Dianchi Lake is an enormous fresh water lake 1,886 meters above sea level on the Kumning Plateau. In ancient times Dianchi Lake regarded as a place of great beauty and Kunming Lake in the Summer Palace is modelled on Dianchi Lake.
Tragically Dianchi Lake has fallen victim to China’s rapid industrialization and is now heavily polluted and overhyped. The destruction of Dianchi Lake is pretty sad and I don’t suggest you visit it unless you really have nothing else to do while in Kunming. Hai Geng Park is the best place to see Dianchi Lake the park itself can be fun and a good distraction after you spend the obligatory few minutes looking over the polluted green waters of the lake.
If you have a passion for lakes and would like to see a beautiful lake during your time in China, visit West Lake in Hangzhou. Dianchi Lake is the worst of China’s lakes while the West Lake is one of China’s best.
Dianchi Lake is the biggest fresh water lake in Yunnan province and the sixth largest fresh water lakes in China. It covers just under 300 square kilometres and is in the shape of a crescent with a length of around 40 kilometers and around d 12 kilometers in width at the widest point. The lake is not very deep and only has an average depth of 4.4 meters.
Sadly Dianchi Lake is one of those tourist spots with so much potential that has been destroyed by pollution.
Up until 1990 when Kunming built it’s first waste water treatment plant, all the city’s waste water was pumped untreated directly into the lake and this had been going on for decades. The 35 rivers that flow into Dianchi Lake are also heavily polluted. The worst of these rivers, the Panlong River, is responsible for more than 40% of the pollution flowing into Dianchi Lake.
For the last 20 years the Kunming Government has regularly pledged to clean Dianchi Lake and allocates billions of rmb annually to the clean up without any visible results. A government clean up in 1996 actually make the pollution worse when a dredge used in the clean up discharged used oil into the lake and created an 18,200 square meter oil slick.
The Kunming Government estimates that by 2020 100 billion yuan will have been spent on cleaning up Dianchi Lake. With only 8 years to go and no improvement in site, billions have been wasted in mismanagement and embezzlement and the whole clean up business has become a fiasco and public relations nightmare. Funnily enough the tourism industry continues to promote Dianchi Lake as a leading tourist attraction in Kunming with little or no mention of the pollution.
Activities in Haigeng Park
Seeing Dianchi Lake and visiting Haigeng Park does not need to be all doom and gloom. Haigeng Park has plenty of charm and can provide for a very enjoyable day. I’ve listed below the more enjoyable activities you can take part in the park.
Boat ride – Cost 80rmb and takes you for an hour cruise around the lake. The boat trip also includes a dance and performance by one of Kunming’s minority cultures. Not sure spending an hour on a green slimy polluted body of water would be much fun but the views and the performance could make it worth while.
Eat – There is a large lake front food court in the middle of the park that provides a large selection of dishes. I had a spicy potato dish with two skewers of lamb for 13rmb. Given the condition of the lake, stay away from the fish dishes.
Dress up – There are several kiosks on the lake front that provide traditional Chinese costumes for you to wear and have your photograph taken. 10rmb for 6 costume changes and 6 photos.
Amusement rides – There are several areas in the park that provide amusement rides such as a ghost train, an aerial train and a Graviton. Ideal for kids and men in the midst of a mid life crisis.
BBQ – The southern end of the park has a BBQ section open from 10am to 10pm where you can hire a BBQ for 50rmb for four hours and fuel for 100rmb. Food and drink can be bought at the BBQ for inflated prices or you can bring your own.
100 Year old Eucalyptus Trees – Back in 1896 Australian Eucalyptus trees were introduced to Yunnan province by the late Qing Dynasty for their quick growing ability. Nice to know Australia was importing into China a hundred years before Chinese exports were flooding the world.
Getting to Dianchi Lake and Haigeng Park is easy by both bus and taxi. Catch the number 44 bus from the train station which takes 30 to 40 minutes or catch a taxi for 30rmb which takes around 30 minutes. You can also catch buses 94 and 73 from the center of the city.
The cost of a ticket for Haigeng Park is 10rmb and the park is open from 6am to 2am.