Rolling with the Punches

Hangzhou Travel Blog

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Temple down the street from my hostel.
Now that I got that eloquent rant off my chest.

Yesterday and today have been infinitely better.  Yesterday I took a much-needed break and spent the morning blogging (read: bitching my head off) and hiding from the wider world of China.  (It turns out the clientele of this hostel are 99% Chinese tourists, so there was no escaping the screaming and the spitting and the tormenting of the dog while he barked his head off at mind-splitting volumes.  That being said, the annoyances were manageable in comparison.)  I headed out in the late afternoon and strolled a bit of the West Lake before doubling back toward the city.  I discovered a long pedestrian shopping street, full of the kitchy vendors aimed at tourists that this area requires.
West Lake
  It was JAM PACKED, but having been removed from the chaos all day, I didn't mind being jostled (to an extent) as I ambled down the street.  From there I wandered further, hoping to stumble upon an inviting restaurant for dinner.  But I had no such luck, and made my way back to the hostel, where I had leftover raw veggies (from the Indian restaurant) instead.  And let me tell you, when you've been starved for fresh produce for six weeks, raw veggies taste pretty damn good.  It was a low-key day and I had nothing to show for myself, but it was exactly what I needed.

This morning I took a bus to the Linyin Temple, which is a bit west of the West Lake.  The grounds were fantastic, with dozens of sculptures carved into rocks that you could walk/climb past.
West Lake
  There was greenery to be had, although being trampled daily by thousands upon thousands of people, it's not exactly what I'd term "lush."  That being said, it was absolutely beautiful, and by far my favorite sight in China thus far.  (A good thing too, seeing as they hose you for admission to both the grounds and the temple separately, and those fees clock in higher than what Japan demands of its tourists.  YOWZA.) 

The temple is essentially a compound of temples, each one with different buddhas and deities and such.  The Chinese are WILD about their incense.  WILD.  They light fistfuls of Fourth of July grade torches and wave them around and bow with them and haphazardly fling them hither and yon.  I seriously patted the side of my head at one point because I thought my hair might have caught fire.
West Lake
  Seriously.  I have no doubt my eyebrows were singed, and I had to step away for a few minutes because my eyes were tearing so badly from all the smoke.  They take worship via incense to a whole new level.

The temples were neat; I enjoyed walking around and through them all.  But they're nothing spectacular or unique from other temples.  The true gem is the grounds that you walk through to get to the temple, and the thousands' years old rock carvings.  They're VERY cool.  THE must-see in Hangzhou, as far as I'm concerned.

I snacked on a massive ear of corn (the Chinese are wild about anything that can be speared on a stick) and caught the bus back to the lake.
West Lake
  From there I wandered around the city for an hour or so.  Both yesterday and today I was trying to hunt down a street hailed by the guidebook as being "THE" food street.  I've showed the street name to more than a few locals, and they all looked at me like I made it up.  This afternoon I came across a hidden and well-stocked tourist information office, the first to offer me a map that was A, FREE (!) and B, USEFUL (!!).  (And here I am with only a few hours left in the city.  Go figure.)  An older dude at the tourist information office recognized the name of the street and told me (via translator) to keep going in the direction I was headed for about ten minutes.  Nearly twenty minutes later I offically gave up, and turned around to backtrack to a food court I had passed.
West Lake
  Just then a sign caught my eye, right on the very corner I was standing -- I had inadvertently stumbled upon the vegetarian restaurant I had been seeking.  (Fun fact for those to come: neither street at this intersection is labeled as the guidebook would have you believe, but this is definitely the place that they review.)

The opening page of the (30+ pages) menu says: no meat, no egg, no MSG, no alcohol.  Yes please!!  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for eggs and alcohol.  But no meat and no MSG -- can't beat that.  The biggest bummer is that I didn't have anyone else with me to partake in the feast, and to justify ordering more dishes.  Would have been a fantastic place to sample several dishes.  I had a fresh watermelon juice, sauteed spinach, really delicious noodles that were uber thin and dry (not soupy), and tasty fake meat that was advertised as being fake pork but really tasted like chicken cutlets.
  VERY happy camper.  Took the gluttony one step further and ordered a fresh squeezed carrot-lime juice for dessert.  Soooo good.

So happy things finally started looking up.  Wasn't as bothered by the massive crush of the crowds, found some tasty vege food, and even the sun surprised the world by making a guest appearance in the afternoon, albeit for a few minutes.  (Even the locals were caught off guard!  So many oohs and ahhs and pointing toward the sky, like they hadn't seen the sun in ages.  Maybe that's why these people are so grumpy and rude -- seasonal affective disorder...  And suddenly everything makes sense.)  Points for good days in China!
bkretzer says:
Yeaaaa!
Posted on: Nov 02, 2009
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Temple down the street from my hos…
Temple down the street from my ho…
West Lake
West Lake
West Lake
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Hangzhou
photo by: sophiefbs