Hangzhou's Charm

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

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Flag of China  , Zhejiang,
Saturday, April 2, 2011

We took the advice of our roommate and headed to a local breakfast joint for a morning meal. It was ridiculously cheap for what you receive. 45 RMB paid for 5 people with several bowls of wontons, noodles, and a couple baskets of xiaolongbao. Surprisingly, this restaurant was located on the same city block as Burger King, Starbucks, Grandmas and Ireland Potatoes, it was just facing away from the lake. Nevertheless, it was drawing in crowds and with its to-go express line for baozi, people were coming in and out very quickly.

After our consumption of a very southern flavor meal, we went to rent our bicycles. We returned to the exact same location as in December, the kiosk right outside Orioles Singing in the Willows. The process was quite quick, we plopped down our 300 RMB deposit each and received our bicycle cards. The system would give us a free hour of rental, then charge 1 RMB for the second hour, 2 RMB for the third hour and so forth. In order to maximize our value, we quickly looked for a kiosk to return our bikes then tap out in order to keep the clock from ticking. A very efficient system for those seeking a way around the city with the mobility of a bicycle.

With our bicycles in hand, we took the advice of our roommate and headed towards Taiziwan Park where she said there were many flowers in bloom. Along the way, we encountered much traffic in the form of pedestrians and other bicyclists going in all directions. We stopped to take some photos of Leifeng Pagoda from a distance and then at the turtle pond near the pagoda itself. We finally reached Taiziwan Park only to find it swarmed with tourists and wedding couple everywhere taking photos. We were unable to return our bikes to a kiosk so we locked them up and left them on the sidewalk while we entered the park. Inside the park, it was a cameraman's delight with so many subjects from the forms of blooming flowers, to children running along playing, to cosplayers and wedding couples. We also ran into a little boy fully dressed up to impress any girl who happened to come across his way. He was definitely a happy little boy willing to pose for photos. We also spotted young artists exhibiting their artistic skills with canyons by drawing the scenery of the park.

After feasting our eyes on the wonderful park we set off to find our bicycles along the sidewalk. Little did we know that other people would also decide to park their identical bicycles alongside ours, causing a bit of confusion. Nevertheless, after figuring out which bikes were actually ours we headed north back to the hostel. Given that there was limited spaces for us to dock our bicycles we planned on using an earlier station further away from the hostel. After docking our bikes and we walked along the edge of the lake while enjoying the view.

We needed to return to the hostel in order to sort out our missing 5th bed for the second night of our trip. When placing the hostel booking, I was only able to secure 5 beds on the first night, 4 beds on the second night and 5 beds again on the final night. When checking in, they wanted us to return the second day to see if David could be placed in the existing room or be moved to a different room for the night. It was already after the checkout period when David and I went up to the front counter. Surprisingly they allowed David to stay in the same room as us without any reservations. Problem solved, easy as cake, so we went for lunch. As expected, we had another meal with beggar's chicken. However we elected to dine at the adjacent restaurant from yesterday's lunch. The meal was not as satisfying as the first day, but it was enough to fill our bellies.

Since arriving in Hangzhou, I was already pleased by viewing its natural beauty and devouring its delicious cuisine. Jeff's request for the trip was to purchase some Xihu Longjing tea leaves. So in order to honor his request, we decided to take a trip into the hills south of West Lake. By taking two separate cabs, we arrived to the China National Tea Museum, we thought we were sure to find some tea vendors in the area. Instead, we found ourselves viewing exhibits of the history of Chinese tea. One of the neatest exhibits was the hall of all types of tea, ranging from green, white, black, pu-er and scented tea leaves.

After visiting the museum and utilizing its restrooms we searched for a tea house to purchase some tea leaves. However the prices at tea houses based at the museum were incredibly inflated even as if they were government sponsored. We decided to try the tea shop down the street. We were quickly welcomed in and seated for tea, however something ran amok as the employee began to feel offended by us. My suspicions were she did not feel we were serious enough on purchasing the tea leaves. After a short while, things calmed down and we ended up purchasing one small box of tea, about 300 grams worth. We took cabs back to the hostel to prepare for our evening event, Impressions Hangzhou.

We dressed in several layers as the performance was scheduled to take place at 7:45PM on the northwest section of West Lake. We made our way through the traffic around the lake and quickly found a little restaurant that yes also had beggar's chicken. We had a relatively light dinner as the performance time was quickly closing in on us. After finding our seats in the stands, we realized the scale of performance. The spotlights we saw the previous night illuminated the sky, and the trees in the background were also flush with an assortment of colors. The performance was choreographed by famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou, and it was appropriately named Impression West Lake. The performance began with a performer walking on water with an umbrella. The storyline was set as as scholar meeting his destined girl, their fanciful courtship, their sudden separation and the heartbreaking resolution of the two lovers. There were performers on boats, walking on water performing in unison and the background music complimented all of the scenes. I highly recommend the show to any visitor in Hangzhou. We concluded our evening by having a pit stop at the Costa Coffee shop at Gu Shan before enjoying a nice night stroll on the Bai Causeway.

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