Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Zheng Lee and myself at Nanhu Park in Changchun. Zheng is an under-graduate student at Jilin University majoring tourism. When he is on his bike through the traffic infested roads in Changchun, he can go crazy. He is too good! He has taken me to various places in Changchun.

I am standing on one of those rocks. Background is Nanhu Lake.

This couple is paddling a tricycle through the park. This is a usual spot in the park

I am struggling to paddle on the lake. Man, this is not easy job, I swear!

Zheng Lee paddling the boat, for only 15 mins and he left me to do for the rest of that day.

This is me. In the background you see elderly people dancing to a traditional Chinese music. During summer, senior citizens and elderly people normally get together at the park and dance like this. They take this as a recreation opportunity and part of they exercise.

Yeah! Yeah! come on dance it! Senior citizens dancing during the summer heat at Nanhu Park.

Captions: In the background is a train built by the Japanese, now put up as a display at Nanhu Park. Please do not ask me how it ended up here!

Paddling the Nanhu Lake in Changchun City

By Mathew Yakai in Changchun, China.

IT’S a beautiful cold winter here in Changchun city, the capital of Jilin Province in China. The temperature is at negative, and you can imagine how it’s like when you go out.

Especially coming from the tropics, it is unbearable in this part of the world.

But the winter or snow itself is one of the major tourism attractions in Changchun.

This is the only time you build snow man, play with snow and skiing. For couples, walking hand in hand under the snowy weather is romantic.

But I would like to share with you an experience I had last summer in Changchun.

Last time I paddled canoe on the sea was in Samarai Island, Milne Bay Province, particularly from Logea Island to neighboring Samarai Island in 1995, thanks to uncle Benny Makeni.

Uncle Benny, from Samarai was my guardian at Aiyura National High School from 1994 to 1995. Right after my Grade 12 graduation, he sent me to Logea Island to visit his brother Andrew Wasena and family.

I spent a memorable 12 weeks on beautiful Logea, paddled around Kwato Island and across to the mainland, including Samarai Island on the calm tropical blue sea.

Since then, I never went back to sea, or got on to any canoes to paddle until Sunday 25 May, 2008 when I went to Nanhu Lake in Changchun.

Nanhu or sometime called South Lake is an artificial lake, compared to the natural blue sea in the pacific, or some of the famous natural lakes like Lake Kutubu.

I should also mention Kuniming Numu, a little lake up in Mt Kunuming, looking down at my Yapalgu village.

What is so unique and different about Nanhu compared to beautiful lakes, seas, beaches and potential tourism scenarios we have in PNG?

Well, we do not utilize the potential of our lakes by converting them to tourist products and sell to our visitors to enjoy like what they do to Nanhu, a hot tourism spot.

It is in the southwest of Changchun, a young city with a long history. It accounts for about 222 hectares. The area of the lake is 92 hectares. It is the biggest park in Changchun, built in 1933.

Changchun is my home city, and the park is about two hours by bicycle from my hotel.

The lake water is very clear. There are willows along the bank of the lake. Birds, flowers, arched bridges and pavilions can be seen in the park.

If you stand on the bridge of South Lake and gazes at the north, you will see a colorful picture, which looks like flowing flowers blooming on the surface of the water.

When it is warm, one can go fishing, boating and swimming; when it is cold, one can go skiing, skating and watch sculptures made of ice.

Every late summer and early autumn, exhibitions of lanterns and exhibitions displaying characteristics of different nationalities are held here.

When water is frozen to ice, various kinds of activities related with ice and snow are held on the lake, especially sleighs pulled by dogs and cameras attract many tourists.

My Chinese friend Zeng Lee, some times I call him “crazy bicycle lad” called me on that day for a bicycle ride to Nanhu for boating. What an opportunity, at least a chance to get out of my hotel room to breath the cool Changchun breeze.

He arrived at my hotel at 1pm with two bicycles, and we headed for the lake. It took a hectic two hours, and we had to go through the usual heavy traffic.

You have to be good on the bicycle on Chinese roads, because drivers behind the wheels can be as careless as you and simply knock you off the road.

We arrived at the park at around 2pm. I have never seen such a park in my life time, with flock of people, walking in with tents to set up and leisure away.

Many went with their families, a weekend out with lunch pack. Under some trees, I saw men setting up tables and consuming alcohol, but not rowdy as we would expect in PNG. They know when to stop to make their way home safely.

