Hangzhou 10th to the 12th December 2007
Hangzhou Travel Blog› entry 6 of 8 › view all entries
We got to Xi'an airport good and early as we always do and our love of airports paid off big time. Walking into the departures hall we looked up at the board to see a mass of delayed and cancellled flights. Fearing the worst we headed over to the Hainan Airlines counter to collect our tickets and see about checking in and were told our flight had been put back to 20:30 from 13:30 because of the fog. Gutted we asked if there were any earlier flights than that as even we didn't relish that length of time at the airport. The very nice guy at the counter managed to explain to us that there was a smaller airplane leaving at 12:40 but it was only a 30 seater. We took just about the last two tickets which there is no way we would have got if we hadn't been there early.
Our concerns that the plane would be a cloud dodger of the propeller type were totally unfounded. It was a great little plane, jet engines and all. We had a 30 minute stopoff at a place called Hefei and couldn't believe they let us all off the plane for such a short time, then it was on to Hangzhou. Once again we were sorted with the airport bus into the city itself and coming from Xi'an we agreed that Hangzhou is far closer to Hong Kong than anything or anywhere we've seen in China so far. Very modern and much cleaner. We took a taxi from the drop off point but the taxi driver acted as though he'd never seen a map before, an experience which was to be repeated here. He didn't know the address we gave him and seemed most unsure of what to do. In the end we had to guide him to where we thought our hostel was and get out. He wasn't happy at letting us out though. Weird.
We stayed at the West Lake Youth Hostel which is in a great location for the lake. Only problem is that it's right next door to a school, which we knew when we booked and didn't think would be a problem as we're both pretty good at tuning the noise of wailing kids out. What we didn't expect was the blaring music from speakers in the school yard from 7:20 until about 8:30. We also hadn't banked on one of the hostel staff coming into our private room in the middle of the night. A fact they were very apologetic about later but still gave us a bit of a fright.
Hangzhou is without doubt one of the prettiest cities we've ever seen. A huge man made lake is surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the other by the city itself. The whole place has been lovingly landscaped and causeways built across the lake, islands with pavillions in the middle and hanging willow trees around gorgeous paths and parks around the edges. Nothing we write can do it justice. We suspect it is even more beautiful in the summer months as our time here was slightly marred by the misty weather, but we both agreed that if we ever return to China, Hangzhou will be back on the itinerary.
We set off with the intention of strolling around the lake but a half hour in we realised that we might not get round in just one day and decided that the best approach was to jump on one of the many pleasure boats that ply back and forth across the waters, visiting the various islands and beauty spots the lake has to offer. We thoroughly enjoyed the calmness of being in such a beautiful setting, it was a real antidote to the hustle and bustle of other Chinese cities. We spent the best part of the day visiting sights with the most fantastic names such as, Three Pools Reflecting the Moon, Orioles Singing in the Willows Waves and Viewing Fish at Flower Pond. On the three pools island we also walked down 'Bamboo Path Leading to Serenity', great.
The weather and the school (damn kids) had convinced us that we'd only spend the two nights here so we sorted out our train tickets to Shanghai as we heard that the trains get very booked up. On the way back we finally found a veggie restaurant called Gongdelin in most guidebooks for Beijing and Shanghai but in actual fact was called the Godly Vegetarian Restaurant. The food was superb and we'll add a full review below at some stage. After eating we strolled through the Wushan night market which had some beautiful arts and crafts but most of the pieces we liked were too big for our backpacks and too expensive for us unemployed folk. A huge carved wooden dragon sculpture in particular stood out. Sounds a bit tacky we know but it was seriously beautiful and only Y6,000 before haggling so I suspect we could have got it for about Y2,000 or Y3,000 which is between GBP 120 to 150.
Turns out that Hangzhou is veggie paradise compared to our previous China experiences. There was a second Veggie restaurant (also reviewed below) just three minutes from our hostel on foot. So after another morning of being woken up to kids music, which if you think that kids tunes are bad in English you should try being forced to listen to them in Chinese, worse still when the tune gets stuck in your head (damn kids). We decided we'd have a slap up veggie feast before heading to the train station. It was chucking it down this morning and the hostel kindly lent us a couple of umbrellas. This was our first real rain since Vancouver so we were long overdue some. The food at this restaurant was even better than Gongdelin and we did the decent thing and ate as much as we could. Even then the bill was only Y68 for the two of us which is about GBP4.00.
Leaving Hangzhou wanting more we decided that it has been the best city in China so far and anyone thinking of coming to China should definately work it into their schedule. We find it hard to believe that anyone could be disappointed with such a charming place.