A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about hangzhou

Lost, late and just plain lucky

Hangzhou, China

overcast 22 °C

Our first mission of the day was to go get hard sleeper train tickets to Guilin from the Train Ticketing Office. It was a nice 20 minute walk from the place we were staying. We passed a university with a large billboard of Yao Ming, a famous Chinese NBA player, on the front of it. It was easy to find the train booking office as the sign was in English. Unlike the sign, the lady working there didn’t speak a word of English. Luckily we came prepared with Sarah’s Mandarin book and a note written out by a helpful Chinese person. We booked two hard sleeper tickets from Hangzhou to Guilin for 6:53 p.m, thinking that that would give us plenty of time to explore for the day and get to the train station early.

We were feeling pretty good after we booked our tickets, so we decided to pick up some treats from a local convince store for our 18 hour train ride. We would later discover that they were all expired, as most of the junk food is in China. We made our way to the metro to spend one last day in West Lake.
We now set our focus on trying to find some bikes to rent. There was certainly no shortage, but we wanted to find bikes close to the lake. After we decided which bikes we wanted to ride for the day, we headed off to find the Tiger Springs.


About an hour later we discovered we had went too far and made it to a pagoda we didn’t intend to see. We decided since we biked all the way here, we might as well climb it. The original pagoda had long since been burned down and many attempts at rebuilding it had met the same fate. The pagoda we climbed had been rebuilt from the ground up in the mid 1990s, and had about 8 levels. From the top we got a bird’s eye view of the polluted and smoggy Hangzhou.


After climbing down we tried to grab some lunch. We found a restaurant that looked promising, armed with the mandarin book, we attempted to order. All seemed to go well until we received our food. They placed two meat dishes in front of us and a large bowl of rice. I only ordered small chicken plate and Sarah had ordered a vegetable dish, which never came. We tried to explain to them but after some arguing between the cooks and the waitress they just took away one plate and Sarah didn’t get to eat lunch that day aside from a bowl of rice. We did snack on some expired Oreos though. They were okay. We would need the energy for the bike ride.

We made it to Dreaming of the Tiger Spring Temple area shortly after leaving our disappointing lunch. We locked up the bikes and away we went to explore the springs and temples. As we entered, we were greeted by a very nice pond with some large Crane statues and decorations hanging from the trees. Again, there were some nice temples to view and large incense burners everywhere. The area was also the burial site of the monk Jigong. After some exploring we discovered the main attraction, a scene chiseled out of the stone of a man lying down dreaming of tigers across the spring. We checked the time and decided we should head back so we time to get to the train station. We finished taking our photos and hopped on our bikes to head back to the city.


What should have took us only 15-20 minutes, ended up taking just over an hour. An hour we really didn’t have. We had little trouble navigating the city for the last few days, but today we just couldn’t figure which way was up today, even with our not so helpful English tourist map. After much frustration and feeling almost helpless, we were pointed in the right direction by a security guard when we asked where the metro was.
We finally made it to the bike rental place, only to find that the man that rented us the bikes was no longer there. We tried to return them to the man that was there, but after looking at our receipt he said it was from a shop 1 block over. Having been down that block only just minutes earlier, we knew there was nothing down there. Thinking we were getting scammed for our 200 RMB deposit, we walked up and down the street trying to spot the guy that rented us the bikes. Luckily, he ran up to us a few minutes later with our deposit. Running very short on time, we began sprinting to the metro to make it back to pick up our belongings.

We had become pros at using the metro systems in China, so we got to our hostel quite quickly. We loaded up and bolted to metro one last time to make it the train station. Time kept ticking by and as we went to leave the metro, for the first time, Sarah’s metro pass decided not to work and we had to find an agent to help us out. We made a mad dash to the train station once she was let through.

With less than 5 minutes to spare in a large and unfamiliar train station, we ran as hard as we could with 40 pounds of gear strapped to our tired bodies in what we hoped was the right direction. We got our passports and tickets checked – the woman waving us through without even checking mine after noticing the time on the ticket -- and made the final dash to the end of the terminal. Of course our gate was the very last one there. It was like someone had planned out just how to make us sweat one more time in Hangzhou down to the last detail.

