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Heyuan and Wanluhu Lake

Last updated by chinatravel  at 2009/6/22; Destinations:

I visited HeYuan city for several days, and spent an afternoon around nearby Wanlu Lake (Wanluhu). HeYuan is a small city encircled by the Dongliang River, about two and a half hours east of Guangzhou. It took me two or so hours to walk around most of HeYuan, stopping several times along the way.

If you are looking for accommodations there, most will run between 60 RMB and 150 for your own room. Sleep may not always be easy though, as HeYuan locals love their karaoke and the bars are spilling out loud music until around 1 am. My hotel actually had a karaoke in the building itself, coincidentally just one floor above me. The staff kindly moved me to another room the next night. While the karaoke was no longer above my room, there was now a different one just across the street, and just as loud, though this time lacking in the bass pounding on my roof.

Within the city itself, there are a few spots to relax, such as Beimen Lake and Dongmen Lake, two narrow, tree-lined reservoirs near the center. Renmin Park, also in the middle of town, is shaded, and quaint, but not spectacular. Culture Square is a larger park at the junction of  the Dongliang river, and includes a sports center and some children's areas and a somewhat-obstructed view of the hills.

One unique attraction of HeYuan it what they call the Hundred-meter Spraying, which is exactly that. At approximately 8 o'clock every evening, an obtrusive round metal fountain in the middle of the Dongliang River turns on. The pretty spectacle includes the fountain shooting water in various shapes, and finally sending a burst one hundred meters in the air. Eventually all that is left is the spray, which gradually dissolves in a form like an apparition. The tall stream doesn't last more than a few minutes, but the whole fountain show goes on longer. Situated next to a brightly lit Chinese-style restaurant, the whole performance is extravagant.

I got to Wanluhu from a regular small bus that passes down Daqiao Nanlu in the center of town. Three RMB takes you to a drop off point on the road which leads to the lake and from there you can walk to the visitor's center in around 15 minutes. The center contains, in a modern Hakka style, a strip of shops selling everything from small toys to herbal medicines. In case you're skeptical, some of them are actually fairly good. I picked up a jar of raw honey for myself, and even managed to bargain down on the price. The visitor's center offers boat rides from between 50 RMB to over 100, depending on the hour and season. Just next door, a main gate takes you to an area where you can see some Hakka shows or take a trail up to one of the main peaks. This costs about 30 RMB. I passed.

Wanlu Lake, the largest man-made lake in southern China, is an interesting and peculiar waterway. Larger than the city of HeYuan itself, its  snaky main body is intersected by four main “arms” which stretch out in either direction surrounded by forested hills. From the shore jut out many oddly-shaped protrusions of coastline and countless islets dot the waters, ranging from small in size to tiny. Its waters are a milky light blue, or turquoise, and seem to glow from within with this rich color. The lake's shoreline juts down from the edges and from the islets at mostly a 40-degree angle, and is tinged with an orange rust color. The sight of the lake stretching out in front of you is surely unusual, with its glowing milky-blue waters and orange coast diving down into them.

Since I did not want to go on a tour boat, nor pay to see a Hakka song, I decided to go back up the road, and turn down a lane which turned off the main road about 100 meters before the tourist area. This small lane actually works its way around the lake for a while, and I got various views of the lake and its many small bay-like features before getting tired and turning around. Wanluhu, while certainly unique, is not without its un-scenic areas, such as small factories and developments along the shore, and what appears to be a serious erosion problem. In fact, the earth in some places looks downright skeletal.

HeYuan and its surrounding areas include many places of interest, including a Hakka village (pay to enter), Hakka Old Town and various peaks and caverns. Some are a bit of a bus ride out of town though, so it would take more than a weekend to see them all. I would have enjoyed my time there more with a means of exploring the area myself, rather than going to only certain spots with everyone else, as seems to be the way things are set up. For example, some maps of trails in the surrounding mountains would have added something. So would advertised camping areas. Rental motorbikes or rental motorboats could also open up a whole lot of doors. I had hoped for a little more freedom to roam around, but the people in charge of tourism don't help too much in advising you, and I didn't have enough information to do a lot of it myself.