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Published: April 22nd 2007
Among the Blossoms
Couldn't resist doing one cheesy photo like the locals!
To the Chinese people and foreign tourists alike, Hangzhou is one of the most important tourist destinations in the whole of China. A heaven on earth with its pervading greenery and parks and in it’s midst its star attraction- West Lake.
On my previous visit about the same time last year, I was on a guided tour that had been organized by my college. (see previous blog entry- # 8 May Madness) Needless to say we spent very little time at West Lake, so this trip I decided to make it the focus of the whole trip. In addition, I wanted to see the spring blossoms, so I decided to travel a few weeks earlier and away from the main holiday season! What a great decision that turned out to be!
Being a backpacker at heart I decided to stay lakeside at the Hangzhou International Youth Hostel located right on the lake off Nanshan Lu near the bar district. The place is always busy and a hive of activity, not only with the residents, but also with an increasing number of other foreign travellers who are seeking someone who speaks English to help them organize their onward travel.
Zhang Shun was one of the heros of a famous novel developed in the late Yuan & early Ming Dynasty period (14th C). The "novel" was called "Outlaws of the Marsh" and Zhang Shun was noted both for his strong swimming ability and his bravery in battle.
Surprisingly it seems that there are very few establishments in the budget to mid-range category who have staff who can assist. At least that’s what I was told. (apologies if this is not correct) This is not a little backwater somewhere just opening up to foreign travellers but a major tourist destination. Perhaps something for them to consider. There is also a charming courtyard restaurant/cafÃ© that is also popular with locals working close by. It’s even sought out as a pretty backdrop for wedding photos, as I experienced one afternoon while relaxing over lunch.
The first thing I like to do on arrival at a new destination is to throw my bags on my bed and head off just exploring the surrounds by foot. As I arrived at night, this little “ritual” had to wait until the morning. I headed out relatively early, as despite it not being the main holidays, it was a weekend and spring is the peak season for West Lake. It turned out to be a wise decision, as I had a chance to almost completely circumnavigate the whole lake before the late morning tour groups arrived in their hordes. Now they’re a force to
Cherry Blossoms On West Lake
Despite the hazy conditions, these blossoms create a beautiful foreground to the lake.
be reckoned with!
The rest of the weekend was spent idling away time in particular areas of the lake, especially in the newer southern and quieter western areas. The weather was not really conducive to exploring the hills and villages extending beyond the southern reaches of the lake. I will leave that for another time.
West Lake has long been an inspiration to literati, artists and the like. The innumerable pieces of calligraphy, art and poetry that have been created over the centuries attest to this. There are also a number of famous legends based around or upon West Lake. In modern times West Lake may no longer be the peaceful place of solitude and contemplation that it may have been in the past, however it is still a charming place to just stroll, relax , enjoy the weeping willows, plum blossoms and ancient (albeit rebuilt) pagodas and best of all, people watch. One of the most striking aspects is that it is accessible to everyone, with only a handful of places requiring an entrance fee. Unfortunately in many places in China that I have travelled, this definitely is not the case. In some instances there seems to
One of the many traditional activities that are popular in parks and other public places is sword "dancing", as I call it. Although it is usual for the participants to be of a "mature" age, it is becoming more popular with young people. There are regular classes on our sports field and many of the trainees are young girls in their late teens and early twenties. It's a bit like doing a form of Tai Chi, very graceful and controlled.
be no public place, park or attraction that does not ask an increasingly exhorbitant entrance fee. This is especially so in the major tourist destinations and National Parks. Such a shame to keep these places out of reach for all but the affluent.
So share with me my spring experience at West Lake. I had a wonderful weekend and met a wide range of people. From out of town high school students here to sit a college/university entrance exam, university students taking a weekend out of study, local artists at an exhibition, local professionals, retired folk and a number of children. I am constantly reminded how blessed I am to experience this time in a land that is so different from my own.
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