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Travelogue: Taiping Lake

In an effort to attract tourists to Anhui Province, the local government has invested in a huge development project to build up the area around Taiping Lake, a large and impressive body of water in the southern part of the province to develop the local China tourism. The lake's water is very fresh and clean, and because of the 95-percent tree coverage of the area, the surrounding lands are full of fresh air like a natural oxygen bar. When I got off the tour bus and walked to the lakeside, the feeling in my lungs was rejuvenating.

When we took a boat across the lake to an island, I rode on the top level and had a remarkable view of the lake whose water extended to the horizon. It was a great opportunity for photos as well, as there were natural wildlife and flocks of birds flying around the shore.

After we docked and disembarked, we had a chance to observe the island's wildlife and old buildings. I felt as if I was an explorer in colonial times entering a new world. We had to walk up some stone steps, but only men were allowed to go up on the left, while women had to stay on the right. At the top, we came to a series of stone gateways, each with a different sign of the zodiac. I walked through mine – ox or "niu."

Finally, we stepped onto a platform that had eight small staircases leading to the center, each adorned with a different colored flag. We were told to ascend the staircase according to the color we liked the best, then walk around the Yinyang symbol carved in the center of the platform – clockwise for men, counter-clockwise for women. Afterwards, we had to choose an exit marked with a colored flag to descend from the platform. But what did it all mean? It is an optional attraction for your packages of China travel deals.

We reached a temple to find the answer: It was all a ruse to pay a fortuneteller to tell our fortunes based upon the "Yijing," better known in the West as the "I Ching" or "Book of Changes." For 20 yuan, a man would tell us our fortunes based on the colors we had chosen. Ironically enough, the first part of our journey in Anhui where we were obliged to spend our own money was the only time we were not rushed along to the next stop on our trip. Intrigued, I sent a cell-phone message to my wife, asking her to find out my fortune on Baidu. Turns out Baidu knew just as much as the fortuneteller. I wonder if he had predicted that? But it is worth for a visit included in your China vacation packages.

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