The tourist boat that takes you to the islands on West Lake
We landed in Hangzhou about 10pm. Not sure how the taxi works here, one man approached us, telling us he could bring us to our hotel for CNY150. Charlie had doubt about him and decided to walk out of the terminal looking for a proper taxi line. My Chinese language comes in handy when I asked the guard outside and was told that we can easily get a taxi right outside the terminal. It was easy to get one and was quoted CNY100! Although we had some language problem when I did not know what is Holiday Inn in Chinese!
We went to the famous West Lake.
It is a huge lake with 2 islands in the middle of the lake. It is truly a heaven on earth! West Lake is beautiful, cherry blossoms and willow trees around the lake. There is a walk way for people where no vehicles allowed except bicycles and their tourist trolley (looks like a bigger golf cart that can carry 12 passengers) depends on the distance, fees started from CNY10, 20, 30. Is a quicker way to round the lake. If you try to walk, it may take you a whole day! I suggest one to take the tourist trolley cart when first arrived and then go back to the spot/place where you like. One can also rent a bike to round the lake, although we didn’t rent one due to the crazy traffic. There are many venders will approach you if you want to rent a bike and usually they speak Chinese to you even though Charlie does not look like Chinese at all! There were many benches around the lake and if you are lucky, you may get an empty one. We managed to find one on the last day of our trip and we basically just sat there and admire the tranquility of the lake.
one of the bridge accross the West Lake
The lake is so huge that we had to spend 3 days to see all parts of lake (of course we spent a lot of time just sitting around - it’s so peaceful! Different part of the lake has different names; it will be difficult for someone who does not speak Chinese to remember the names…
You can take a boat ride to the main island (San Tan Yin Yue - 3 lakes mirroring the moon) with entrance fees included. Some boat rides include a detour to another smaller island before it headed to the main island. You can stay however long you wish on both islands as long as you leave on the same day. There are a few jetties around the lakes depend on where you want to embark and you can choose which stop you wanted to disembark. We love the boat ride. All the boats are electronically operated, therefore it is very quiet.
There is a very popular restaurant by the lake named Lou Wai Lou (building beyond building).
All travel books recommended this restaurant. It is a 2 story building with 2 big chandeliers hanging in the main dining hall. One of their signature dishes is Beggar’s Chicken. The chicken with some herbals were wrapped in a lotus leave and mud before it send into the big oven. By the time the chicken is served, the mud had removed and the lotus leave is cut up so that it would be easy for us to enjoy. It’s delicious! Although the price is CNY98 for one chicken, but is definitely worth trying!
If you are tired of sightseeing, there is a street full of restaurants, local snacks, tea houses, souvenirs, hand made crafts, high quality leather goods, silks and lots of fun Chinese traditional crafts. All housed in 2 rows of Chinese traditional style building - Qing He Fang Lu.
This is so different from other souvenirs streets we saw in Thailand - same shit different stores.
Almost none of the shops selling the same thing (ok, maybe a few of them are the same, like silk and tea leaves…)
It was easy to get a cab around West Lake except that first day evening we spent about an hour to find a cab. Here is the trick : you have to be at the right place at the right time. We were told by our cab driver (very honest guy) that we should not try to hail a cab between 4-6pm. This is the time when the drivers change shift. We should also be at a road where there is more traffic. That day we start hailing cad from a secluded area where there were not many cars. Most of the cabs we saw were occupied. Usually the driver will put up a lighted sign “Vacant” in Chinese. Of cause this will be a problem for a non Chinese speaker. We managed to walk to a traffic junction and one of the cab driver who was waiting for his customer (who has a reservation) told us to walk further down to the traffic light area, there is more chance to hail an empty cab.
We find that people in Hangzhou are so much friendlier and honest compare to people in Shanghai. (I will write another blog about Shanghai later.) We did not need to tell the cab drivers to charge us base on the taxi's meter, they would automatically do so, even the one who took us to the airport - I don’t believe how honest he is! The staff from our hotel told us the cab will charge CNY110-120 to airport but our guy used meter and it was only RM83 according to the meter. We felt bad and decided to give him CNY100!
We went to a hill side village where the Chinese LongJin tea plantation area - LongJin Village “Dragon Well Village”.
There are freshly pick green tea leaves up for sale from the locals. Our driver told us the tea leaves they offer here in the village is 100% genuine and good quality and also a little cheaper compare to the big tea house down town. They have to maintain it reputation and control by the government. We saw the original dragon well which is 1200 years old by the road side. The local told us to take the water from the well and wash our eyes with the water - they believe this will bring us luck and wealth. We were then brought to a local house by a local Chinese old lady. She brought us 2 glasses of tea and start explaining how to determine if it is a good quality tea leaves : the tea leaves should stands in the glass. We wanted to buy 100g but she was not so happy because it was too little! We ended up buying 200g for CNY320! Well, I have to amid; the green tea does taste good.
If you like silk, Hangzhou is the place to get some good quality silk products : from shirts to jackets, blankets to scarves.
Walk way around the West Lake - only their tourist trolley buses and bikes are allowed
On the last day, we explored another part of the road that closes to the West Lake - NanShan Lu where there is a Hyatt hotel, Starbucks and American fast food stores. I think we should have hailed a cab around this area on the first day, then we won’t have that “no cab” situation….
One more thing worth mentioning is - there are more public toilets compare to Europe and they are clean and free of charge!