Travel the World: Hangzhou, China

Sunday, August 12, 2018

We went to China last summer and unfortunately my allergies were pretty severe and kept me from doing very much. One of the things that we did manage was a trip to Hangzhou, a few hours away from coastal Shanghai by train. It's a city famous for its scenery around West Lake, as well as pagodas and temples.

West Lake is a UNESCO heritage site that's been in use since the Song Dynasty, almost a millennia ago. The tiered roofs and crimson pillars of the pavilions mark were the Imperial family embarked upon their vessels. If you care to, there are boat operators who are more than happy to take you onto the main expanse of water, by a private little boat or a larger one that serves tea.

The West Lake area is huge, the park itself is massive and there are so many walkways that lead over bridges, through tiny sculpted pools, past small tea houses. You'll see people doing tai chi,  practicing their dancing and taking their daily stroll.

The lotus blooms are incredible. You have to catch them at the right time. The only thing is that Hangzhou can be sweltering in the summer. It's not the sun, it's the thick humid air.

Beauty wise, I found this handy vending machine that sold sheet masks! It featured international favorites like Papa Recipe, Jayjun, Sexylook, etc. They also had these beautiful masks from Chando that were new to me, I wish I had gotten better photos.

Hangzhou has a street market area that is quite organized and regulated.In addition to carved goods, silken goods (the city is fame for silk!), you can buy strings of pearls and braided charms. Plus there's a giant gold Buddha? There's also silk factory tours you can go on, we brought home a silk comforter and pillows. They're heavenly, and wick away moisture so well from the body.

In addition to having more halal options than I had seen elsewhere in China, Hangzhou also had a few food centers that were full of street food stalls, but with the convenience of a standardized card swiping system (you load cash onto a card, after you've paid and eaten at the stalls, you can cash the remainder right out). Coconut wild rice, lamb skewers, noodles galore. There's also tons of fried goodies.

Not specific to Hangzhou, but can I just say that red date flavored Kefir is incredible? Seriously, what a gorgeous taste, perfectly tart yet sweet. 

Like Shanghai, Hangzhou has a few bike share programs that make it easy to just pick one up and see the sights. Traffic isn't as hectic as Shanghai, I'd much rather cycle in this city. Subway system also makes it easy to get to West Lake and downtown.

Lingyin Temple (Temple of Heavenly Soul's Retreat) is in the Fei Lai Feng recreation area, a short cab ride away. I advise going to see the grottoes of ancient Buddhist stone carvings, and then going beyond the first few temples. They are crowded and pimped out for tourists.

If you proceed up to Yongfu Monastery, which is beyond the ancient villages, you'll be in for a treat. It's a quiet respite from the modern world. An active religious site, you'll see monks about and succulent green fields of tea. We were so happy to stumble upon this quiet corner of the world.

There's a tea house at the monastery if you want to have a cup, and I highly recommend you do. The air smells incredible, heavy with green notes and the scent of incense.

 Aside from the humidity, I had a wonderful time in Hangzhou. It was a nice breather from Shanghai, it's good to peep greenery after being in a concrete jungle for a few weeks.

If you're into pyrotechnics and theatrics, there are light shows at night at West Lake. It's a big hullabaloo. Overall, lots of things to do in this region, you could easily spend 2-3 days at this city if you're ever in China!

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