Thursday, November 15, 2018

Travel Guide: Heavenly Lake, Xinjiang

I was in Urumqi for a couple of days and was considering going to Tianchi or Heavenly Lake. There were a lot of negative reviews about it. Since I was running out of things to do, I decided to go anyway. I had apprehensions, but when I got to see the lake, I felt it was worth it.


Travel Guide


Heavenly Lake is a possible day trip from the bustling and rapidly developing city of Urumqi. It's a good alternative for those who won't be able to visit Kanas and the other lakes in Xinjiang (or so others say). I suggest you just go and find out for yourself, because I actually liked my visit to Tianchi.





Parks in China are MASSIVE, they've developed it in a way that it's accessible to everyone, Heavenly Lake is no exception. There is a paved, serpentine road leading up to the lake. The drive is around 30 minutes (I think), but is scenic. You'll see the colors of autumn and trees dotting the mountainous landscape.




I kept my expectations in check, as I walked towards the lake, but when I saw the colors and the lake, I wasn't disappointed.




The snow-capped mountains in the distance and the striking yellows and reds of the surrounding trees made for a picturesque view, regardless of the crowd.






Most people stayed in the viewpoint near the port. I decided to walk a bit further away to see a different angle of the lake.






There's a number of walking trails for the adventurous, taking these will take you away from the crowds and tour groups who just want photo ops.





I found a walking trail that went down the mountain's side. There were waterfalls gushing from moss-covered rock formations. I only saw a couple of people following the same path.



I enjoyed my short day trip to Heavenly Lake, I was fortunate to visit during autumn, a clear day and nice weather.

How to Get to Heavenly Lake

If you're in the mood to join a tour (it's a Chinese group), you can find operators offering this service for a fee, it's less than CNY150-200 or around that amount. Alternatively, you can get to this park by public transportation. Here's how you do it:

  1. Get on a BRT7 bus bound for Beikeyunzhan, it's the last stop, but it helps to have the Chinese characters of the station written down or on your phone.
  2. After you reach the station, get on a bus bound for Fukang this will cost you CNY15 one way. The trip takes around an hour or so depending on traffic.
  3. After reaching Fukang, get on a van bound for Tianchi or Heavenly Lake, they're easy to spot, once you alight the drivers will start calling out for passengers. The fare is CNY10 and could take half an hour.
  4. Your next stop is the main gate of the park, this is where you'll buy the entrance ticket and another ticket for a bus that takes you to the scenic spot and back. You have the option to hike but it's going to be a long walk up. The bus costs CNY60 and the entrance ticket is CNY95.
Expenses

Everything's in CNY

30 - Round way bus fare from Urumqi to Fukang
20 - Round way van fare from Fukang to Tianchi
60 - Park bus ticket
95 - Entrance ticket

The BRT fare is around CNY2-3 I forget, but it's not expensive and it's a fixed rate regardless of how far you go.


There are extra fees:
  •  For those who want to go to Mt. Maya, it's CNY220. 
  • CNY10 for the electric cart from the last bus stop to the lake
  • Approximately CNY80 for the lake boat ride
Some tips for your trip:
  • Bring your own food and water, like many tourist attractions, prices soar once inside the park.
  • Bring extra clothes for changing.
  • Start early so that you have more than enough time to do a day trip. I suggest leaving at around 7-8am as the trip just to get to the lake can take around 3 hours.
  • Depending on the season you visit, bring a jacket or extra layers of clothing.
  • Bring your passport with you, foreigners need to register every time we enter and leave a new town or attraction in Xinjiang.
  • You don't need to do the boat ride on the lake.
  • There's a trail that leads to waterfalls near the bus station, take it if you want to leave the crowds.
  • Heavenly Lake is a good place to visit during autumn, beautiful colors on a clear day. It can get crowded, but you can easily get away by taking the many trails in the park. Most Chinese prefer going from point A to B using the available transportation, they won't walk too far.


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