken this opportunity for a smoke.

Hekou to XinJie – Catching the Bus-2678
Police Check Point

Miraculously, there’s no one smoking on this bus, but the guy behind me (I’m in the window on the left hand side of the bus) has a cold. Well, it’s either that or he’s allergic to the chickens by his feet. There’s a blast of warm wet air every now and then on the back of my neck and a thunderous noise with each sneeze. I sink lower into my seat and resist the temptation to get my waterproofs out.

On the other side of the bus there’s a man you can set your watch by. Every 7 minutes, he’s providing a marvellous advertisement for rural China. A magnificent throat clear, the window slides open and another gob of spit flies out. Windows further back slam shut in unison. The timing is impeccable.

We’re about 3 hours in when we start dropping off some of the cargo. There’s a bag of coconuts. Two huge bags of king fruits. Negotiation takes places, money changes hands, although not before an in-depth quality control takes place. There’s a cargo redistribution taking place at each stop.

Hekou to XinJie – Catching the Bus-2680

I was getting used to the sneezing. I was checking the journey off in 7 minute segments, through spitting man’s antics, but nothing could have prepared me for the chicken attack. It came quickly, I think I might have been dozing off a little, when there was a bit of a flap in the region of under my seat.  Then I felt a soft feather like stroking on my ankle, then the feel of something a bit harder, scaly almost.

I’ve watched “Snakes on a Plane” folks. I know the plot, I know if you move you die, but I still yelped and pulled my feet up to my chin – and that’s some feat on the little pink bus. They stayed there for a good 10 minutes, as the woman with chickens figured out what had gone on, grabbed said chicken by the neck and stuffed it back into the bag. Perhaps there’s a sequel to the movie, “Chickens on a Bus”, it would of course be a PG rated movie, as no one dies and no chickens were hurt, at least during the journey. I can’t speak for their life expectancy on arrival in Nansha.

Arriving in Nansha

We dropped off the chickens and most of the passengers at the bottom of the mountain, in Nansha, then slowly drove through the town, with the driver stopping regularly yelling what sounded like “Lao Cai, Lai Cai” – which of course it couldn’t have been, because we’d just come from there.  It did, however, result in two extra passengers joining us before we headed off up the mountain to XinJie Yunnan.

Nansha to XinJie

It’s a glorious ride up the mountain. Steep, windy, but not too bumpy. There are slow moving large vehicles to overtake on blind bends, or when the road narrows and while if you want a view, you should sit on the left hand side of the bus – the driver’s side.

Hekou to XinJie – Catching the Bus-2682

If you’re of a nervous disposition, you should sit on the right with your eyes tightly closed.

Hekou to XinJie – Catching the Bus-2683

A short stop to top up the water tank, clean the bus, although the only window that gets cleaned is the front window and our journey was almost done.

We pass small villages set into the hillside, picturesque from a distance, grungy up close, surrounded by the beginnings of terraces, of greenery without, at this point, compare and climb and climb until we pull into the bus station in the centre of XinJie.

If you like rice fields, then here’s our guide to visiting the rice fields of Longsheng in China and also where to visit rice fields near Hanoi, Vietnam. You can also explore rice fields near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Resources Used to Travel from Hekou to Xinjie:

Travel Tips for Exploring China

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