Zeng was interested in taking pictures, when any Chinese approached me to talk with, may be because I was a foreigner, or for most, they have never seen a black person like me.

We arrived at a little shop, packed our bag with cold water container, soft drinks, and a lunch pack each to enjoy on the lake.

At the entrance of what I would term as a mini wharf, we paid 60 RMB for a boat ride. An elderly woman approached us with two life jackets and led us to our boat.

We boarded and Zeng started paddling to take the boat out from the bridge.

On the lake, we could see many people paddling and enjoying. Families, elders, lovers or friends were on the boat, rejoicing the cool summer sunshine.

For me, it was a happy moment because it was my first time to get on a lake such as Nanhu since I arrived in China.

But I never realized that I was going to paddle all throughout that day because Zeng would be very weak to paddle around the stagnant lake.

After about 15 mins of paddling, Zeng asked me to take over. I asked him to continue as I wanted to take pictures but he told me that he could no longer paddle because he was weak.

God, we were just into our 15 mins of boating and he is already tired. Yet, we have a long way to go because the lake is mere 222 hectares.

Though from the highlands but been experienced on the Samarai sea, I tried to prove to Zeng that I can paddle. I took hold of the paddles and journey through jammed boats on the lake.

Sometimes, I collided with other boats, and people were yelling at us. Lucky, I did not understand them given my poor Chinese.

At one stage, I collided with a boat which had a young couple on it. They were kissing and making love, a very romantic scene, but unfortunately the big bang of the collision disturbed them. I felt so guilty and apologized using my poor Chinese.

But the couple, whom I suppose were university students, could speak fare English, laughed at us and started talking. We spent sometime having good conversation on the lake.

After two hours of paddling, we decided to have our food. Not necessarily lunch because it was around 4pm then. We had our food, drinks and spent sometime chatting, taking us till 6pm.

We were then quite far from the bridge and that would take approximately two hours of paddling. Because Zeng is too weak to paddle, I had to do all the laborious work.

At one stage, Zeng felt like going to toilet because we had a lot of food and drink on the boat. We were trapped actually. To reach the toilet would take two solid hours paddling.

Zeng could not help. He was so desperate and asked me for the best option.

I suggested that he take off his clothes and pretend to swim, beside the boat while I paddle. He can do his business there. He took my advice and released his natural tension.

After few minutes, he got on the boat and I jokingly told him, “Zeng, that was a good and clever swimming?”

The lake is beautiful, but still remains artificial. I was thinking of natural lakes in PNG which one can apply the same concepts, of building little boats or canoes where tourists can enjoy boating.

Popular Ela Beach in Port Moresby for example. Every weekend, people go there to meet friends, or to swim in the sea, or play with the white sand.

National Capital District can use the same concept that is used in Nanhu. Build several little boats or canoes, with shelter, that can accommodate families, couples, lovers etc so they pay to paddle on the sea, but within certain vicinity.

On the watch would be the city rangers on specially built boats or dinghies with life saving equipments in cases of danger.

Ela Beach is a very ideal place, not only to earn money but also providing leisure for the city dwellers to relax during the weekends.

Public facilities, parks, leisure centers in Port Moresby and pacific countries are lacking.

In China, every municipal government makes it their priority to build parks, leisure centers, entertainment centers and so fort for the senior and ordinary citizens. Even the foreigners like I enjoy some of these facilities.

I realized one important thing at Nanhu Lake and the Park. People mind their rubbish, there is no stealing, people respect each other and safety of others is important.

If we are to convert Ela Beach into a leisure spot where people can enjoy boating by paying then we have to change our attitudes.

Importantly, no bettlenut chewing and cigarette selling, even other food staff at our popular spots. Stealing must be stopped. People’s safety should be guaranteed. International friends must feel safe at those spots.

In some countries that I have been to or read about, people make things to look natural and attract a lot of tourists, which eventually generates revenue for the local economy. Nanhu Lake is one example.

In PNG, we have every thing natural to enjoy.

The tropical weather provides sunshine throughout the year, unlike Changchun where they have to adjust to different weathers, which means extra preparation and extra spending.

PNG is tropical Paradise. We have the same weather throughout the year.

What we simply need now is a bit of commonsense, how we can simply learn to take care of our own tourism products and welcome visitors.

Unless we get these basic things in order, Ela Beach, which has the potential to generate millions of Kina for the local economy through tourism will remain one of the discarded beaches which any foreigners would wish it was at their backyard.