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Fuxianhu Lake Entertainment

Clear, blue, swimmable water – it sounds more like a fantasy than a description of a modern Chinese lake. But Fuxian Lake (抚仙湖) remains one of the country's best-preserved lakes, due to its remarkable depth and relative obscurity. Yunnan's deepest and clearest lake is only a couple of hours from Kunming. Fuxian's cleanness makes it unique; unlike Dianchi or Erhai, two of Yunnan's most famous and polluted lakes, Fuxian has boating, beaching and even swimming. These activities, combined with the lake's proximity to Kunming, make it good place for a long day-trip or enjoyable weekend stay.

The lake sits about 60 miles to Kunming's southeast, just off the tip of the city's own immense Dianchi lake. Chengjiang (澄江) is the transport hub for the area, a sleepy town on the north end of the lake. Buses from Kunming arrive here, after which visitors must transfer to local buses or taxis to reach the primary tourist towns.

The two most popular towns around the lake are Luchong (禄充) and the Sunshine Coast (阳光海岸). Both have been extensively developed into Chinese-style resorts, and have the typical trappings – KTVs and bustling restaurants full of tour groups. However, the Sunshine Coast still beguiles with its stretch of sandy beach. The imported sand may not belong at Fuxian, but swimming in the clear, calm lake water is still a rare pleasure in Yunnan.

For visitors seeking peace and quiet, Gushan island, off the Sunshine Coast, makes for a perfect retreat. Gushan is reached from the beach, either by hiring a paddle ferry or renting a kayak or pedal boat. Visitors must pay 20 RMB to enter the island, but can spend the day wandering the forested paths or swimming off the rocks. Unlike the busy Sunshine Coast, the island's sounds are not man-made, making it a rare retreat from the noise of modern China – and earning it the nickname ‘Solitude Hill.' At the top of the island, a temple overlooks Fuxian's shimmering blue waters; gingkos and pines shade the walkways, but there are clear views toward the shoreline and the distant mountains beyond.

For visitors who wish to stay on Gushan, the Ancient Dian Kingdom Culture Garden is the only lodging option. Although the rooms are relatively spartan and a bit rustic, the hotel has a restaurant and a distinctly relaxing lack of visitors. The echoes of the Sunshine Coast KTV seem to rarely reach the island, which instead has a soundtrack of lapping waves and birdcalls.

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