Tuesday, June 18, 2013

There is a paradise in heaven, On earth there is Hangzhou

Once again we experienced how China does holidays for Dragon Boat Festival and after working 7 days straight we we're rewarded with a 3 day vacation.  We chose to check out Hangzhou, which is about 1:40 from our Suzhou home via bullet train, to take in a bit of nature while doing some hiking near the famous West Lake (Xi Hu).

We arrived and with a little amount of confusion found the cab stand where an angry cabby almost refused to take us out across the lake until the nice guy who worked at the railway station told the guy to take us or leave.  Anyway we got to our hotel, checked in, and walked down this really traditional looking Chinese road with people chopping up vegetables and small tables being served noodles.  This made us a little bit nervous for what the room might look like but all fear was washed away when we entered.  It was the nicest room we stayed in during our time in China, only to be trumped by the hotel in which we stayed during our second night (we stayed at two hotels because everything was booked up).

China suburbia
After a short rest in the room, we were off at about 12:30 to do some hiking.  Anything East of the lake is a city while the entire West side is a national park which is completely covered in history and nature.  During our time in China, we realized that we took living in Michigan for granted with it's many trees, and clean lakes, rivers, and streams.  China's population is just too large for these things sometimes.  We took our cab to a place called Jiuxi 18 Stream named for its many streams.  3 hours of walking through temples, waterfalls, and trails up small mountains, we found ourselves on the top of a smaller village on the mountain.  Only our legs noticed the slight incline that we slowly took to get to the top and even though the view was really beautiful, our worries were focused on how we would get down.  This ended up not being a problem as we found a bus stop that took us back near the lake.

View from the top of our hike

Trees + Water + Peace Sign
Waterfall on the hike up
There is a lady behind me yelling "Hallo". She has tea for sale

Next, we took another cab to Lingyin temple.  The ride took us completely around the lake giving us great views of the many boats in the water and people riding bikes on the paths. Everywhere you looked people were riding the public bikes that the city supplies for about $0.16 or 1 Yuan per 90minutes after you apply.  Suzhou also has this program but we haven't used it since we bought the E-bike.  The other option is to rent bikes privately and these vendors are everywhere too.  Your options are the standard bike, a tandem bike for two, a tandem with three seats, or a tandem with three seats and a tiny seat in front for a small child.

West Lake's 5 star cruises

Public bikes

We got to Lingyin a little late since they told us that it closed at 5:30 and after eating lunch it was already 4:30.  We decided to pay the fee and enter anyway.  This was by far the best attraction we have visited in China.  The park was divided into two parts.  One part was the really huge temple that is still in operation while the other part is full of caves with ancient Buddhist stone carvings from the 10th to the 14th centuries called Fei Lai Feng.  We completely ignored the temple and spent the hour looking at the hundreds of carved statues in and outside of the caves.  One cave even had bats flying around and to our surprise a few sleeping bats (and giant spiders) showed up in a few of our cave pictures where we had been touching the wall and using a flash light but never saw them.  We could have spent hours in this park and plan to go back a different time.

Not sure if anyone brings night vision goggles to read the signs

Carvings on the outside of one of the caves

Stone carvings


Day 2 we had the hotel check our luggage and we started off early again to see the National Tea Museum.  This was another really unique place to see.  We walked through the museum posing in the model tea houses until a security guard nicely yelled at Michelle who became really embarrassed.  Usually in China if there are stairs or a path leading up to things like this it is fair game to climb on them.  After the museum we walked through the tea fields outside and headed back for our next point of interest.

Tea fields

Hangzhou has a love affair with waterfalls

Rows of tea


The next place we went was a large pagoda located on the lake.  We figured we'd find lunch before entering but we quickly found that there were not many places to eat on the national park side of the lake.  This resulted in us putting off climbing the pagoda until later and involved us walking a really far distance through a really nice park that we were too crabby and hungry to care much for back to our hotel.  What made us most angry was that after we were walking for a while through the park towards our hotel we realized it was surrounded by water making it a peninsula, so we had to backtrack the entire distance. I grabbed some pictures thinking that we could enjoy it after!  We got our checked baggage and headed to our next hotel, feeling pretty exhausted probably because of our ridiculously far hike the day before added on to our recent hike through the park.

These photos were taken by angry and hungry people

That awkward moment when there suddenly isn't a bridge

Stupid boat....maybe I'll use this picture later

We changed our plan a bit, rented bikes, and headed into the city side of the lake to get lunch.  We did consider the tandem but after seeing all of the people looking out of control on them we chose otherwise.  After lunch we biked down along the lake to Hefang Street to do a little shopping but it was mostly for looking and people watching.  We didn't really plan on buying anything as it was filled with the typical tourist items that we have gotten a bit used to but Michelle and I couldn't resist adding two very small pet jellyfish.  We bought them for around a $2.5 American, dropped them off at the hotel, and finished our previous plan of climbing the pagoda near the lake.

Not sure why the back tire is smaller
Xi Hu

Stalls on Hefang Street

Wait...Those are...JELLYFISH?!?! Get my wallet!

We ended the night by walking in the modern and westernized area of Hangzhou where we had dinner.  After dinner we completed the on going search to find Michelle the right flower hat that everyone seemed to be wearing around.  Next to the place where we got the flower hat we watched a musical water show on the lake before calling it a night.

The statue in the back is angry because she's sitting on their game

Fireworks are too common for "OHs and AHs". Water shows are not.

Day 3 we had time to cover some ground since our train wasn't scheduled to leave until 3:00pm.  We went straight to another temple that was located close to our hotel on our side of the lake.  The temple was pretty cool and was something worth doing since it was really cheap to get in.

Killin waves. NBD.

Next we headed by foot(again) to the City God Pavilion that was this huge place that we first saw when we walked through Hefang Street and later viewed it from the Liuhe Tower.  It took us some time to get to it since we had to climb a good sized hill . It was really big and there were many buildings including a 6 story tower each with many rooms to go inside of.  Along with the Pavilion there were many hiking trails that we took with  small caves and small waterfalls along the way.

City God Pavilion
Feet hurt but sooo cool

Imagine if this was your front door
Take 3

After another walking-filled day we had just enough time to grab some food accompanied with a coke ice cream float to make our train and speed back to Suzhou. For the next day or so our feet and legs needed to recover from the distances we hiked.  Though we were sad our awesome vacation was over, we didn't mind being back at home with both our e-bike and a way better public transportation system.

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