Going Local – Lashi Lake 拉市海
If anyone were to compile a list celebrating Lijiang’s unsung heroes, it is without doubt that the humble Lashi Lake would emerge tops. Lashi’s the kind of place that makes muted appearances on maps and receives little (if not zero) attention from the travel guide book fraternity. Thankfully though, Panba’s got our very own born and bred Lijiang-er – Guwen (who whips up a mean Fried Bittergourd and Egg Dish by the way) to lead us in our quest into the vast and somewhat arduous unknown.
A trip down to the lake can be done by bike or a hired vehicle. We’d recommend the latter though…especially for those who’ve done the Tiger Leaping Gorge trail and thought they might have keeled over and died from a cardiac arrest mid-way.
Seeing that both our guests and staff weren’t up for a date with the Grim Reaper, we sought out the more practical (ie. lazier) alternative. The mini-van/pick-up hybrid, which departs from Zhong Yi Market 忠义市场 , plies the route all throughout the morning and late-afternoon. And unless you’ve been hitting a patch of bad luck lately, settling the fare at its standard rate of 10 Yuan shouldn’t be much of a hassle.
After half an hour of literally rocking it out in the back of the truck, the little hidden utopia that is Lashi dawned upon our visions. Nestled just beneath the backdrop of the iconic Jade Dragon Mountain, the lake proved itself worthy of its dark horse status, reflecting all the splendor that surrounds it – rolling hills, galloping horses and even the occasional wrinkled Naxi lady.
Negotiating your way through the numerous plantations and touts can prove to be some sort of a challenge; and that is discounting the constant need for skirting your way around the ginormous steaming piles of…souvenirs…the local horses so kindly leave behind. Be forewarned though, that in the midst of these fields and horse stables are strategically positioned locals waiting to execute their trademark move – hidden hand, cunning fee collector. You see, most of these farmers have bought up land surrounding the most picturesque spots of the Lashi Lake. Therefore, making your way inroads would result in you having to crossing their land; and having to fork out exorbitant amounts ranging from 30-50 Yuan. Thankfully though, the farmers don’t really enforce this policy once you’re out of their line of sight.
Once you’ve reached the edge of the lake, treat yourself to a nice afternoon picnic, some good ol’ kite flying or you could do what we did…reward ourselves to an hour long cam-whoring session. If you’re a fan of organic produce, be sure to try out some of those preserved Hawthorne Fruits that the old Naxi ladies hawk along the banks. And no, unlike their counterparts at the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the old ladies here do not peddle any Ma-Li-Wan-Na.