Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, is one of China’s most famous tourist sites and only a couple of hours train ride from Shanghai. The legendary West Lake was a favourite of Emperors and poets alike. In fact, when Marco Polo passed through the city in 13th century, he described the city as one of the most splendid in the world.
The main tourist centre lies along the pedestrian street, Hefang Jie, which is lined with tourist stalls, food and other Chinese delicacy stores. With the old building facades giving it an classical feel, it makes for an interesting stroll and “stall-front” shopping.
Heading west along Hefang Jie then turning south through Wushan Square, a windy staircase takes you up Sunset Hill and through dense trees to a nice big temple (who’s name escapes us now!). This eye-catching tower, recently renovated, has several exhibits inside and nice views from the summit balcony.
But the major attraction of Hangzhou is undoubtedly West Lake (Xi Hu). Originally a lagoon adjoining the Qiantang River, the marshy expanse was dredged and turned into a lake in the 8th century. Over time, gardens were planted, pagodas and temples built and causeways constructed to cross it. Leifang Pagoda (Thunder Peak Pagoda) rises above the trees. The best way to see the lake is by bicycle, not only due to its size, but also to whiz by under the willow, plum and peach trees that line the shore and admire the views.
We climbed aboard a two-seated bicycle and pedaled the perimeter, through gardens, past boats and across some of the half-moon bridges. A relaxing way to spend a few hours outside the hustle and bustle of Shanghai.
Visited 3rd and 4th January 2014.