Beautiful Hangzhou

Hangzhou Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 5 › view all entries
After Guilin, I thought Hangzhou would just be a nice few days relaxing at the park.  Wow, that was the wrong mindset.  Upon arriving in Hangzhou, I started questioning why I was coming here.  During my taxi ride to my hotel around West Lake, we passed through the pollution... I mean, economic zone.  It was bad.  I'm pretty tolerant to polution, but my eyes actually stung driving through the new economic zone.  Luckily, as we got closer to West Lake, the air cleared up significantly.  There was still pollution around West Lake, but it didn't bother me one bit.

The West Lake Scenic Area is where all the action is for tourists.  First off, the Lonely Planet devotes dozens and dozens of pages to Beijing and Shanghai, but only a few pages to Hangzhou.  From those pages, I assumed there wasn't much to do in Hangzhou, but all the Chinese were telling me I should see Hangzhou.  For what?  Well, Marco Polo described the city as heaven on Earth.  It was a former imperial city.  It's both one of the historic town for tea and silk.  So, yeah, there's quite a bit of history in this city.  The lake, itself is huge.  If you want temples or pagoda, there are plenty here, and several are huge tourists site onto themselves.  I spent half a day exploring a fraction of just one temple.  If you like museums, there are several, including the national museums for silk and for tea.  You can visit several tea plantations.  There are several markets to visit.  There are several evening shows to see and even an amusement park.

The food?  Don't eat any western meals here.  Explore the local cuisine!  You won't regret it.  It's very delicious.  The Bureau of Tourism publishes a paperback guide.  You should get it.  The restaurant recommendations were very good.  I can recommend the Dongpo Pork.

The people?  The nicest and most relaxed locals I've met on this trip to China.

In summary, I really regret having only spent 3 nights in Hangzhou.  Unfortunately, the Lonely Planet mislead me into believing there wasn't much to do in Hangzhou.  In reality, there's too much to see and do and eat.  Several weeks could be spent exploring this awesome city.  Which brings up another important aspect of this city.  It's a big city so all the modern conveniences are also available.

One last tip, if you want to buy silk, most hotels will tell you to go to the Wushan Square, whose image is featured inside the tourist bureau's guidebook.  Wushan is for tourist trinkets and tea and some clothe.  For silk, go to Silk Street.  You'll have to persist when asking the locals.  They seem to have never heard of it.  The tourist bureau guidebook's summary map doesn't even show it.  However, it does describe it and the extended map enclosed at the end of the guidebook shows it.  Make sure to go here if you want silk.  I found out about it too late and could only spend half an hour rushing through there the morning I was to leave for Shanghai.  You can buy premade silk clothes, shaws, etc.  You can buy bulk raw silk by the meter.  You can have silk clothes tailor made.  It's the best silk market I've seen in Asia, and unlike Beijing's fake Silk Street market, the one in Hangzhou actually sells silk instead of everything but silk.
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photo by: sophiefbs