Day 2: Boats, Beautiful Scenery and …
On the second day of our trip, we actually got to see the beautiful Qiandao Lake. Qiandao Lake (千岛湖) is actually a huge man-made lake (covers 573 square kilometers or 221 square miles) with literally thousands of islands (the name translates to Thousand Island Lake). There are 1078 larger islands and thousands of smaller islands. The islands were once actually the tops of mountains and hills in the region. However, after a flood in the 1950′s, the Chinese decided to build a dam and hydro-power station on the Xin’an River which created the lake as a reservoir. The lake is know for its clear and clean green and sometimes drinkable waters.
After an early breakfast at the hotel, it was a short (yet bumpy) bus ride to the main touristy area of the lake, where we were able to board boats to go check out the lake. On the way over, a tour guide told us a lot of facts and interesting tidbits about the lake, in Chinese. I did, however, understand when he said about 8-10 times that it was a very big lake.
After quick stop to pose for pictures at the little fake waterfall and large gates by the entrance of the tourist area, we boarded three boats to go visit a couple of the islands. At first when we boarded and asked if we could go upstairs on to the deck of the boat, we were told it would be an extra 30rmb. When we took off the price had dropped to 20rmb, and about 15 minutes into the ride the extra charge went away, and we allowed upstairs to see the view and take pictures. Oh, China!
It was a beautiful morning, and zipping along between the islands, sometimes coming within a couple meters of the land on either side was delightful and relaxing. We soon stopped at the first island for the day (I was hoping to see at least thousand, but alas, had to settle for three.)
As we got off the boats and walked up a short hill, we found ourselves waiting in line for a chairlift to the top of the island. Beautiful views, blue skies, wooded areas and short walks through nature were enough to make it worthwhile. We had about an hour to spend exploring the island before we had to be back on the boats to go to island #2.
The second island of the day was the snake island. Apparently, when you have over a thousand islands you should create themed islands for the enjoyment of your tourists. The monkey island sounded like fun to all of us, but it was closed. (I heard rumors of high waters making it hard to access, monkeys not being friendly to tourists and monkeys swimming away to escape to other islands…)
Upon arrival to the snake island, I heard talk of there being a snake show – complete with “Thai trannies”. Personally, I did not know what Thai trannies had to do with snakes, but after being underwhelmed by the pit of poisonous snakes 0r the “Venomous Snakes Pool Civilization Ornamental”, I decided to pay the 15rmb to see the snake show.
Upon entering and sitting down in the small outdoor auditorium for the show, we quickly discovered that photos were not allowed. Holding up a cell phone would get you yelled at by security, and a friend who merely had a camera sitting on her lap was approached by a security guard who took the lens of her camera and turned it away from the stage. Apparently, the three pretty boys in dresses, high heels, wigs and make-up singing and dancing for us did not like their pictures taken. We watched them sing and dance without any snakes. Next another beautiful lady-boy came out and did a duet for us, singing beautifully both the woman and man’s parts of the song in Chinese, his voice changing instantly between the higher and lower sections of the song.
Just as we were beginning to wonder why this was featured on the snake island as a snake show, some Chinese(?) girls (they were actually girls) came out with snakes around their necks for a quick dance. A 30-second display by a Chinese man and a cobra, another song and dance by the lady-boys and the show was over. It was rather disappointing, but also quite hilarious. They certainly managed to get our money! However, when the show came to an end and we were suddenly allowed to have our pictures taken (for a fee) with the lady-boys, we opted out.
Walking around the island, they had other pits full of a variety of snakes, and a few boa constrictors that you could hold and for a price (as always) have your picture taken with. A co-worker of mine managed to get one on her shoulders before she let them know she had no interest in paying – and I managed to snap a couple shots before getting pushed out of the way by the woman trying to get us to pay for the opportunity.
I felt bad for the boas, obviously getting way to much human attention. The one in the picture below was unusually lethargic, I know snakes aren’t the most energetic of creatures, but this one almost seemed dead for part of the time. As it was picked up, poked, prodded and wrapped around yet another tourists shoulders.
As we boarded the boats we saw that a meal had been laid out for us. Oh yay! Fish. More fish dishes of every variety. Luckily, there was one chicken dish again and white rice to fill up empty space in my stomach. Everyone was sick of fish after dinner the night before and this lunch. After lunch we went to our final island of the day.
This island was connected to another smaller island by a large bridge which you could walk across, for a small price! I decided to stay put, spend my money on an ice cream and soak up the sun instead.
Staying put also gave me the opportunity to be the tourist attraction of the day for a large group of Chinese who arrived to the island shortly after we did. Pictures with the blond for everyone! The real excitement for the Chinese came when they learned that the blond and the black girl were BOTH Americans and we let them take pictures with both of us. One Chinese man was so delighted to have both of us in a picture, that he squeezed my head and Char’s head up against his for a picture of a nice colorful sandwich of ethnicity.
After taking the boat back to the main dock, we climbed back aboard our buses for the 5+ hour ride back home to Shanghai. I could have stayed a couple extra days, but it is always nice to be home.