After my free Chinese style breakfast in my hotel, I headed out to see if I could find a cruise on the lake. One of the lake high lights is to view the many islands from the top of a hill or island, as shown on the ticket I purchased below. I am travelling pretty blind on this trip and apart from this, I don’t know much about the area. I know the lake is actually a dam for hydro power, this makes all of the islands actually old hill tops and anything on them recently built, I assume.
The friendly hotel manager, who was the only person who spoke some English I had meet in the last three days, was nowhere to be found. I had been unable to find any tourist information in English the previous day, so it was up to what I could communicate to the hotel front desk staff, to help find out where to catch a boat for a lake cruise. There did not seem to be any central harbour to head for.
After a few minutes of using very bad Mandarin, I did manage to communicate I wanted to go for a cruise, and I was told public bus number four and pointing seemingly to the bus stop just across the road. Initially it seemed like I would not be able to get even this minimal information, so I was pleased.
I headed over the road and found out the bus fare, only 1 kuai, and then realised this stop did not include bus route 4, this route went on the main road a block away. After walking to the main road I was then struck by the realisation I had no idea which way I should go, I did not know which side of the road to catch the bus. So I made a guess and hoped for the best.
Initially, all was good the bus came and I paid my 1 kuai, the bus then starting travelling along the edge of the lake but quickly veered inland and went all over the place, through road works and places unknown. After 15 minutes or so the lake appeared again and low and behold there seemed to be a number of cruise boats in view, so I hopped off the bus and investigated.
What I found were a number of boats that were not day cruise boats, maybe restaurant boats. I did find one cruise boat, fabulously expensive I thought, about $100 australian dollars, it did seem to be going everywhere I wanted and leaving in 10 minutes, what to do… well not having much choice and since it was unlikely I would find another cruise boat, I reluctantly paid what I had hoped would cover 2 or 3 days on the trip for one cruise!
The price did include a goodie bag of snacks, free tea and fruit. The price also let me mix with Chinese people who I don’t normally see when riding my bicycle through country towns, there were a lot of wealthy preening Chinese on the cruise, another experience in itself. No one tried to start a conversation with me unlike most other times when travelling in public.
First stop on the cruise was a small island that seemed to be themed around locks and love. The island map gave the following highlights:
- Love Key Sculpture
- Chinese Zodiac (Luck Animal) Eight-Diagram Altar
- Peace lock
- Chinese lock museum
- Happy lock square
- Lock Garden
This seemed innocent enough but quickly developed into a never ending stream of money draining tourist traps. As we stepped off the boat we were lead to an archway and each person or couple was motioned to pose for an official photographer. At the other end of the island we were then offered a printed photo and keyring… I did buy this, but none of the other things 🙂 Actually I enjoyed the island, it was pretty and interesting.
The price of the cruise included a guided tour of the island, but as it was in Mandarin I followed nearby and had a peaceful walk. We did have large tour passes hanging around our necks, I think this was a flag to increase the prices of everything.
After we had left the boat it took off, I was not sure of where we were headed, I followed the tour group making sure I was not stranded. We reached the end of the long narrow island and then found a series of floating bridges linked to three other islands nearby.
The first floating bridge contained a fish pen. We could buy fish food to feed these fish, who appeared to be very very hungry, it seemed cruel. I refused to buy fish food as I did not want to support this practise.
The next island was very small, peaceful and pretty.
The next floating bridge contained side gardens and no money draining scheme.
The last island was also peaceful and after a short walk I spotted our cruise boat waiting patiently for us. There was one more island I could have walked to if I had agreed to pay extra for. The extra cost seemed to be purely for the privilege of walking over a suspended bridge that swayed a bit. I declined to pay for this privilege. I had also declined to pay to rub a lucky charm statue.
The cruise boat then headed to the main attraction, a hill with a view over the lake, not sure if this was an island, there is an expanse of forest away from the lake side view. I had a choice of walking up this hill or getting a cable car. I chose the cable car to preserve my energy for more riding starting tomorrow. Despite this preservation I was going to make a fateful decision soon on this trip due to fatigue.
This decision and my lack of fitness seems quaint now when I compare this ride to my ride in 2018, but as always, you should start somewhere, whatever level of fitness you have, and ride as long or short as you want, because you are going to enjoy the experience riding, walking, taking a train or bus. There is not fixed rule on how you must travel.
This stop was much busier, many more tourists, with many smaller, and I am sure much cheaper, cruise boats docking alongside our magnificent boat. It was so busy I had to fit for uncrowded camera shots and I even met two western tourists, the first I had seen in four days. They were actually learning Mandarin in Hangzhou, so not true fly in tourists, I think I am very much off the normal tourist map.
On the hill top I found a tea house, but the price was way too expensive. I was offered water at double the going rate, I declined to pay this and managed to buy it at the normal price.
The hill overlooking the lake is the busiest and so has money making ventures including a grass slide back down the hill for a price. I chose to walk the scenic forest path back. There is also food vendors, I bought a snack as I was expected back on board to return for the half day cruise.
After returning from the cruise, I found somewhere for lunch and had more of the fish as they were so tasty.
After lunch I back tracked the way I came on the bus and decided to well and truly blow the budget and try a traditional Chinese massage ( I will write about this in a separate post). Painful but seemingly Ok afterwards, I am feeling very good.
After a wander in town and dinner, I went back to my hotel for an early night and start the next day.