Okay, when we last left off, Charles and Adeline and I had just arrived at the hotel. We relaxed there for a couple hours and thought about what we'd like to do next. Adeline suggest a boat ride or climbing Baoshi Shan (Gemstone Hill), a small mountain/hill directly behind/next to our hotel. No one could really decide, so finally I was like "mountain!" and off we went.
We started off leaving the hotel and going through one of the small alleyways on Beishan Lu onto one of the back roads. We passed by a temple or two and some other alleyways on this road:
I'm not even sure there was like an official entrance to the mountain or anything like that. All I know is after about 20 minutes, we turned a corner and were confronted with this:
There's not much to tell about the climb itself. I mean, it wasn't really a "climb." There were stairs and beaten paths and everything, so we just walked uphill. As we climbed, we encountered fewer and fewer people. The woods became thick and really, just really really beautiful. I ran out of words, so I'll let my camera do the talking.
You have to understand that Shanghai is a megalopolis, a sprawling, flat, dirty mess of concrete, glass, and neon where a blue sky is a rarity and the greenest thing you ever see is maybe some advertisement for tea on the side of a bus as it whizzes by. So the contrast between my daily life and what I was seeing on Baoshi Shan, and had seen thus far around Xihu, is immense.
Eventually we reached a sort of clearing, kind of a midpoint up the mountain I suppose, with an insane view of the lake, the city, and Baochu Pagoda.We stopped for a bit to take some pictures:
That's Baochu Pagoda there on the right, with the Hangzhou skyline in the distance.
From here we just kept on going up, walkingwalkingwalking. I had a Snickers bar (or two). Eventually we reached was Adeline described as "the top". It was a flat expanse of ground overlooking the city. There were lots of wide, flat rocks on which a couple people were sitting, either quietly by themselves or quietly while chatting with friends.
It was very idyllic and peaceful, and a great way to end (or so we thought at the time) our climb. There were a couple people thwacking around a shuttlecock and a guy walking around clapping his hands for no apparent reason:
We realized the sun was beginning to set, so I was like "hey let's stay here and get some pictures of the sun setting!" The day was pretty cloudy, and Hangzhou is polluted, so we didn't end up getting fantastic pics, although we did get some. But more importantly, we sat down and rested for awhile. Charles and I laughed because there were trees all around us, blocking the great view down into the city and different parts of Xihu. We were like, "damn nature, always getting in the way of photography!" Haha.
If you look at the picture of the pagoda above, you'll see some people standing in it. They were singing. After about 5 minutes of sitting there and resting, their tune all of a sudden popped into my head. I did a double-take (well, an auditory one, if that's possible) before realizing they were singing "Silent Night" in Chinese. I confirmed the tune with Charles, and then Adeline also confirmed it (I had to do this because, as we all know, I am not Christian :-) Anyway I thought it was great, just a perfect little unexpected thing to hear on Baoshi Shan, so I took a video:
We stayed up there a little while longer until the sun was about halfway down. Then we decided to move on and try and make it to Baochu Pagoda. This is where the fun part begins. immediately after we left the pagoda area, we encountered some more stairs that led up to these huge boulders. I immediately clambered up them, while Charles and Adeline stayed behind perhaps out of safety concerns. (It wasn't really that bad, I swear!)
And this is where I felt the true feeling of being on a mountaintop. Because in the previous "top" area, with trees all around, I felt really hemmed in, like I was still on the side of the mountain. However, once we got up on top of the rocks and boulders, we were above the treeline -- so there was nothing around us but sky:
I felt moved to take a little video, which should give you a sense of how large Xihu is:
From there, we walked along the tops of the rocks some more, all the while getting closer to Baochu Pagoda:
The following shot is a great one of Adeline, I think:
Night started to fall, and the lights hidden in the trees began to turn on:
And then all of a sudden, we entered this small enclosed wooded area, and there it was: Baochu Pagoda. A little anticlimactic, but the journey was the point here. It was dark by this point, so I had to lengthen my exposure times, which resulted in some unsteady pictures. I tried to post some of the least blurry ones:
To get that last pic I actually lay down on the ground, on my back, with my camera pointed skyward, just to steady my elbows and hands on the ground :-)
We stayed around that area for a little bit, then headed down the mountain in a different direction. As we went, Charles noticed a really awesome photo op of Baoshi Shan surrouned by lit trees:
We wandered down through Baoshishanxia Yilong ("Lower Gemsone Hill Lane"), which we realized was the more tourist-y way to see the mountain. It's lined with souvenir stalls, small eateries, and even some apartments. There were definitely none of those on the route we took up, for which I am eternally grateful.
We got down to the bottom, hailed a cab, and headed over to Grandma's Kitchen for dinner with some of Adeline's friends. It's a really popular Hangzhou place, with like 7 locations in the city. However we went to the original one, which was mobbed, so we had to wait outside for like half an hour. While we were there, a little kid, maybe like 10 years old, came up to me and asked if he could take his picture with me. Of course I said yes :-) I don't have the picture, Charles does, but hopefully I can steal it from him at some point and post it here.
I was really amused that someone wanted to take their picture with me. But apparently there aren't that many lao wai in Hangzhou, even though it's a hot tourist spot. Adeline said it's more for Chinese people, they are more apt to know about it than lao wai. I find that unlikely, given that it's been ranked as the #1 tourist destination in China, but who knows. Anyway, I was approached for more photo ops on day two -- which I'll write about tomorrow maybe :-)
This was the dinner where I ate jitou (chicken head/brains) because I thought it would be funny and, you know, adventurous, and possibly tasty. It wasn't very good, and it was really tough to get the meat out of the neck and skull (not to mention I had to spit out pieces of skull), and I didn't much feel like cracking the damn thing open like an egg, so I gave up after a couple bites.
I felt like the Highlander, haha. Like the bees, there's a video somewhere that Charles took - again, I'll make sure to get it from him and post it online.
After dinner, which was nice to chat with Adeline's friends, we left back to the hotel. Charles fell asleep in the cab because he was still jet-lagged: he'd arrived from Austin only the day before. Back in our room, I tried to get the TV to work, but gave up after like 20 minutes. The menu system was in English, so that was easy enough to understand, it's just that I couldn't get a movie-on-demand to play. But then I remembered I had my iPod. So I watched two episodes of The Simpsons and then passed out.
More on day two tomorrow!