In the greater Lijiang City, there is a famous lake, Lu Gu Lake, known for its high altitude crystal lake (2700m) as well as the home of the famous Mosuo tribe. Mosuo tribe has a population of around 30,000 and most of them live around the Lu Gu Lake.
Mosuo tribe is famous for its unique way of courtship and marriage (or the lack of it). Supposely, the women is the head of the household and bear children without ever been married. Young guys will court a woman in her own room and spend the night there if the woman accepts. The man would leave the in morning. If the woman bears a child, the man is only considered as an uncle. There is not any formal marriage ceremony or committment. The man never lives in the woman's house or with the children.
For a long time, we resisted visiting this place because either we hear people liking the place or really hating the place, due to commercialization of the place. Since we are currently living within Llijiang City in Yongsheng county, we thought the cost is not so high that it is worth checking it out. So we went with not so high an expectation.
We took a bus to Ninglang county, which took 4 hours costing RMB 24 per person. From Ninglang, we caught a small van for RMB30/person which took 2 hours to reach the Lu Gu Lake.
ENCOUNTERS WITH THE BUS DRIVER
Right before reaching the lake, one has to pay RMB78 to enter the tourist area. The driver proposed getting us in for free and in turn we pay him some money for this service. We told him that in the Middle School, we teach the students to obey rules. We don't want to break out own principle. The driver had a difficult time understand our motivation. He kept saying that we don't have to worry and that we can trust him. Then he said that he knows a good hostel with good room with attached bathroom. We told him that we are okay with just a room w/o bathroom. Afterall, it still would be better than what we are living in in the village. He now is even more confused. We just paid RMB160 for the entrance when we didn't have to and now we're trying to save RMB20 on a cheaper room. I think this must be a new experience for him.
As it turned out, between November and December are the low season months. Through a day, we might see 20-30 tourists. Most hostels are empty. We were the only guests in a hostel that could accomodate about 50 guests. So we got a room with 2 beds w/o bathroom for RMB 30. A room with bathroom would be RMB50. Our room is right next to the water, with our window facing it - room with a view.
THE BEAUTIFUL LAKE
My first impression of the lake is that it is bigger than I thought and the water is very clear. There are few islands in the lake and many types of ducks and sea gulls flying and swimming on it. Due to the few tourists, there is a sense of tranquaility all around. The houses and hostels, which are right next to the water front, were build almost entirely of logs, that reaches 3 stories high. When the sun broke through the clouds, the warm sunlight added color to the landscapte creating indeed a picture of beauty. It was must better than I expected.
There are so many picture taking opportunities due to its natural and cultural beauties. Besides the water, the sky, the birds, and the islands, there are also wooden boats carved out of log, unique houses, and locals dressed in their ethnic clothing. In the morning, right from our hostel I was able to take beautiful sunrise pictures of the town and the lake.
The clear cold lake allows for pollution free water creatures, such as sea snail, large shells, fish, and frogs. The locals also has an unique way to preserve their pork. Instead of cutting the pig into piees and then preserving them. They take out all the bones and intestines of the pig and then sew it back into a "boneless" pig. Given there is no opening, the pig can be preserved for many years, from 4 to 10 years. (see pictures)Although the food is on the expensive side, we were able to sample these different delicacies. What was more unique was that we can dine right at the water front with an incredible view.
An unique snack we don't see anywhere else was dried apple. Apparently, there are many apple trees on the mountain slopes and someone had the idea of drying these apple in a large drying cabin, which reduces shipping cost due to lightness and increases value due to processing. It's rmb18 for 500g. We really like its sweet-sour healthy taste and went back for more.
A must-do for every tourist is to take a log canoe ride to an island, accompanied by locals in their ethnic clothing (RMB 30/person). It was an very enjoyable ride. The sky was clear, the sun was warm, and birds were all around us. We were the only one on this big lake and it felt as if we own the whole lake. On the island there are some Tibetan temples, which is their ethnic religion. One can also have good views of the lake from all sides.
We wanted to bike around this lake, about 60km, but hostels do not have children bike so we had to abandon this idea, which would have been the best way to see this place. Instead, we found a good hiking place called "A1 Xia2 You1 Gu3", a canyon that one can hike up to a hanging cliff. It is a good 3 hour hiking trip from the town we stayed in. Again, we were the only people there and it was tranquail to hike up about 400m and see the lake from another perspective. there are thick forest of trees and moss hanging on tree branches. A river run along the entire hike. The end of the trail is a spring water that comes out from the bottom of this hanging cliff.
There is a cable car that one can ride up to a mountain-side, but the rmb90/person price was too much for us. We also wanted to go to the bonfire ethnic dance at night. Again due to low number of tourists, the rmb30/person show was cancelled, and the rmb98/person show was again not justifiable, especially in light of the fact that we just enjoyed a genuine bonfire dance on New Year Eve in the village we are staying.
We did go visit a cultural museam (RMB 20/person) where we saw old pictures of the Mosu tribe and see the inside of their traditional houses. The most interesting part was finding a picture book written by a foreigner who came from Beijing to buy a traditional house, which the foreign took apart and had it shipped back to Beijing. In the picture book, there were very frank and developmental conversation about the life of the Mosuo people, especially after tourism came into this place. We bought the book for rmb10.
After two relaxing and fun nights at the lake, we took the same way back to our village. However, instead of going back to the county town then taking a car to the village, we got off the bus earlier and were going to walk about an hour directly back to the village. Fortunately, we caught a truck full of firewood and people, who just came back from cutting firewood on the mountain slope, which saved us 30 minutes. Riding on top of the firewood in this open truck was a perfect ending to a perfect short vacation!