Once again, it’s good to see you for this week’s edition of “Bajan,” Chinese Style. If you are in China then you should most certainly already know, but if you aren’t however, here’s a little tidbit of knowledge that you may find useful. Tomorrow, October 1st is China’s National Day, which represents the 67th year of the formation of New China. So right off the hat, a big happy birthday, I mean Happy National day to you China.National day also marks the beginning of a week long holiday known as “National Holiday,” and it is during this time that everyone in China who can go travelling, does. So, we are faced with the question, How does one choose the right destination? Luckily for us, we were already immersed in the exploration in one of the most remote and relaxing regions of China and we’ll just continue from there.
Last week, we had mentally laid eyes upon the landscape of Lugu Lake (Re: Lugu Lake 1 of 2) which is located on the border of Yunnan and Sichuan province. This week, let’s get right into things by taking a look at how to approach exploring the extensive beauty that is this lake.
The surface area of Lugu Lake is approximately 45.73 square kilometres, so from that alone we know it is extremely large. The best way to enjoy the natural charm of the lake is to actually get out of the car or van and just submerge yourself in it. Fortunately for us, this has been catered to as most hostels offer a daily bicycle and moped rental service.
If you are in good physical condition and especially if the weather is good, then by all means I recommend renting a bike. However, be warned that the road which traces the perimeter of the lake runs over very mountainous terrain and is in many ways not for the faint of heart, or in this case those who tend to faint. If you would prefer to undertake your sojourn in relative comfort,then I recommend renting a moped. Rental prices range from 50 to 150 yuan and there is a weakly enforced 24 hour time limit.
After having rented your bike or moped you can then begin your journey around the lake. Most visitors usually follow the right handed route as this is the more mountainous side of the lake. It’s always better to get the more challenging mountains out of the way in the morning when you are fresh and full of energy.
As you commence on your journey, you will instantly be greeted by Goddess Mountian, and many small Tibetan style temples. Passing these impressive sites,the road will take you through many idyllic albeit, small ethnic Naxi, She or Muosuo villages.
By the afternoon, if you keep up a good pace, you would have entered into the Sichuan 1/3 of the lake and it is at this time that you actually won’t be able to see the lake. Instead, as I realised, you will probably find yourself in the midst of a multitude of rolling mountains with lush swaths of multicoloured grass at their bases. Fear not, for you have not gotten lost, instead this area is simply the famed “Sea of Grass” and during early summer or fall, it is especially spectacular.
After exiting from Sichuan’s “Sea of Grass,” follow the road and it will take you back to the shoreline. All roads lead to Lugu. Simply follow the road and within an hour,you will probably return to your starting point. However, I recommend that you don’t immediately return your moped and instead inquire as to if there will be any flame dances later that evening. These dances are usually held in the larger of the Naxi villages and if there are, I recommend attending one.
The Flame Dance, is an ancient Naxi ethnic tradition which usually marks the times which members of the tribe can court each other. It must be noted that polygamy is the core of Naxi interpersonal relations and so these Flame Dances are an extremely important part of their culture.
Finally, in my personal experience, it usually takes three days to truly explore Lugu Lake as your first day will most certainly be spent simply riding around the lake in an attempt to make it home before it becomes dark. If this is the case, then on the second day, I recommend climbing Goddess Mountain and if you can, really going into the heart of the “Sea of Grass.” In the evening you can take a sail on the lake and explore the small islands or you can simply go for a dip in the truly refreshing azure water.
If your luck is especially good, then you may even catch a glimpse of the double rainbow that Lugu Lake is also famed for. If you do glimpse this magical manifestation, then you will truly understand why this lake is one of the best kept travel secrets of China.
One trip to Lugu Lake and you will be hooked for a lifetime.