We made an earlyish start this morning for our trip to Diān lake (usually called Dianchi lake, but ‘chi’ means lake), mindful of how hot it got yesterday. Ed and I stopped for some rather good mushroom and spinach-filled bauzi on the way, near the flower market. We took Metro line 3 all the way to Western Hills Park – a clean, quick, service which makes the London underground look very old-fashioned and grimy. Unfortunately, most of the population of Kunming seemed to have had the same idea – it was a Saturday, after all!
We found ourselves on the other side of the huge lake from where Ed had seen in the Chinese New Year three years ago and decided it was too hot to climb to the top of the mountain, as he’d done then. It turned out, however, to be an eight km walk up a hot road, with buses rattling up and down at speed, to the cable car station to cross the lake so we got our exercise nevertheless. Second breakfast on the way up the hill came in the form of peeled cucumber, split and spread with some kind of spicy sauce. We didn’t venture into any of the temples on the way up the hill – it was too hot to want to do more than the minimum. Although it was busy on the way up the hill, it was surprisingly quiet, in the absence of hectoring tour guides.
When we got to the cable car station at Dragon Gate, there was a wide enough range of fast food options to keep everyone happy – Harry’s eyes lit up at the prospect of a chicken burger and chips but sadly, this didn’t quite live up to expectations. My cold noodles, with a topping of roast soya beans, and Pat’s sweetcorn were much tastier.
From Dragon Gate the views down across the lake were hazy but we did get an idea of just how polluted parts of it are – the area to the south of the causeway is bright green with an algal bloom. Perhaps not surprising when you think how many people live within its catchment. They are trying to tackle the problem with small boats and fixed rafts aerating the water but it’s a Herculean task – apparently untreated sewage was still being pumped into the lake in the 1990s. Martyn has written much more about this.
The cable car ride down the mountain and across to the East shore of the lake is spectacular, especially down the initial escarpment where we saw people preparing to climb.
We bought tasty pieces of pineapple from a stall at the other side – the women use some kind of punch to remove the spiky bits which so often spoil the experience of eating it. I regret not having taken the opportunity to drink fresh coconut milk too – maybe in Dali.
We walked northwards along the promenade but it was too hot to linger. The part of the lake north of the causeway looks healthier and we did see some fish jumping here. There are rough looking sampans moored near the shore and junks further out so perhaps there is still a fishing trade here. I’d love to have seen the junks under sail!
The statues and sculptures at intervals along the promenade made me want to know more about the history of the region but Harry was more amused by trying to copy their poses… We found the bus station at the end of the promenade but not the hoped for tea house, or an obvious bus back to the city centre, so we ended up with ice creams and taxis instead. Today’s bizarre ice lolly was sweetcorn – a sweetcorn-flavoured wafer filled with ice cream – about as good as it sounds!
We picked up Portuguese custard tarts for afternoon tea en route to the guest house then relaxed on the tea terraces until it was time for dinner. The others agreed to revisit the Korean restaurant they’d been to two nights ago – quite different to the Chinese food we’ve eaten. Most of what we ordered came in some kind of pancake or lightly battered form, though I don’t know how representative that is. The mushrooms were excellent and I particularly enjoyed the tea served with the meal – toasted brown rice, I think.
Afterwards, the younger members of the party wanted to do some souvenir shopping and Ed bought me this lovely sun hat (I’d already refused the offer of a hot pink felt hat at Dragon Gate).