February 17, 2018

Hangzhou

How I visited the capital of the Zhejiang province during my journey through East China.

Coming from the rural areas of Yi County in Anhui Province, the most convenient way was by a bus - which was, um, adventurous at places..

Sometimes, the pavement simply ended, leaving a muddy surface with sharp rocks.

There's no direct connection, so I had to transfer in Tunxi. But everything went smoothly, leaving me just enough time for lunch. Also, spending the hottest part of the day in an air-conditioned environment was welcomed. Speaking of local buses, they have surprisingly generous legroom, but dear me, they can be loud! However, having noise-cancelling headphones, I did enjoy the journey, and when I arrived in Hangzhou, I was excited to experience it.

The first thing was to drop my backpack at the accommodation I booked. As it was some 7 km (4.4mi) from the bus station and there was no subway stop nearby, I used those lovely rental bikes conveniently just behind the station's entrance. "That'll do!" As I started riding, I was impressed by how tidy the city was - there wasn't any litter laying around. Most Chinese cities are well-kept from trash, but Hangzhou took it to a yet new level. The air, unfortunately, didn't reflect the cleanliness of the ground - plenty of ongoing constructions were whirlpooling dust everywhere. And as the air temperatures were still close to the boiling point, it was not fun to breathe all that.

Three tunnels and plenty of drinking water later, I've arrived at the hostel. Shortly after a welcomed shower, I was making my way towards the downtown, and the gift named Hangzhou started giving.

West Lake with the Leifeng Pagoda

Before the darkness fell, I was walking on the promenade next to the West Lake, around which the city is built. I was told that Hangzhou, together with Shenzhen, has the biggest concentration of billionaires in China, and the promenade reflected such. It was packed with luxury stores; Ferrari, Omega, and that sort.

The waterfront, though; I expected a lot of people, but the crowd was mind-blowing. Individuals rudely pushed each other, police whistled, and repeat. Some were arguing about the bikes, others were fighting for the best spot to stick their tripod to take a photograph.. Like if it would matter. "Oh not again," I didn't miss this aspect of a city. So, I escaped into one of the fancy restaurants nearby and, as a contrast, got plenty of personal space, the temperature was just right, and the music was nice. "Please enjoy." Oh, I did. When I recharged my comfort level, I went out again to see what's all the fuss about.

Each hour, they had a singing fountain show. The place was filled to burst, except behind one large sign - nobody around was tall enough to see pass it. Nobody, but me - that was my chance. Happy that I am not obscuring anyone's view, I watched the show for a moment, then I thought to use the sigh as a tripod, to take a long exposure picture of the fountain. However, as soon as someone standing in front of the sign saw a camera sticking on it, he or she put a hand up in front of the lens, just to ruin my view. "Seriously?" I mean, it didn't annoy me because of the picture - but it upset me that people commit actions with no other purpose than to harm others. Again, like if that one photo would matter. Pff.
So I walked away and relaxed with picture taking elsewhere. A simple thing, taking pictures, but it's like a therapy to me.

Eventually, I went to check out another point of interest, the Global Centre building - that tower in the middle of the photo below:


No close-up pictures, as in my eyes, the tower looks better from a distance. But getting there was fun, with fewer people and some colorful scenery to admire
Then I turned around and started making my way back home. I decided to complete a circle around the lake, which also offered some beautiful views.


By the time I got back to the hostel, it was almost midnight. I was happy to reunion with a bed.
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Unlike the previous days, the following morning, I slept in. While it felt good, it also meant that by the time I left to see more of the city, it was 38c /100f, and the humidity was in levels that weren't going to make things any easier. My first stops of the day were the Taiziwan and Hua Gang Parks, good-sized green areas at the southwest corner of the West Lake.

Since the distance I covered across Hangzhou yesterday was over 30 km, I took it easy - enjoying a slow stroll under the shade of trees, and gradually the buildings around.

Yan'an road with the City God Pavilion in the background.

The City God Pavilion was on my to-do list for the day, but before getting there, I went to see the Baochu Pagoda located on the hill north of the lake.


The pagoda is neat, and the hill offers a class view on the lake...

...and the north side of the city.

The view was also the main reason I wanted to visit the City God Pavilion - I read that there should be an observation deck there. The site had two surprises waiting for me: While the pavilion presents itself as an ancient structure complementing the pagodas around, it is actually a modern building.

But the biggest surprise was that I had the whole thing to myself. Very cool!

Looking at the busy city from a vantage point was calm, the colors of dusk were pretty, the temperature pleasing.. this was a good call.

As the night fell, I was already tired, so I went to get some rest afterwards.

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The next day I started in a similar fashion as the previous one, I checked out another of the local gardens within the Xi Hu Feng Jing Ming Sheng Qu district.

The garden included a few caves, with interiors filled with Buddha sculptures. This was interesting and convenient, as it started raining.

As I browsed the caves, the light rain beefed-up into a proper storm. The weather radar indicated that these conditions would last for a while, so I sat down in one of the garden's pavilions and typed notes for this story. About an inch of rainfall later, the storm backed off, and I went to the Jingci Temple.

It is a good-sized complex which, besides being a temple, is also a museum - at the time of my visit, there was an interesting exhibition of Chinese Buddhist statues.

This was the last ancient point of interest I had here. Later, I got lunch and explored bits of the city centre.

Colonialist influences are apparent across the downtown.

The most interesting aspect of this neighbourhood was its street culture, lots of local food and crafts.

My plan for the rest of the day was to enjoy some cool modern architecture - particularly, I had in mind the duo of freshly completed, 256m/840ft tall Raffles City Towers.

the two in the centre.

but getting towards them was appealing as well, as my path was lined with other structures worth a look.

Well, and the Raffles towers didn't disappoint; conversely, I would call them one of the highlights of the modern architecture I've had a chance to see in China.

They offer tons sweet angles to enjoy their elegant curves.

The facade looks like a reptile skin

The whole area has a lot to offer.

It's just a couple of yards from the edge of the Qiantang River, which was colourful as ever. 

Once more, a good way to end a day. This was the last item on my to-do list in the city, so I went to get some food, and then to experience the local subway system. It appears the same as pretty much every underground in China I've seen; but the one in Hangzhou had the best English instructions of them.

The subway took me to the Hangzhou East Station - a giant, good-looking railroad terminal.

A different adventure was waiting...


If you liked this article, you might also enjoy my stories about other Chinese cities I visited:

Shenyang

Shenyang

Suzhou, China

Suzhou

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Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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