Located just outside of Hong Yuan in the Amdo Tibetan region in Sichuan, one can find the scenic area known as Yueliangwan in Chinese, ཟླ་ཚེས་ཁུག་པ། in Tibetan. Moon Bay in English. The Chinese call this place Yueliangwan, while the Tibetan’s know it as Datsikhepa. Aptly named for the shape the river has formed through the grassland plateau, visitors to this place come to enjoy the vibrant colours of the grass and sky, while watching the grazing herds of yaks and cattle.
Moon Bay sits at an elevation of approximately 3,470 meters above sea level, and the bay itself is actually the snaking White River. This river drains into the headwaters of the Yellow River.
Looking out across the grasslands from the platform on the hill, one can see the scars on the land where the river has changed direction over the years, and it is these distinctive topographical features zigzagging back and forth that draw visitors to this area to see the natural beauty. This area is known for it’s nomads, making this a great place to snap a photo of the traditional black tent, or a grazing herd of yaks.
Active Things to do at Moon Bay
While the primary reason for travellers to go to Moon Bay is to see the beauty of the grasslands, a few resourceful locals have banded together to provide other activities for visitors as well. Located at this place there are three main activities that the adventurous may like to try.
If you dream of riding a horse on the Tibetan Plateau, a group of local nomads bring their horses saddled up and ready to ride. The cost for this is ¥50, but be warned, as far as we could tell, they simply lead you in around a pre-determined path. If you are interested, choose for yourself whether or not the ride is worth the price (there are a lot of other options for this in the area).
If you want to soar over the grasslands, there is a zip line running from the observation platform to the opposite hill. Trying this ride out will set you back ¥40, but it seemed quite popular. The entire time we were there, the line was in use.
If you would rather paddle Moon Bay, there is a boat launch hidden around the corner from the main observation platform (head past the tents selling food). Renting a raft for multiple people costs ¥60. Rafters are launched into the river at the start of the bay, and a boom across the river will catch you in order to unload at the other end.
Located only 3 kilometers from Hong Yuan, head west out of town and take the right at the first fork in the road. There are several convenient options for getting to Moon Bay. A taxi cost us ¥25 one way, and we walked back to town in approximately 45 minutes. Walking back towards town is downhill, so going there may take you a little longer. There would also be the option of renting a private vehicle if you wish.
In order to see the grasslands at their prime beauty, the recommend time for visiting is between the months of June and September. While you can visit in the winter, the grasslands are covered in snow and the bay is frozen over. On the other hand, in the summer months, wild flowers bloom in the plateau, and the yaks have their calves underfoot.
Wear your sunscreen as the sun at this elevation is strong, but also be prepared for the cool breeze that can blow across the plateau. Don’t forget your camera, as this place presents wonderful opportunities for photos – be it as a backdrop for you and your travelling companions, or as the subject itself. Finally, we recommend that you pack a lunch with you, and take the opportunity to picnic on the Roof of the World.