YUEYANG (岳阳, yuèyáng), a major riverside city on the Beijing–Guangzhou rail line and stop for Yangzi ferries, lies 160km southwest of Wuhan and 120km north of Changsha. The city also perches on the eastern shores of Dongting Hu (洞庭湖, dòngtínghú), China’s second largest freshwater lake, covering 2500 square kilometres. Fringed with reeds and lotus ponds, villages farming rich cane and paddy fields surround the lake; many locals also earn a livelihood from fishing. Despite accelerating tourism and an unpleasantly down-at-heel new city springing up in the background, it remains a reasonable place to spend the day while in transit, thanks to the impressive Yueyang Tower (岳阳楼, yuèyáng lóu) – frequently packed with Chinese tourists – and some historical links to the nationwide sport of dragon-boat racing.
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