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July 3, 2010

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Joy of Water Fest on Chongming

THE Joy of Water Festival in Mingzhu Lake Park features water sports and games, picnicking and barbecues, delicious fresh water food, bird watching and overnight stays in farm houses. Fei Lai reports.

Chongming County is a charming place for a weekend getaway and Mingzhu Lake Park on the scenic island is all set to receive visitors. The park's Joy of Water Festival opens next Thursday and runs for two months.

The park offers water sports, including kayaking, a water park with slides and games, as well as basics such as swimming, boating, fishing, barbecuing, bike riding and just relaxing in the forested area near Xisha Wetlands.

Mingzhu Lake, or Pearl Lake, in the southeast of the island, covers 200 hectares and is Shanghai's largest fresh water lake, sometimes called "West Lake in Chongming."

"It's a place where life is enhanced by natural beauty and leisure activities," says Wang Kecheng, general manger of Chongming Tourism Marketing Co Ltd and the general planner of the festival.

"Lake swimming is rare in Shanghai and so different from the experience at the City Beach in Jinshan District and the Bihaijinsha Beach in Fengxian District," he says.

Floating in clean water, surrounded by greenery, looking at the blue sky above and hearing nothing but the birds chirping -- that is rare in Shanghai.

The lake area is crossed by meandering streams and encompasses green fields dotted with brightly colored farm houses.

The festival area contains a swimming area with showering facilities; a play area with seesaws, slides and inflatable boats; a sports area for kayaking and water cycles; a fully equipped barbecue area that can accommodate more than 200 people and a rest area with sun shades and small pavilions.

But there's more.

Wang suggests visitors take a tour of the entire park in battery-powered cars before diving in.

"Due to high water quality and pollution-free soil, the lake is abundant in aquatic products," Wang says. "In addition to various kinds of carp, there are shrimp, crabs and shellfish."

The park features fish ponds where tourists can feed the beautiful, multi-colored carp. A special pool is home to a rare 1.6-meter-long black carp caught in Mingzhu Lake in 2007 -- it's believed to be 47 years old, though how that estimate is arrived at is unclear.

The most common fish in the lake is spotted silver carp, and restaurants inthe park all serve the famous dish of spotted silver carp head.

Visitors can go fishing and barbecue their catch.

Compared with the Dongping National Forest Park in Chongming, Mingzhu Lake Park has more varieties of trees, more than 50, including magnolia grandiflora, dawn redwood and gingko.

Forest covers more than 130 hectares, including lush vegetation, grasses and flowers. The unspoiled environment is perfect for birds and bird watchers who can also visit an education center and learn about their feathered friends.

"It's a natural wetland with plenty of food and an important stopover for migrating birds in winter," says Wang.

Around 70 kinds of birds can be found there, such as cormorants and egrets.

The park offers various transport, including bicycles, battery-powered cars and boats.

Mingzhu Lake Clubhouse offers a spectacular lake view and lies near a collection of farm houses that have been renovated with modern amenities to accommodate visitors.

The farm families also offer country cooking.

The clubhouse is a lovely place to relax with a cup of coffee or tea and take in the view.

When the Changjiang Tunnel-Bridge opened last October, there was a surge of tour groups seeking low-price short trips to Chongming. Now many people want to drive themselves and enjoy the beauty of nature and Mingzhu Lake.


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