Lugu Lake is a location I had never heard of and probably never would have seen if not for Ya Ting, my travel partner in Yunnan province. It spans the border of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, giving the perfect entryway to a province I hadn’t even intended to visit, but have been loving exploring ever since.
We found ourselves at the gates of the lake after a very successful day of hitchhiking , then hopped into a 50 RMB minibus going for the lake. The driver was from the minority village group that lives surrounding Lake Lugu. He promised to obtain us a “special discount” on entry to the park in return for 50 yuan, which is approximately half the price of the ordinary admission ticket.
“I’m a tour guide, so I don’t have to pay,” Ya Ting explained, bending the truth a bit since she had a tour guide badge but abandoned that position months ago.
“I’m a student,” I claimed, “so my entry fee is only 50 kuai anyhow.
His expression clouded and there was stillness for five minutes until he responded, “Well just give me 20, less than half the student fee!”
I tentatively accepted, not knowing how he acquired this special deal, suddenly he immediately halted the car and requested a seat swap. I didn’t exactly understand what he was saying, other than going “girlfriend” as he positioned me in front.
We halted at the entrance to the park while the attendants glanced inside the car and, believing that we were all locals, waived us through, until they recognized me front and center. The attendant proceeded to approach the car, pointing directly at me, when the driver abruptly slammed the accelerator pedal to the floor and accelerated, giggling like a shy child, while the attendant yelled frantically behind us.
I discovered that the ‘discount’ he provided was essentially a gratuity for walking through the door without paying the price. He believed if I looked like his girlfriend, maybe they’d allow me in for free (but clearly his idiotic idea didn’t work). I cheerfully placed the 20 back as we reached Lugu Lake, fully respecting the congestion and bustle.
The thing to do in Lake Lugu is to ride around it, a steep path that extends for 74 kilometers. Bikes operate at a rental price of roughly $5 per day.
I didn’t really know what to anticipate from the lake, given that I blindly followed Ya Ting there, but I was really glad to see that it was a wonderful shade of blue, and even gave me recalled a little of New Zealand:
Lake Lugu is a holy area, known as the nation of women to remember a time when women were the head of the home in the region.
We also happened to be there on International Women’s Day, what are the odds?
However, given our late start and constant pauses, the sun showed indications of sinking and we had to stop our progress for the night in one of the tiny villages along the road.
I suppose this could have been done on bike in a day if I had been solo and started earlier. I didn’t require many stops, but I didn’t want to leave my companions behind, and I often found myself waiting 20-30 minutes at a stretch, shooting photographs, waiting for them to catch up.
Poor Ya Ting, she even fell and fell, scratching her arm and back, on one of the descents. After that, I couldn’t be disappointed that I didn’t do the full tour. After all, she knew a hotelier who let us spend the night for free.
Furthermore it was the right portion of the lake for a wonderful dawn view.
All’s well That ends well!
Do it yourself:
- Catch an early morning bus from Lijiang, the gateway to Lugu Lake. It will take roughly 8 hours to reach there through twisting and terrible roads
- If the bus stops at Ninong, touts will be present to offer a trip to the finish for roughly 50 yuan.
- There are various modest guesthouses and a hostel accessible to stay
- Bike rental establishments are located along the lake. They will charge you roughly 30 yuan every rental