On day five of our China trip we embarked on a tour of Hangzhou city; renowned for its beauty and abundance of cultural heritage it is the centre of the Zhejiang Provence, known as one of the most popular tourist destinations in China. We were accompanied by our new tour guide Anthony who, while good, was not a patch on Kitty who was a hard act to follow.
Hangzhou, which has been awarded the 2022 Asian Games, sits at the head of Hangzhou Bay, which separates Shanghai and Ningbo and grew to prominence as the southern terminus of the Grand Canal. It has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China for much of the last millennium. The city's West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, immediately west of the city, is amongst its best-known attractions and was our first stop.
A freshwater lake it is divided into five sections by three causeways with numerous temples, pagodas, gardens and artificial islands within the lake. West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history for its natural beauty and historic relics. The Chinese Gardens there are in a landscape garden style which
has evolved over three thousand years. They includes both the vast gardens of the Chinese emperors and members of the imperial family, built for pleasure and to impress, and the more intimate gardens created by scholars, poets, former government officials, soldiers and merchants, made for reflection and escape from the outside world. They create idealised miniature landscapes, meant to express the harmony that should exist between man and nature. Anthony told us that courting couples wander along the paths around the lake and it's where marriage proposals are made.
As I've been missing fresh fruit since we arrived in China when I sat down at the edge of the lake to enjoy the scenery, next to where I was sitting was a Chinese family with a bag of bananas which they were all enjoying. As I was wondering how I could score myself a banana one of the women, in sign language, asked if she could have a photo taken with me. That was my chance!! Also in sign language I asked for a banana...and what a treat it was!
From West Lake we were driven to the Meijiawu Village and Longjing tea plantation
where we learnt about tea picking and processing and got to taste some of the tea. The planation is famous for the five visits of the Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. Many people from countries such as the US, Vietnam and Cambodia have also visited Meijiawu Village to enjoy the mountains, green hills with the lush verdant tea fields. And of course there was the usual shop to tempt us before we headed back to the coach. Some of our party were heading back to the hotel, while Kev, myself and a few others chose to take the optional tour to see Song Dynasty Show
The show took place at Hangzhou Songcheng, Hangzhou Song (dynasty) City, which is a theme park. When we first arrived Anthony went off to buy us tickets for the show, coming back around forty five minutes later with his wife, two little sons and a couple of other family members. Supposedly Songcheng is a replica of a town from the Song period with restaurants, shops, and lots of attractions in the streets where people dressed in the style of Song walk around, perform, and carry tourists around in a sedan chair. While I
can't recall seeing too much of that the Chinese crowds apparently seemed to enjoy it all. In many ways I thought much of it was a bit tacky but I did manage to find some green tea ice cream (yes, you heard that right, Green Tea, not Green Bean) in a touristy café there. At the top of a 'mountain' there were a couple of large Buddhas - one upright and the other reclining - and many smaller ones. Plus you could walk through a few passageways in the 'mountain' which we did of course. There were free shows going on at various places and a 'swimming pool' of sorts.
The highlight of the place was the Romance of the Song Dynasty show, a grand, one hour show depicting scenes from the time of the Song dynasty. Performance, decor, costumes, music, singing, and dance, were all very colourful including some really fantastic costumes. The concert hall must have held at least 2,000 but from my perspective the audience were not what I would have expected! When some very glamorous spectacularly dressed performers walked from the back of
the hall to the stage almost everyone stood up to photograph them with their mobile phones! Then, halfway through the last performance lots of the audience got up and walked out. Very rude I thought...rude to the rest of the audience and rude to the performers on stage!! As a regular theatre goer myself that was rather annoying to say the least!! Ah well, different cultures obviously behave differently.
By the end of the concert it was dark so lots of the theme park was lit up but we were pleased that it was time to go back on the hotel. Another full day was over!
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