Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thousand Islet Lake

Qiandao Lake was the main attraction for our weekend "team-building" excursion. Clif's coworkers said it would be relaxing and scenic....sounded like it was just our style.

Qiandao Lake translates to English as Thousand Island Lake. It's a man-made reservoir and the dam left only the mountain peaks visible...demoted to islet status. We were scheduled for a boat tour to see three of them. We were expecting a relaxing trip to see China in it's natural state, what we got was a tourist trap filled to the brim with people.

They woke us up at 6am, gave us bright orange hats and lead us to see the first clue of things to come: the dock was crowded and there were 50-100 boats waiting. Each boat could hold at least 100 people.

The orange hats proved to be a life saver for us. If lost, it was easy to find our group of "friendlies." Clif couldn't fit his giant head into an Asian sized hat, but that didn't matter because the tour guide had no trouble keeping track of the only two white people around.

Our boat was among the first to leave, though just barely. Several more peeled from the shore and followed our wake to the first stop.

Our tour guide was skilled at rambling on for hours in Chinese on the loudspeaker, and she talked the entire time it took to hit island stop number one. We hit land and someone translated the guide's speech into two sentences: "This island is known for poisonous snakes and Thai boys that dress as women. Be back on the boat by 9:00am."

Now approaching: the island of drag queens and their reptilian friends.
I'll admit the translation had my mind spinning as we disembarked. I was trained at an early age how to watch the ground for snakes, and my eyes were spinning too.  And the I heard the beat... the Thai drag show was starting at the main stage. Outside were three pits filled with snakes, at one pit it was lunch time.

At this point we knew what we were up against. The feeling is becoming more and more familiar as our romantic ideas about Chinese culture shatter, one-by-one. We were now paying customers at a resort built to entertain.

It was important to remember our boat was number 5.

At 9:00, we reembarked and headed for island number two. The guide rambled on a little while in Chinese. She cut it short, and the translation was even shorter. "They'll try to sell you special cake, be here by 11:00."

At this stop we started to get lost in the fog of Chinese language. There was something going on, this island had a theme but it was vague for us. No one offered an explanation in English, so we just enjoyed the sights and declined to buy special cakes.

The second island seemed to be focused on a former mayor, who was well loved by the people. They built the temple in his honor...we think.

The third stop was actually three islands, connected by floating docks. The first island had an obvious theme of locks. From the boat, we could see a giant bottle opener...turns out it is a huge statue of a key.


The thing about this island, is they sold locks. You could purchase a lock and a little metal plaque. Scribe a wish onto the plaque and use the lock to leave it behind.

Everywhere on this island there were wishes. If a pad lock would fit, someone had fit one and the resulting chains of hanging locks were something worth seeing.

Year of the cock. Represent!
To cross to the next island, we had to cross some floating docks.  Inside the floating docks, they had some fish pens filled with gold fish and asian carp.

The next island on this stop had a guy holding a pet hawk and the statue pictured below.  People were totally engrossed with the writing on the wall behind the statue...we're not sure why but we know it was damn interesting.

And like all good tourist attractions, the boat dropped us off at a shopping area on the main land. Here you could buy fish in a bag or fish on a stick.

Not dried, not in a bag sticks

We were encouraged to buy some bagged fish, because that city is famous for fish..."it's quite good here."

We got back to hotel in time for a nap and feeling like Clif's work wasn't entirely truthful in promising a relaxing trip with natural scenes. Our legs were killing us and there was nothing natural about the islands.  None-the-less, the trip was fun and we saw some more of China.

We are happy to have had the opportunity to participate in the trip and see.

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