Paradise in Heaven and Hangzhou on Earth
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
70Trip End Jul 31, 2011
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The ride from the hostel to Hongqiao was ridiculously long. I already knew that Hongqiao was out of the way from central Shanghai, but it was a 60 RMB cab from from nearly People's Park to Hongqiao Train station. The fare was comparable to Beijing International and taking a cab fare to BLCU which is around 80 RMB. When we arrived at the station, we were presented a with a modern and clean train station and airport. My lasting image of Shanghai compared to Beijing would be its cleanliness
Hangzhou in my opinion is the most beautiful city in China. In strong part because of it's natural scenery with rolling hills and famous lake, West Lake. I was extremely exciting to show off the city's beauty to my friends. We started off by getting into two cabs and headed towards the Mingtown Hostel located on Nanshan Lu, across the way from the Chinese Art Academy. I had selected the hostel as I was somewhat handling our activities in Hangzhou as I had also been here four years ago. I had remembered a Ferrari dealership near the lakeside and turns out the hostel was directly across the street from the dealership. So the very first car we say parked in front of the hostel was indeed a baby blue Ferrari 612. The owner turned out to be a Chinese lady and gave us a nice send off with the tunes of the Ferrari's exhaust. The make things even better, we spotted a white Lamborghini Gallardo parked in front of the Ferrari and Maserati dealership. This city is definitely full of win from the get go!
The hostel itself was two separate buildings on one property
We set off to explore Hangzhou shortly after 1PM, and came upon the golden cow in water which was north of our hostel location. This area was called Hangzhou TianDi, complete with a Starbucks, Haagen Dazs, Costa Coffee, and many other restaurants lining the beautiful lakeside. We found lunch across the way with many store peddlers seeking our business. We entered the very first restaurant who had hawked us for business and took a look at their menu. I instantly recalled Beggar's Chicken being an extremely delicious dish, cooked in a way that was convenient even for the poorest Chinese person. The meat from the chicken instantly fell apart similar to pulled pork from barbecue. We also enjoyed a proper steamed fish, prawns covered in tea leaves and pickled vegetables
We finally got cracking and started walking along the lake's eastern edge and headed towards Leifang Pagoda. However, we did have coffee in our hands and plenty of Hangzhou's scenery surrounding us at every corner. We stopped often to snap up photos of the beauty offered by Hangzhou's West Lake. The afternoon sun complimented the colors on the trees and the waves from the lake. Most of my photos were of the walkways near West Lake and some of the greenery near by. There were many benches along the lake shore for those wanting to take a break from a walk around the lake. We slowly but surely made our way past a statue commemorating the warlord who made Hangzhou the city it is today. After passing by the temple which commemorates the warlord we continued south until we reached the Orioles Singing in the Willows. It was a nice part of the lake which featured many trees, several ponds and a large wooden structure which seemed to house a restaurant. The structure did command a presence for those walking along the lakeside. We continued forward until we reached a walkway which jutted out onto West Lake. This walkway was famous for having two young lovers who committed suicide at this exact spot to show their love for one another against the will of the parents at the time.
I had pressed the group to pick up the pace as the sun had began to set and I wanted us to reach the Leifang Pagoda before sundown. We were able to reach the location at 5PM however the tower only open to tour groups and was closed to individual tourists. We were quite disappointed in their decision to close so early
Jeff and I continued to walk towards the hostel and stayed in the lobby to figure out a location for dinner. After receiving a recommendation from one of the workers at Mingtown Hostel, we decided to go to Lou Wai Lou on Solitary Hill. We rounded up Liz, Forrest and Dee and took two cabs to Lou Wai Lou. Our cabs ventured through the colorful downtown of Hangzhou and we had passed by many of the department stores and high end stores on our way to the restaurant. I rode with Jeff and our cab driver insisted that we continue with KTV or bars after our dinner at Lou Wai Lou. He was not very impressed with the restaurant itself stating it was traditional Hangzhou style food but expensive and touristy in his opinion. I engaged in a small conversation with him and found out he has never left Hangzhou to visit other Chinese cities
We were presented with a large and grand foyer complete with artworks and a spiraling staircase. We were ushered upstairs into a large dining room where small group of dinner goers can enjoy their meals, We had ordered Beggar's Chicken, Braised Pork, West Lake Vinegar Fish, and some vegetables. The meal itself was as the cab driver had described, it was expensive and not as satisfying as the lunch meal we had earlier in the day. The atmosphere in the dining hall was impressive but the service from the waiters and waitresses was inexcusable.
We left the restaurant and began our walk on the Bai Causeway. We stopped on the causeway to take in the view of the city from a distance. The city was quite colorful from the light emitted from the office towers and various neon lights. There was also a water fountain show display closer to the downtown scene. We could see it from a distance but it resembled the large water display outside of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. After taking some shots of the Baochu Pagoda we finished walking the Bai Causeway an took a cab back to the hostel to call it a night.