Located about an hour south of Kunming, Fuxian Lake is China’s second-deepest lake, Yunnan’s third-largest lake, and one of China’s only clean lakes. Flanked by some low mountains, and enjoying the same mild climate as the Kunming area, it’s no wonder the area is growing as a popular day trip for Kunming residents as well as a vacation spot for Chinese tourists from other provinces.
We decided to spend a few days at the lake to enjoy some down time. Several friends recommended staying at the Angsana Fuxian Lake Resort, including a family that had just stayed there a few weeks ago. Sadly, the Angsana went through a major change since then, which greatly affected the property. I’ll explain more later, but first, the lake.
All the hype was right: The water really is very clear! In fact, it turns out that Fuxian is one of the clearest freshwater lakes in China, with visibility up to 12.5 meters. Yes, that means it’s pretty good for scuba diving. In fact, you can even get certified at Fuxian.
There are a couple factors that help keep Fuxian so clean and beautiful. One is that no motorized vehicles are allowed on the lake, so that means no speed boats, tour boats, or jet skis polluting the waters. That leads to another factor: there are just not a whole lot of people in the water, period. I think it may have to do with what seems to be a national fear of water.
A friend whose home village is near Fuxian warned me several times when I told her we’d be going: “It’s very dangerous, so you need to be careful.” I was a bit taken aback since I had been picturing placid lake waters of a high-elevation lake. What was so dangerous? She just repeated that it was dangerous. It dawned on me that she was missing a key piece of information, so I explained, “My whole family can swim.” “Oh! Even your kids?” Yes, even my kids, a fact which continues to shock many of my local friends. “Well, in that case, you’ll be okay,” she conceded, then quickly added, “But you should probably still wear life jackets while swimming.”
The tourists we saw seemed to share this fear of the lake water. I didn’t see any guests go in deeper than their knees into the lake, and most stayed out of the water completely.
Fuxian’s deep waters do hold some mysteries, though. The ruins of an ancient city lie at the bottom of the lake, but no one is sure what city it used to be. It is said that the people who drowned when the city sunk are still walking around the city. There are also reports of some kind of a horse-like creature that comes out of the water. Cue creepy music…
Hmmm…maybe it’s these legends, not the danger of swimming, that my friend was trying to protect us from.
Alas, we did not see the Loch Ness Horse while we were there. At the hotel’s beach, we swam in the lake (without life jackets), and played in the powdery white sand that had been trucked in to create the beautiful beach. We also rented a paddleboat for half an hour (wearing life jackets, which were required).
Thirty minutes was plenty of time to meander around past the two anchored sailboats and enjoy the views down into the “kelp forests” as my kids called them.
We saw a few teensy-tiny fish, but nothing bigger, and certainly nothing as interesting as ruins or underwater zombies.
During our time at Fuxian, we also found out that it is famous for a few things. Every single place in China needs techan, right?
Copper Pot Rice
This is a specialty of the Fuxian region that has spread to Kunming and beyond. Sometimes called “potato rice”, it is traditionally rice made in a copper pot with fried potatoes and pieces of ham. Some places add in peas or carrots, or both. Properly done, it is really a delicious dish. The potatoes are golden and crispy, and there is usually a bit of “guo ba” (crispy rice) on the bottom. SO GOOD. Sadly, not all places do this one well. One place we had lunch at served us copper pot rice in a regular ceramic bowl (um, copper pot, folks). It was oily and the potatoes were soggy, not crispy. Pretty disappointing. Beware of knock-off copper pot rice!
Kang Lang Fish
These are the famous fish of Fuxian Lake, supposedly endangered and ONLY found in Fuxian Lake. If they’re truly endangered, I’m not sure why they are on the menu of every single eatery, but anyway. They are pretty expensive, so maybe that’s how they keep them from being overfished. We did not try them since ¾ of my family doesn’t really like fish. Plus, well, “Save the Kang Lang!”
Lotus Root and Lotus Root Powder
There are loads of lotus ponds in the Fuxian area. We had a few lotus root dishes while in town, but didn’t buy lotus root powder.
