Saturday morning I get up bright and early, at the ass-crack of dawn (as the saying goes) at 4:50 AM. I shower and meet Charles at the Renaissance Hotel at 5:30. From there we walk to the subway and take it two stops to Dongchang Lu, where we meet Adeline.
From there we go to People's Square, transfer to Line 1, and go to the Shanghai South Railway station. I realize that this is the first time, I think I've been on a non-metro train. I may have taken one back in the DC/MD area: but if so, I can't remember. I mean, in America, first you get the bikes, then you get the cars, then you get the airplane. (Women are always there, though.) So no trains, at least not for my life. So this will be an adventure :-)
We mill around the station for a little bit and buy snacks and some drinks. I eat the first of many Snickers bars. (Actually I've been doing that a lot lately. It's like my only source of sugar in this country besides my morning coffee, hah.) Adeline informs us that we're taking the 'D' train, which is the nicest and fastest of the trains. Below that is the 'T' train (which we take on the return trip) and some others I can't remember. Ah yes, only the best.
We board around 7:20 and take off at 7:40 AM. I've had a little coffee (they sell cappuccino in plastic bottles, like soda, over here) so I'm not as tired.
The trip takes just over an hour, which is great. Adeline sleeps, and Charles and I talk most of the way. It's like an airplane, only on the ground (duh) which, surprisingly, removes much of the anxiety of the trip, although I still feel like I should feel I'm on an airplane. Does that make sense? Probably not. But that's how it is :-) The best part is seeing an "Airsickness bag" in the back pocket of the seat in front of me. So I know I'm not alone in equating this trip with an airplane ride ;-)
We arrive at Hangzhou just after 9 AM. We trek through the train station to the cab stand and get in a long line. We're still underground in a tunnel, so we're wondering what the weather is like. Not for long though -- after about 20 minutes we start seeing cabs come through the tunnel spattered with rainwater. D'oh! Well, we don't control the weather so it doesn't make sense to complain. We'll just do whatever.
We catch a cab and get out into the downtown area. I don't feel it's any different from Shanghai. In fact, the traffic might be worse! There are lots of signs advertising "Harmonious West Lake". I love Chinese. Adeline points out landmarks as we go by, including a restaurant she wants us to eat at and the China Academy of Art:
As we get closer to the lake, the streets become lined with trees that form an archway over the road; it's very scenic and beautiful.
The driver lets us out on the southern edge of the lake, along Nanshan Lu (South Mountain Road). From there we walk through a small park with the lake just ahead, seeing the first of many pagodas:
Even though it's drizzling a bit, I can tell we're in for a treat. Soon enough, we're at the lake itself:
Um, I don't have a panoramic lens or anything, and I didn't have the presence of mind to take multiple sequential shots and then stitch them together in software, but let me just say, Xihu is BIG. Haha. Certainly it looks even bigger after being in Shanghai, the urban jungle, for three and a half months. I suppose any body of water would look large under those conditions, but I think Xihu's pretty big. It's certainly the most famous of all the "West Lakes" in China.
There are people everywhere, but it's not too crowded. We walk along Nanshan Lu for a bit, westwards, then turn off the main path and enter a small series of parks:
It's so beautiful. I realize that I can smell the woods -- you know, like freshly cut grass -- and simultaneously realize I haven't smelled that in a long time. It was pretty awesome. I begin to understand why so many people come here all the time :-)
The rain is going on and off now, but it gets a little heavier as we exit the park back onto Nanshan Lu. Then it actually begins pouring. We walk back eastwards a little bit and come across the Qian Wang Si (King Qian Temple). We pay the 15 RMB each and go inside:
Here I actually sit down and relax for a bit, because we've been walking for something like two+ hours. Being in the temple, with the tapering off rain and fewer tourists wandering around, is very relaxing.
After a little while, we're starting to get hungry, so we go off in search of lunch. As we near Xihutiandi, the uber-slick version of Xintiandi in Shanghai. I really don't want to eat there, as they don't need my money, but the rain is coming down in buckets now so we decide to go inside. We end up in Butterfly Laguna which is, strangely enough, a Thai restaurant. The place is your typical 'luxury' set-up: small, expensive dishes that aren't very good, although the restaurant is beautiful. Again, I would rather have spent my money at a less hoity-toity place, but I don't know how possible that is in the Xihu area :-)
We head back out and I take a few more pictures around the lake:
We decide to walk around the China Academy of Art campus next:
After this, we got hungry again! Surprise surprise. Plus, Adeline wanted me to eat some durian, which I'd had in Shanghai but which is supposed to be way better in Hangzhou. So we stopped by a place that's known for serving good durian and just had a couple of snacks. I have to admit it was really, really good -- even if it did stink a little bit. Hehe. It's making me look forward to eating some chou dofu in Suzhou :-)
We also orderd some mango pudding, which came annointed with a little Hangzhou-style umbrella, made out of paper. I took this and put it in my pocket -- it's one of two souveneirs I got from the trip. For me, something like this has way more meaning than buying something plastic at one of the kajillions of souveneir stalls around the lake.
Now it's getting to be 2 or 3 PM, so we decide to check into the hotel. I can't remember what the name of it is, but it's up on Beishan Lu (North Mountain Road). So, we walk half the distance of Nanshan Lu to get to the east edge of the lake, all the way north to Beishan Lu, and then halfway west on Beishan Lu to actually get to the hotel. This is about an hour of straight walking around the edge of the lake, all while dodging people coming in the other direction because the lake is super crowded. But it's nice and cool out, and there's a breeze, and I am full from lunch, and I get some of the best photographs of the trip:
We arrive at the hotel, and I'm pretty exhausted, so we check in and relax for a little bit.
... And, that's where I'm going to stop here. I'll continue tomorrow with the rest of Saturday's adventures :-)