Veggie Travels – Lugu Lake, Lijiang Yunnan, China

Lugu Hu (Lugu Lake), Yunnan, China

Lugu Lake is home to the Mosu, Tibetan and Yi peoples. Lugu Lake borders both Yunnan and Sichuan. We stayed primarily on the Yunnan side of the lake.

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Our experience: 2 nights
Wow. What a strange place this Lugu Lake and Mosu people are. This place barely redeemed itself. I have a pretty high tolerance but the people in Lige were incredibly rude. More on that below.

I came to Lugu Lake with relatively little expectations. I expected some nature and a good time hiking around and seeing the tranquility of a lake. The first day turned out to be terrible though.

Nala and I bought seats on a van from a travel agency. The driver was good and took care and seemed to be funny as Nala translated his occasional jokes. However, when we got to Da Luoshui at Lugu Lake, he changed.

He told us that the Mosu people (a small cultural group here) have their own laws and justice system. He basically said they’re beyond the laws of China. And on the way, he just drove through a police checkstop that wanted him to pay, which proved his point.

When we got to Da Luoshui, he didn’t want to take us any further to Lige, which is where he was supposed to take us. He was looking for other drivers to take us and was being a real jerk. You get the feeling this is some guy who’d do bad things to you if you got on is bad side. And we were on his turf. We felt pretty helpless. We’re used to fighting for ourselves in Beijing, but here, we had to remember that he pretty much knows everybody here.

In the end, he took us to Lige, a small village that basically consists of BBQ restaurants and hotels overlooking grass or the lake.

Nala and I went all around for a long time trying to get the best place for a good price. We missed out since it took us so long to find some good ones and know the prices (we couldn’t find much to pre-book so decided to just show up and find a place).

Finally, we got to this place called “Lotus” (Lian Hua). Terrible. DO NOT STAY HERE. At first we thought it was good because of the view. We wanted a place with a view more than anything even though it totally blew our budget. The place cost us 380RMB per night (a high price for this region and for what it is).

The reception staff is awful, and I mean awful – the worst I’ve ever experienced. She doesn’t even look Nala in the eyes when talking to her as she plays on her phone and does nothing to help. The room turned out to be dirty and full of spiderwebs and such as well. The staff here must be incredibly lazy and super rude.

We were pretty peeved and tried to get at one day (out of two) back. The reception girl refused and so we asked to speak with her boss. The boss owns another hotel in the area and we had to go there to talk with her. Sure enough, she also wasn’t there. Needless to say, they made us run in circles and, of course, didn’t give us our money back. So we stayed two nights.

Being vegetarian, walking around the streets for dinner with pigs and ducks on spits was pretty depressing. The people were incredibly rude to us as well. Some laughed at us being vegetarian and the service everywhere is terrible.

The people all over Lige are incredibly rude. I figure it’s because they don’t have to do anything to attract business since Chinese people flock here regardless in their tour groups.

We later tried calling our driver to book a spot back to Lijiang (since he’s who the travel agency told us to call) and he was so rude, he just kept hanging up on Nala.

The second day, however, was better. We found a pretty nice family who took us on a boat ride to the edge of a peninsula. It was nice and we got some good videos and pictures from it. They said people could stay at their place for 100RMB per night, which is great. The house is surrounded by flowers and has some ducks and pigs there (ironic).

Later we ended up hiking all the way to Xiao Luoshui (Small Luoshui). We went through Nisai as well and decided that if we ever came here again, we’d definitely stay at one of these developing towns or with the boat family.

We saw a group of men shoveling rocks into a tractor with a trailer and Nala asked them for a lift if we helped them shovel rocks. They agreed, so I shoveled rocks with them for about 20 minutes (to my sweaty and out of shape exhaustion). They took us on their tractor which was pretty fun and dropped us off.

The views around Lugu Lake are really beautiful, but still can’t compare to the lakes in the Rocky Mountains near Calgary, but it’s pretty darn good for China.

You might want to come here to see the Mosu people and their matriarchal customs or just check it out when in the region. Although, I’d advise to be careful. I felt like I was walking on eggshells since I could tell they have their own kind of justice system here and you don’t want to mess with them (that was my general feeling). They have large families, all know each other and you’re far far away from any help.

