Paradise in Heaven and Hangzhou on Earth

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Mingtown Hostel

Flag of China  , Zhejiang,
Sunday, December 26, 2010

We awoke really exhausted and hungover but somehow made our way downstairs to check out of the hostel and proceeded to hail a cab to bring us the Hongqiao Train Station. Jeff was able to wake Stacey earlier in the morning and assisted her in hailing a cab for Shanghai Railway Station. Stacey had planned to head back to Beijing by Sunday night for class the next morning, however her teacher conveniently decided to cancel class for Monday leaving her out of the loop for Hangzhou.

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. We waddled around for half an hour before given access to board the high speed rail line to Hangzhou. The train was sleek and designed for speed, once on board the ride was extremely smooth and comfortable. Not more than 45 minutes later, we had arrived into Hangzhou.

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. The main office included a connected restaurant and wifi in the lobby. The lodging was in the other building which was accessed with the key card. To gain access we need to tap the card against the sensor then the glass door would slide open for us to enter the courtyard. We entered our room which was triple bunk bed room with tall ceilings. Very barren as it did not even have bathroom or shower in the in the same room. We quickly discovered it was a public shower and bathroom. The facilities were clean however it can be a hassle to use the facilities in the middle of the night as you needed to walk out of your room into the courtyard then into the public communal bathroom. Since there was five of us now, there was an extra bed for our roommate. We made guesses on what time of person he or she would be. We concluded it was a middle-aged Chinese man as he had cooking oil, a half finished bottle of beer, and a map in Chinese. We were entirely wrong, it turned out the previous roommate had moved out and a new one moved in. He was a college aged Chinese student with no English speaking skills, so our chats with him were brief and concise.

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. After lunch we got some coffee at Costa Coffee, which was entertaining as Jeff had ordered a non-fat latte and instead received hot steamed milk.

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. We attempted to catch a cab back into town but all the cabs were taken and only black cab vans were available for a steep rate. We proceeded to walk north along Nanshan Lu until we were able to find a cab, unfortunately it required a 15 minutes walk before we found an available cab. Forrest, Liz and Dee entered the cab first to head back to the hostel while Jeff and I elected to walk the rest of the way back. While walking back we discovered the Indian restaurant were I had previously dined in four years ago, this restaurant was quite delicious and for some odd reason included belly dancers from my recollection.

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. I told him that San Francisco is a desirable place in America however the living costs are very high even for an average person. We were the second cab to arrive at Lou Wai Lou and joined Forrest, Liz and Dee inside.

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.

Bai Causeway

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