Lotus Tour of China
Gallery 3

by Pat Clifford
Senior Horticulturist, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Click images to enlarge

Lakes Abounding With Fish and Shrimp

My room looked out onto one of the sixteen lakes this area has become famous for and I could practically pick Lotus flowers from my window. This place was so idyllic and peaceful that we were awakened in the morning by the cock crowing at daybreak, far more civilized than the music in Sha Ping. All the meals were prepared and eaten in the courtyard. It felt like we had been transported back in time.


Views from my room in the guesthouse



Over the years as China has changed politically and economically this tranquil part of the world has unfortunately been a victim of the surge in internal Chinese tourism. Every weekend thousands of the more affluent city-dwellers from Kunming descend on the area and turn it into a huge water playground. This has really only happened in the last five years and the village we were staying in has been earmarked for demolition to make way for a massive tourist resort. Sadly the villagers have no idea what will become of them, particularly as they are a minority group which has not fared very well under the Chinese government.

Early next morning after our usual breakfast of noodles we headed for the main lake where the tourist boats were moored. Regrettably it was a Saturday morning and the throngs of tourists had begun to arrive and were arming themselves suitably. Here I have to explain what the Chinese tourists use these beautiful lakes for.

They come down from the city in all shapes and sizes, ranging from groups of young men to large family groups including grandparents and they take to the water with the sole aim of soaking anyone they can. They all dress in full waterproof clothing and arm themselves with pots and pans, bamboo water cannons and high powered water blasters. This pastime has really taken off in the last few years and Grant was shocked to see what had happened to the place he loved.

He decided that our best plan of action was to be completely passive, and this coupled with lots of warnings shouted in Chinese saved us from a soaking. We were the only Westerners on the lakes and the Chinese thought it was really funny, this white guy shouting abuse at them in a broad Kunming accent. It was a bit of a shame, but we just paddled clear of the main war-zones and took in the wonderful scenery and lotus fields. We spent about six hours on the lake then climbed one of the Witches Hats to get an awe-inspiring view of the lake system and the surrounding landscape. The hike to the top of the hill certainly wasn't easy. Walter who is 78 years old put me to shame, and he and Dan had already climbed one before breakfast to see the sunrise. On the return journey the boatman dropped us off right at our guesthouse which backed onto the lake.  


Canoe trip on "Lakes Abounding with Fish and Shrimp"

Chinese tourists having fun

< These lakes had both pink
and white lotus



That evening we were treated to some entertainment which was provided by the villagers and featured traditional Shanni music and dance. It was really enjoyable but also a bit sad as we were watching something that was rapidly dying out.

The next morning was spent wandering through the lotus lakes and surrounding countryside where the farmers were mainly growing corn, tobacco, chillies, rice and of course lotus. Many were still using water buffalo as a means of transport and harvesting their crops using sickles. Then it was time to get on the dreaded coach, which I was starting to enjoy in some masochistic way, and return to Kunming.

Great credit must go to Grant Mitchell for organizing this exceptional trip as I don't think anyone else could have pulled it off and I only hope I will be able to join him on another trip in the future. Cheers Grant!  



Traditional Shanni entertainment

< Beautiful playground




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 Stopping for a roadside snack

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