Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Holiday in Hangzhou: Part 2
The West Lake is a much-hyped location in Hangzhou, and in China itself. True, it is very pleasant and well worth a visit, but it is by no means "heaven on Earth" as the television adverts will have you believe (on CCTV 9). Still, if you happen to be in the neighbourhood then there is no excuse to take a walk and see one of China's top tourist attractions. The lake itself is very large and a walk around the perimeter can take hours -- I tried it once. The local government have also done a good job at preserving the area in a very tasteful way. You will not see any huge buildings crowding the sky-line; you will not hear the sounds of continual development that plagues so much of this country; and you will not see any cheap touristy cash-ins. Occasionally there is a (free) water show where lake water is pumped in all sorts of directions to simulate a kind of dance with music, at night it is especially spectacular (see below).
Kimi and I also met up with Reuben (an ex-Web teacher) and his girlfriend, Maggie. It was great to catch up and see how well Hangzhou life has been treating them. They took us to a couple of brilliant restaurants, one served Sichuan food and was certainly one of the best I have been to; the other was Korean, which was also the tastiest Korean food I have ever tried -- although I am by no means an expert on Korean cuisine (I think I've eaten it 5 times in my life).
I haven't been to Hangzhou for a while, but being there this time made me realise how much I have missed the place. I spent over half a year living and working in the city, then -- as I mentioned in my very first post -- I moved to Wenzhou, which has now taken up one year of my life. Hangzhou is certainly a more welcoming choice for anybody visiting China, and it manages to balance business and commerce with sightseeing and relaxation. The latter part is missing in Wenzhou, it is all business business business here.
We stayed with Reuben and Maggie for almost a whole day. We ate, drank, went to an arcade (which was an all-new experience for me in China), and finally ended up at a hotel. Reuben had been doing freelance work teaching some of the hotel staff English. All of us were introduced to the managers and finally the boss of the establishment. Lo and behold, the owner of this rather huge hotel block was Wenzhounese -- typical.
The following day Kimi and I didn't have much time to go sightseeing. Kimi had already done her fair share of shopping having bought a load of clothes from a factory outlet store the previous day. We took a short walk, struggled to find a taxi (which is common practice in Hangzhou), and eventually made our way to Subway for a sandwich -- a rare treat indeed. Finally we arrived back at the bus station, the taxi fare being much more expensive than any Wenzhou taxi I've ever taken. As always we were on the very last minute but just managed to hop on our 1 o'clock bus back to Wenzhou.
The holiday was criminally short, I didn't want to leave really, but as usual reality called and I once again realised that I need to make money to do things like have holidays in the first place. I should mention the national holiday itself was Qing Ming festival, or Tomb Sweeping day. A time to clean, restore, and put flowers on the graves of loved ones -- or go to Hangzhou for 3 days.