After flying from Chicago to Washington, Washington to Beijing, and Beijing to Harbin, we finally flew from Harbin to Hangzhou, our first major stop on our four-city tour of China.
I was told by a few different people that Hangzhou is the most beautiful city in China and that May was the best time to visit because you can enjoy the warm weather without it being too hot.
My wife’s best friend’s family lives in Hangzhou, and we were lucky enough to be in China the same time as her, even though she lives in Europe eleven months out of the year. So, it was a great treat for the two of them to be able to spend some time together for the first time in several years. My wife’s dad also joined us on our trip here and to the next city we visited. In addition to this merry group of travelers, we spent some time with my wife’s friend’s family and another of her former classmates from Harbin who happened to be visiting Hangzhou at the same time.
Vicky’s friend’s parents picked us up from the airport and took us to a very nice dinner in a private room in a fancy restaurant. We stayed at a very nice hotel near West Lake which was right across the street from the beautiful Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer park. We went to sleep fairly quickly after getting to the hotel and began exploring the next morning.
Vicky and I are using some of this trip to improve our photography and video production skills. I will add photos to these blogs at a later date, and we will work on editing our footage into something of a short film/documentary set to music that I hope you enjoy watching. Of course I will link to wherever we decide to post it once it is completed. Please be patient as we have tons of footage to sift through and decide which to use.
For reasons unknown, we have been waking up very early every day on this trip despite not really being super early risers normally. At around 6:30am, we both were awake and could not go back to sleep, so we decided to check out the park and try to shoot some footage and take some photos. I was blown away by how peaceful and “Chinese” the place is. It consists of dozens of paths leading around a small portion of West Lake, and has plenty of photogenic spots that we took advantage of.
I was surprised at how many people were already in the park so early in the morning, especially elderly folks, who were exercising, dancing, practicing Tai Chi, and taking photos of their own. It was a pleasant experience to see how active they were, and it helped me to realize that I don’t want to be an older person who does nothing but sit around and watch TV in my later years. There’s no reason to not be up and about if able.
After a while, we decided that we got enough footage and explored enough to go back and maybe eat some breakfast, so we returned to the hotel. We ate a very tasty and varied breakfast buffet, and I had my first experience of being looked at like I was crazy when asking for ice water (a look I would receive several other times during the trip from just about everyone I asked).
We met up with my wife’s friend and started on our trip to see Liefang Pagoda on the far end of the lake. As we started walking, I noticed that there were little carts that tourists could hop off and on driving around on the causeway. We asked if they went to the tower, and the driver said that they did, but they went the other way around, which we were okay with since it meant we got to see more of the lake. So, we hopped on the last seat facing backwards, which let us get some really cool footage of everything we passed. The trip around the lake to the tower was breathtaking. It was a perfect blend of modern and ancient, with stores and shopping centers on one side and the pristine lake full of rowboats on the other. I really found this to be my favorite part of our time in Hangzhou, just relaxing and taking in the beautiful sights.
Eventually, we reached the tower and went up most of the way, but not to the very top. Even though it looks very old from far away, I found it funny that there were escalators leading up to the tower and an elevator inside. A recurring theme of this trip is going to be “old meets new” or “ancient vs modern”. Obviously, this tower is a touristy spot, but the view of the mountains and the lake was worth wading through the crowd.
We went back to the hotel where Vicky’s friend’s friend was waiting to join us, and we all packed into the car to head over to Xixi National Wetlands Park. We got lost on the way despite having two different GPS devices because nobody really knew the area at all. Also, we got into a minor car accident with a Taxi. (More will be said about driving in China in my upcoming trip overview post. Spoiler alert: Driving in China is absolutely insane.) Eventually, we found our way to the park which seemed somewhat run-down and forgotten, especially compared to the amazing park from earlier that morning and the lake in the early afternoon. There was a bit of a situation involving the problems we had with navigation, but we got through it without much of an issue.
Unfortunately, this park was not too impressive, but we did take a nice, leisurely boat ride along a small river which allowed for some cool footage to be taken. It was getting pretty hot, and everyone was tired, so we finally decided to head back to the hotel to relax after eating another dinner at a nice restaurant.
Stay tuned for Part 2!