The boat people told us the people in Lige and the other developed hotel areas are so rude because people from other villagers built everything in and that they’re the rude ones, not the locals. I could see that since when we went to the smaller areas without so many tourists, the people were much nicer and more likely local.

In the end, the second day redeemed Lugu Lake for us. The rude “locals” hit us hard this early on our journey since I was at least expecting some to be polite (in Lige, maybe 5% are nice). Everyone seems to be on a short fuse and doesn’t care about making your stay pleasant.

Lugu Lake itself is pretty nice with a few temples here and there and some nice natural beauty. Overall I wouldn’t really recommend Lige or Da Luoshui if you want to come to Lugu Lake. Maybe look into going to a city on the Sichuan side of the lake or the smaller villages here.

What I took away
I have to say, coming across some people like this right when our journey began was difficult. Nala and I were excited to get out of Beijing and find some good friendly people. It turned out that we met some difficult people right away and it was meant to teach us something.

I learned that peace in your heart has to come from within. You can’t just wait until the next thing in your life is going to happen. You can’t wait for your traveling, for you to get married, for you to get a new job, for this or that or whatever. You need to find happiness now — in your heart.

So despite what the environment is around you, try your best to just laugh and smile. That’s my new mantra now — “Just Keep Smiling.”

The Mosu People:
The Mosu people are pretty interesting to say the least. They’re the last practicing matriarchal society in the world according to Lonely Planet. What does that mean? Basically, the women run the show in the family and the family line runs through the women, not men.

An interesting fact is that the Mosu don’t marry. Basically, men and women get together and have sex and produce offspring whenever. Men and women both sleep with multiple partners and have multiple children. The men don’t have to support their children at all.

This means that uncles tend to provide for their sisters’ children because they don’t have their own to take care of. Their culture is interesting to say the least.

The people here also aren’t really subject the laws of the outside world. They “have their own laws” as the driver put it. What this means is they settle their disputes however they want through their family feuds.

You’re in their place and help is far away. Keep your cool even when they’re so rude you want to yell or slap ‘em. Don’t stir things up and regret it later.

Where to stay:
Lige is the town we stayed in. We chose it because it was smaller than the touristy Da Luoshui (Big Luoshui) and heard it was a great place. We were surprised to arrive at the small village to find that it’s primarily made up of guest houses and not much else. And let me tell you, they’re pricy!

If you want the best bang for your buck, you should keep trekking down the main road around the lake to either Nisai and Xiao Luoshui (Small Luoshui). They’re less developed (for now) and offer the same great views if you want to get off the tourist track.

In Lige, you’re looking at more than 500RMB for the best hotels, more 380-420RMB for the medium ones, 240RMB for the garden views and 160RMB for rooms without views. There are also a couple HI hostels here that had dorm rooms for 50RMB and doubles for as low as 108RMB. Mind you, we came during the off season (plenty of rain and no sun).

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How to get there:
We came to Lugu Lake from Lijiang. It will take you about 6 hours on a bus. There are several options for how to get here:
-Tour groups. They’re everywhere in Lijiang. Some offer you transportation and accommodations for as little as 300RMB. However, this comes at a cost and the cost is they’ll take you on multiple shopping excursions expecting you (and I heard sometimes forcing you) to buy things along the way. It’s a way to save some money – potentially. Also, who knows about the quality of the accommodations.
-Buy a seat. You can also go to some travel agencies and buy a seat on a bus or van that goes to Lugu Lake. This is what Nala and I did. It cost us 150RMB just for transportation. They took us all the way to Lige (although with some whining and strange behavior from our driver who wanted to abandon us in Da Luoshui. I wouldn’t do this if you don’t speak any Chinese since you can’t communicate when or where to pick you up. At least it’d be difficult.
-Take the bus. It’ll cost somewhere between 60-80RMB (or more, not too sure) to get to Da Luoshui. If you want to go father, you’ll need to arrange other transportation. Also, you’ll need to buy your ticket at least one day in advance or you probably won’t get a seat.

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