Day 5 (3/3).
About 60km southwest of Lake Mashu, we arrived at Akankohan (阿寒湖畔), our second destination in Akan Mashu National Park. Under the shadow of volcano Mount Oakan (雄阿寒岳), the onsen resort village Akankohan (阿寒湖畔) right by Lake Akan or Akanko (阿寒湖) is another great place in Eastern Hokkaido to experience the beauty of the region’s volcanic landscape. While may not be as crystal clear as Lake Mashu, Lake Akan, also a crater lake, is nonetheless also famous for its pure water. In fact, the pristine quality of the lake water has enabled the famous lake inhabitant, the marimo, to thrive in Lake Akan. Marimo, a rare ball-like algae, may grow up the size of a football if left untouched for centuries. Unlike Lake Mashu, Lake Akan has a much bigger human presence especially along the waterfront of Akankohan, where modern ryokans with all kinds of onsen baths, and shops, small museum, and cultural centre about the local Ainu people are established.
We stayed at Akankohan for a night to have a short visit of the lakeside onsen resort. We didn’t take the tourist cruise boat for a marimo museum visit on a small island in the lake; nor did we do a long hike up to one of the beautiful volcanoes around the lake or visit the Ainu cultural centre. We did however make a morning forest walk to the boiling bokke mud pool east of the resort village, enjoy a starry night standing on the lakeside boardwalk, and cleanse our bodies and souls in the mineral rich hotspring water of Akan.
At Akankohan, the waterfront is lined with resort hotels and docks for tourist cruise boats.
Located at the waterfront, our hotel Tsuruga Lake Akan Lodge Turano is a comfortable pet-friendly guesthouse with nice views to the lake.
Compared to other lakeside resort hotels, Tsuruga Lake Akan Lodge Turano is much more causal.
There was no hotspring facilities at Tsuruga Lake Akan Lodge Turano, we were invited to use one of Tsuruga’s other hotel’s facility. Recommended by the hotel staff, we went to Akan Yuku no Sato Tsuruga for its onsen facilities. During our visit, men were assigned to use the three-level bathing facilities at the lower floor while women at the 8/F outdoor infinity pool facing the lake.
It wasn’t the darkest and clearest night for stargazing, but chilling out in the cool air at Lake Akan after a hearty buffet dinner was delightful.
Clouds and fog moved quickly across the sky. Stars were still visible in between.
At Akankohan (阿寒湖畔), Mount Oakan (雄阿寒岳) has a dominant presence to the scenery.
Dusk fell upon with a soft touch of orange cast on the moving clouds.
In comparison, the artificial lights from the lakeside hotels looked overwhelmingly bright.
Various boardwalk structures extend out to the lake for small boats and tourist photos.
Last erupted in 2008, Mount Oakan is a shield volcano rises about 900m from the lake.
Swan like recreational boats looked quite out of place in the natural surrounding.
Most multi-level buildings in Akankohan are resort hotels. Behind the lakeside hotels, a shopping street lined with souvenir shops forms the main thoroughfare for the village. The entire village looks completely dependent on tourism.
Near our guesthouse Tsuruga Lake Akan Lodge Turano, the lights from the lakeside hotels looked far more overwhelming than the mighty volcano, which sat in tranquility in the background waiting for its next moment of eruption.
Leaving all daily troubles behind, we left Hong Kong for Chengdu on a Friday evening in mid September. By the time we arrived at the provincial capital of Sichuan two hours later, it was almost 11pm. We had several hours to kill at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (成都雙流國際機場) before our connecting flight to Lhasa at 6am the next morning. At Terminal 1 of Chengdu , we sat down at a quiet corner in the departure hall until 3am. Then we exited the terminal, and walked over to Terminal 2 for our Lhasa flight. We were sleepy as expected, and could only managed to get a bit more rest on the 2-hour flight. After an hour into the flight, the sun was already up above the clouds. As we approached Tibet, we could occasionally see beautiful snow-capped peaks sticking out of the clouds. During the descend, after our plane passed through the thick layer of clouds, we were excited to find the glorious terrains of the Tibetan Plateau below. The Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) and Lhasa River (拉薩河) near Lhasa Gonggar Airport (拉薩貢嘎機場) glowed under the morning sun. Our plane made a few turns before touching down onto the runway strip surrounded by patches of yellow trees. We didn’t prearrange any pick up from the airport. There were plenty of airport buses outside the airport and only costed us 25 RMB each (compared to 300 RMB for taxi and 500 RMB for private pickup). The ride to Central Lhasa took roughly an hour.
It was almost midnight when we arrived at Chengdu.
At 3am, we walked over to Terminal 2 for our Lhasa flight.
Occasional snow-capped peaks appeared above the clouds.
Despite exhaustion from the sleepless night, the excitement of seeing the mountainous landscape below kept our eyes opened until landing.
Descending below the layer of clouds was like entering a different world.
Under the clouds, the rugged landscape and the river valley received the first morning light of the day.
The flow of Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) offers a touch of colour to the otherwise dark brown terrain near Lhasa.
Under the light of morning sun, Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) glowed in the dark and rugged terrains.
The flood plains of Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江) near the airport were dotted with yellow trees.
Surrounded by rugged mountains, Lhasa Gonggar Airport (拉薩貢嘎機場) is a simple airport that connects Lhasa to several Chinese cities including Chengdu and Beijing.
The bus ride out to Central Lhasa took about an hour. The journey passed by river valleys and through mountain tunnels until reaching the suburb of Lhasa.
The bus passed by the majestic Potala as it approached the station nearby.
At the bus station at the shadow of the Potala, our exploration of Lhasa officially began.
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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet