Oops sorry everyone the last few days have been pretty busy , work during the week and play on the weekend. Back to the summer’s travels!
Next stop Hangzhou. Hangzhou is the largest and the capital city of Zhejiang province. Hangzhou lays about 180 km or so from Shanghai. 2.5 hours or so by bus but only 55 minutes via the high-speed train from Shanghai , making it an easy weekend escape from the crush of the city. Hangzhou has been one of the most prosperous cities of China for the last 1,000 years or so and is most famous for beautiful West Lake. West Lake really is that awesome , it’s not one of those hyped-up ” you must visit sites!!!!” that when you arrive leaves you with nothing but a vast feeling of disappointment . Hangzhou is also the most popular place for domestic Chinese tourists so it is an absolute must avoid during the madness of national public holidays. West Lake scenery is even featured on the back of the 1 RMB bill!.
We stayed at the Hangzhou International Youth Hostel at 101 Nanshan Lu , literally a one minute walk from the lake. This location was amazing. Both sides of Nanshan lu are heavily treed which creatures a lovely leafy green shady vibrant zone. There isn’t a whole lotta traffic here either which really adds to the contrast from Shanghai. I plan on returning here for a nice weekend getaway from Shanghai in the future.
The first day in Hangzhou we spent walking around the lake in the general vicinity of the hostel and taking a quick boat cruise to one of the islands laying on West Lake. 45 RMB to make it to Lesser Yangzhou Island. This is an artificially created island with a nifty little twist , the island is a ring with water on the inside and then another island on the side of the island , cool! After the island we walked over to Middle Zhongshan Lu pedestrian street to just look around and look at the cool architecture then returned to the hostel. After relaxing at the hostel and watching the sunset we found an extremely cool place.
JZ Bar (jazz bar) is right by the hostel on Nanshan Lu and is one of my favorite bars I’ve been to. Every night has a live jazz event and the one we saw blew me away. Sipping on our extremely pricey Carlsbergs (thanks pops!) I was amazed by the covers of Beatles , John Lennon , and (sorry can’t remember others! but I recognized many songs and then my jazz knowledge dad recognized the rest) crooned out by that sexy lady! Woo hoo!
The next day we ventured out into the less developed western green hilly area of Hangzhou in search of the famous Longjing tea. The area is loaded with tea fields , a tea museum , and plenty of tea houses and villages. This part of Hangzhou really amazed me , completely unlike Shanghai , reminding me more of Kirtland, OH with the greenery , lack of people , and streams. “This isn’t China “,you may think ,until you come on the tea fields with the farmers in the stereotypical cone-shaped hats plucking fresh tea. We took a visit to the tea museum, which was unfortunately closed on that day but we could still walk through the fields and visit the gardens and then found a tea house to relax at. This tea is the freshest possible and may be a little different from what you are used to. Tons of fresh green leaves float in the glass as you drink , if you finish your glass a waiter promptly comes by and pours more hot water into your cup.
After the tea fields we came back to visit Lingyin temple , this is one of the 3 oldest and most famous temples in China. It is a practicing monastery with monks roaming around the vast grounds. The temples are huge and the setting is serene set amongst the all the tall pine trees. However , my favorite part was the many many Buddhas carved directly into the stones of the mountain along the river. The carvings are stunning and my family got a good taste of the Chinese tourists being more interested in us and taking pictures with us than seeing the temple and carvings.
We left the temples and went back to walk around the lake until our hunger built up. After, we found a fantastic western restaurant right by the hostel , sorry everyone can’t remember the name but it’s right by the hostel so look by 101 Nanshan lu. This awesome restaurant bar has a rooftop bar , and first floor outdoor seating and (and!!) a selection of 6 or 7 craft brews from California! Hell yea Acme Pale Ale! Translated into Chinese as Beautiful Girl Beer (due to the chick on the front). My parents are doing a good job of eating Chinese food but pops is requiring at least one western meal a day. This works out for me cuz I’m not used to eating western food on a regular basis and its like a mini vacation for me as well. The family went to bed early and I took the opportunity for some on the family micro-brews. Hehe.
We had an early wake up the next day to make our way to the Hangzhou airport for a flight to Xi’an to see the Terracotta warriors. I told you this plan was ambitious!