This is super new. Blueberries are exploding in popularity here in China. A couple years ago, you could only purchase imported ones for outrageous prices. Now, more and more Chinese farmers are jumping on the bandwagon, meaning fresher berries and lower prices. The climate in Yunnan is great for growing blueberries, and more and more local blueberry farms cropping up. (Cropping, get it?) There are lots of roadside stands near Fuxian selling fresh blueberries that were picked in the fields just behind or across from the stands. Talk about fresh!
Alright, time to discuss the hotel.
So, we were both impressed and disappointed by the Angsana. Apparently, two weeks ago, the hotel property was basically split in two. One side will continue to be Angsana; the other is…we are not 100% sure we understood the explanation of who will manage that part. Not Angsana. At any rate, all the facilities there were closed, including the outdoor swimming pool and media room that we had been looking forward to enjoying. Most frustrating is that all the amenities that were shut and gutted are still being billed on the Angsana’s website as being available.
Over at the hotel’s “Adventure Park,” there were more disappointments, but those seemed to have been problems longer than two weeks. The rock climbing wall had barbed wire wrapped around its ladder.
The tennis courts had been essentially turned into a plant nursery for the resort.
Yes, that is the tennis court. You can’t tell??
The laser tag range looked like it hadn’t been used in a very long time. As in, there is a tree growing out of this tank. Or maybe that adds to the camouflage?
The signs had all deteriorated, and most of the activity centers were unstaffed the entire time we were there.
Beautiful, abandoned lagoon.
So, when my husband asked about the archery range and got told “ummmm…the targets have been ordered and just haven’t arrived yet,” we were pretty sure that was the Chinese, face-saving way of saying, “no archery.” We’re even more sure of “no archery” after seeing the archery range, which had park benches sitting where the targets should have been.
I guess you could sit on the bench with an apple on your head for someone else to shoot at?
The moral of the story is: it may be an Angsana, but this is China. Adjust expectations accordingly.
We still had a great time and enjoyed the things that were available. I mean, look at these adorable beach palapas!
And the boardwalk leading out to them across a sea of sand!
Wow, from these pictures, it sure doesn’t look like we’re in a landlocked province on the eastern edge of the Himalayas, eh?
Not only is the beach pretty, the Adventure Park has some of the nicest landscaping I’ve seen in China so far. Everything was very well maintained, with lots of thought given to plant placement.
Acres and acres of lush, flowering plants surrounded us at the Adventure Park as well as on the hotel grounds.
That’s the silver lining of losing the tennis courts, friends. We gained a stellar nursery to supply a wide variety of plants for the grounds. It’s a win! Well, for everyone but tennis players.
We left Fuxian feeling like it was a lovely place to go enjoy some beautiful scenery and to go swimming in a lake where it is actually permitted and safe to swim. Next time, we’ll know not to expect rock climbing or archery, but that’s okay. Maybe next time, we’ll try scuba diving. It would be really cool to see the underwater city, and perhaps get a few selfies with whoever is living down in the depths of beautiful Fuxian Lake.
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July 19, 2016 at 1:52 am
Oh my gosh I’m coming next year! This is my next China vacation! I can’t believe you can swim in the lake! At the beach in Sanya they don’t allow children to go in over their waists anymore! Talk about depressing! (Yes, people are also surprised by our children’s ability to swim.) I just can’t believe Fuxian really exists in China. When my kids hear about the underwater city they will be begging to go. And that’s good news about the blueberries. They’re a bit hard to come by in Sanya but when we got back up to Beijing this summer they were 6 kuai a box! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Anyhow, thank you so much for all your amazing posts and for planning my next vacation for me (the hotel sounds like such a disappointment and yet not such a huge surprise in China, eh?).
July 19, 2016 at 2:39 pm
We would be really sad if we went to the ocean and our kids weren’t allowed in over their waists. What?? Blueberries went down to 7.9 kuai/box here, so Beijing beat us in price. Still better than 20-28 kuai/box like they were a couple years ago. If you guys really do get serious about visiting Fuxian, let me know. I can ask around about diving to see the ruins. It’s one of those things that seems to have very little information available, but we can usually find out more with asking friends (and friends of friends). Lastly, your comment made me realize I didn’t say much about what the inside of the Angsana was like. The rooms were very nice and the breakfast buffet was incredible! So it was still a good stay for us overall. Just weird that so many of their facilities were closed.