China Story 15: Beauty of Erhai Lake in Shuanglang (洱海双廊)
Sights: Shuanglang Town near Erhai Lake (洱海双廊镇)
Region: Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province
Shuanglang Town was hailed as the top town in Dali to check out both the scenery of Cangshan Mountain (苍山) and Erhai Lake (洱海) — "苍海风光第一镇". Due to its popularity, travellers poured into the "ancient" town and it soon developed into a tourist town with hotels, restaurants and gift shops lining the lakeside. Prices in Shuanglang Town had also soared to higher levels than any other nearby towns.
Additionally, air and water pollution from over-development had also escalated to high levels. It was already a smog-covered town in 2012 and, 5 years later, the water quality of Erhai Lake had dropped to such low levels that all cafes, restaurants, hotels and hostels voluntarily halted operations in Shuanglang Town to allow the lake to "breathe again". Nobody knows when or if they will ever restart their businesses (as of Oct 2017).
Travellers can still get to Shuanglang to check out the scenery on a day trip from Dali Ancient City. But Shuanglang Town will be covered in construction smog as work is in progress to replace the sewage system to divert waste water away from Erhai Lake. This may probably take some time.
So, is Shuanglang worth a visit? Well, I was there and took some photos. Check it out.
I was in Nuodeng, a truly ancient village, before Shuanglang Town
Getting from Nuodeng Town to Shuanglang Town
I took the local bus from Nuodeng Town to the local bus station in Dali. Guided by a local, I walked to the railway station for Bus Service 8 to the terminal station in Dali Ancient City and changed to another bus bounded for Shuanglang Town. It was a long journey that took almost a whole day.
Where I stayed
I can't remember the name of the hostel that I stayed at in Shuanglang Town. But I got to know Xiaohan, a Zhuang-minority traveller from Guangxi who was heading to Tibet through Yunnan, in the same hostel. We teamed up to explore Shuanglang and travelled together to Shangri-la.
We stayed for only one full day in Shuanglang Town.
Sights around Shuanglang Town
We started the day by exploring the "old town" where most of the local Bai-minority (白族) people were residing. But having visited Nuodeng Town a couple of days back, they looked largely similar to me. It was still great to take a stroll in the small sector of old buildings.
Shuanglang Town was supposed to be an ancient town, but due to mass development for tourism, the town had lost most of its rustic charms — so I omitted the word "ancient" when referring to Shuanglang Town.
The fields around the town were shrinking as more hotels and restaurants were built. Most of the new structures abandoned the traditional architectural styles of the Bai people, making the town a hybrid of old and modern structures.
Nanzhao Amorous Island (南诏风情岛) is one of the three islands in Erhai Lake. It was hailed as a honeymoon island with posh honeymoon hotels and stylish cafes and required a boat-cum-entry fee — we skipped it.
We walked along the lake side around Shuanglang and took some photos of the scenery with boats and trees in the water. They might be deemed as "beautiful" to Chinese visitors, but seemed overrated to me.
Looking out to Erhai Lake, we saw the water, the sun and Cangshan Mountain on the opposite shore but the moment we turned around, we were engulfed in construction smog — which was why no photos were taken of the land behind us.
The stretch of buildings lining the lakeside near to Shuanglang Town were mostly hotels, restaurants, and gift shops. That would be where most tourists headed for.
And so much for being able to "see both the beauty of Erhai Lake and Cangshan Mountain from Shuanglang". It was overrated.
Along the lakeside were some smaller scenic spots to rescue the day. So, taking a walk out of the town was much more worthwhile than exploring in it.
And finally, a sunset view over Erhai Lake and Cangshan Mountain from Shuanglang Town.
The following day, we headed for one of the three ancient towns in Lijiang — Shuhe Ancient Town (束河古镇).
Next, the famous Old Town of Lijiang