The second stop on my China tour was the beautiful city of Hangzhou, in the province of the same name. Hangzhou is a tourist destination both for the Chinese and for international travelers due to the ancient temples, gardens, and famous longqing green tea. Though the majority of travelers did seem to be from other parts of China, there were quite a few Japanese and Koreans in the crowd. The city is also a Twin City with Indianapolis, Indiana, so it must be extra special. But I personally saw no resemblance between the two cities, and I think that is a good thing.
We traveled to Hangzhou via bullet train from Shanghai. this being my first trip by bullet train, I was very impressed and pleased. It was comfortable, fast, and I was lucky enough to have a seat for the entire trip so that I could nap a little. A lot of people were standing on the train for shorter trips, but it was a very smooth ride.
In Hangzhou we stayed in a huge suite in the Marco Merchant Hotel (Thanks for the slippers!). It was clean and nice, but a step down from our hotel in
Preparing tea the traditional way and picking through it for good leaves.
Shanghai. There was a ginormous king bed and a large window overlookingthe West Lake. It seemed like a decent, if possibly overpriced, hotel. It even had a gym, and lots of free water bottles. We explored some of the bakeries and small grocery stores around the block. Hangzhou was nice but just as busy as any Chinese city. We had szechuan hot pot at a restaurant down the street near a hospital and the lake front. Spicy, but delicious and full of shrimp and lotus root.
In the morning we went on a full day tour that began with the Huapo Springs, or Tiger Springs. The water from the springs was supposed to be the best in China and was given to emporors. People still drink from it and bottle it up to take home with them. There were lots of little temples and sculptures around the springs. You could spend hours walking on the gentle hills and exploring, but we were on a tour and were hurried on.
Next we took a boat across the West Lake to the islands and their water gardens. These are beautiful, and old, gardens and bridges that sit right in the
middle of the lake. It was getting a little bit crowded with all of the tourist groups passing through, but it was lovely nonetheless. There were some great views of the surrounding temples, too. From there we went to a temple where you are not supposed to take photos unless you want bad luck, and one where you are not supposed to say anyones name unless you want to give them bad luck. As this was a tour in Chinese, and my bf and his mom only translated bits of it, I don't remember a lot of the names and facts about the tour. Tours, I find, always are too rushed for me to actually enjoy a lot of what I am seeing. I generally prefer to explore an area with minimal guidance so I can take my time. But I was not planning this trip. Through the tour I saw a silk factory-- and got some new underwear-- and a tea factory to taste the famous longquing green tea.
In the afternoon we went to the Songcheng amusement park. It is part movie-set, part historical live action village, and part hokey theme park. It was full of surprises,
Huapo Springs Teapot
This giant teapot at the Tiger Springs is a major photo op. I was up there for 20 seconds while my photo was being taken, and some dude was crowding me out!
like when I found myself in a cave with glow in the dark paintings and buddha statues. Or when we went in to the haunted house, thinking it would be fun. How wrong we were. But we survived, eventually moved on to the Lingyin temple area, another beautiful walk in the woods. First we stopped at an incense store, and I got in trouble for taking pictures of statues. When we arrived at the temple those who wanted to pray lit sheathes of incense on fire and then shooke them out to just smoke. I was certain someone was going to lose some hair, but nobody did. The sculptures in the temples are amazing, but you are not really supposed to take any pictures of them so I only have photos of the outdoor carvings.
That was Hangzhou in all of it's glory. I'm sure I was the smelliest, sweatiest white girl a lot of those people had seen during the trip, but it was still fun.
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