Published: September 6th 2012September 6th 2012
Hangzhou is famous for its west lake and it was the first city in China to have poetic "scenic spots". This dates back to the Song dynasty. My journey by train went smoothly with the usual queues for train tickets and a taxi. I travelled in the middle of the day to reduce queuing time. The youth hostel is next to the lake. A the lake there are plenty of tourists, but the lake is big enough for them to spread out. The areas around the lake are beautifully maintained with well kept gardens, machines washing the street and an army of cleaners. The area near the hostel is called "orioles singing in the willows". I didn't see an oriole but saw plenty of willows.
There is always something going on in Hagzhou and it usually has a genuine Chinese flavour. It might be thai chi, a group dancing with pompoms, a small choir, a man playing a stringed instrument with two ladies singing. It is entirely normal for someone to stroll around the lake singing quietly to a background tape. After watching some very graceful tai chi I walked south to the Liefeng Pagoda. I lingered in the well
tended gardens on the way. This is a modern pagoda built to replace one that crumbled away. The foundations of the old pagoda were excavated and are displayed beneath the new pagoda. The views from thetip of the pagoda over the lake were dreamy, but the weather wasn't great and the photos don't really do it justice. From the top of the pagoda there were views in the opposite direction to the Jinxci temple. That was my next calling point. This was a quiet temple without any tour groups. A short walk south took me to the silk museum. Unfortunately one of the highlights of the museum, the weaving workshop, was closed for renovations. The collection that interested me in the museum was the costumes with excellent examples from the Ming and Qing dynasties. In the main hall of the museum a small group of very attractive female teenagers were wearing a selection of costumes in a fashion parade. I decided to continue in the same direction and walk up Jade Emperor Hill. This is a little bit out of the way and not on the tour group itineries. On the way up the main site to see was the Zilai cave with a small cafe outside. The locals were playing cards in the cafe and not interested in the cave. From the cave there is a view down to the eight diagram field. It was land allocated to the imperial family. It is in an octagonal shape with different crops planted to make a geometric colour pattern. From the top of Jade Emperor Hill there wasn't a good view, but it was a pleasant and quiet walk. On the return route I diverted and visited the Tiantong temple with a small collection of Buddhist sculptures and the eight diagram field.