They had already stopped boarding our train, and were preparing to board the next train. Fearing we had already missed it, we ran to the front of the line waving our tickets and asking “Guilin?”. I’m sure we looked comical to everyone who arrived well in advance for their train. Out of pure luck, our train had not left yet and the staff rushed us through. Within a couple minutes of boarding the train, it began moving. We threw our bags under the bottom bunk and collapsed from exhaustion. We both slept very well that night under nice soft comforters.

Posted by Sarah.M 03:20 Archived in China Tagged temple train metro china bike lost hangzhou vegetarian Comments (2)


Visit to West Lake


Our next stop was Hangzhou, a city not too far from Shanghai. The ride to the train station had far more apartment complexes than we imagined, both new and falling apart. Shanghai was still huge and seemingly never ending. We were fortunate to stumble across another foreigner from Rochester, New York. He was living in Shanghai and studying Chinese. With his help, we all got cheap tickets to Hangzhou. He even told off the Chinese man who, like most other locals here, tried to cut us in line. It seems to be a universal thing to do here and since we didn't speak Chinese, we were never able to comment on it.

The train ride to Hangzhou made it hard to tell where Shanghai ended and the other cities began. The buildings crawled along the countryside the whole two hours we spent on the train. We met some Chinese students who were also studying English and chatted for a bit. Our American friend spent the whole ride speaking to Chinese to a woman across from us. We really envied those language skills.

Our arrival in Hangzhou was pretty painless. The metro was right beside the train station and ran nearly identical to the way the Shanghai one had. The place we were staying was only two stops away and easy enough to find.

From there we went to West Lake, one of China's budding tourism locations that won some awards. I had pictured a quaint lake that we could bike around, explore and relax. A bit like Clear Lake in Manitoba. I had not thought about just how many people lived in China.
We took the metro there and again English signs helped us find exactly where we needed to go. The riverwalk was packed with Chinese people and the occasional foreigners. They walked in every which direction, stopped for photos and occupied most of the space. There were even street performers doing karaoke or dancing. The lake was also huge and not manageable in a short afternoon stint.


We stopped for supper at a restaurant with a Lotus theme. I thought it would be fun to try the veggie dish with lotus seeds. It was, except the expensive dish was the size of a side and left me hungry. Ryan wasn't a big fan of his chicken dish either. We stopped at Burger King to fill up on a burger for him and fries for me.

After that we caught a musical fountain show, which was essentially a laser show better suited to the 80s when simple computer generated graphics were impressive and played to a soundtrack of Simply the Best and some techno. We made it through without laughing, but needed to leave after a few songs. The galloping unicorns, rotary telephones and animated people were not what we expected.


The following day we stopped at V N Go for some delicious prepackaged baked goods, red bean filled buns and cold cross buns. We scarfed them down before our metro train arrived. A few stops down, we found a new way to West Lake. We couldn't decide on bikes or bus so we did neither and walked the riverwalk for quite some time. We passed some beautiful pavilions, lots of lily pads and a temple or two in the distance.

Ryan was quite the celebrity. A Chinese man handed him his baby to take a picture of the three of us. Some confused baby is going to grow up wondering why he has a picture with some random white couple. After that, a group of university students wanted to capture our smiles in exchange for cool buttons so, again we complied.

We then crossed a bridge to one of many islands on West Lake which featured many museums and temples. Our first stop on the island was a museum that featured modern local art. A painting of various Chinese masks reminded us of Folklorama where they quizzed us on the different meanings of them. We couldn't remember much but the painting was nice.


Next, we went to the Hangzhou museum which had more pottery and ceramics. We were going to be certified experts pretty darn soon at this rate. Hangzhou was in Zhejiang province which played a key role in China's long history and their Neolithic pottery went back at least 7,000 years, when rice cultivation first began. Hangzhou was one of the ancient capitals of China around the 10th century. Many of the pieces were similar to those we saw in the Shanghai museum.


There were plenty of rebuilt temples from different dynasty periods and a few ruins among them. We went to General Yue Fei's tomb. He was considered a hero in Chinese culture because his actions serving in the military showed his unwavering dedication to his country. When his mother died, he requested a leave but got called back several times. His actions also represented a loyalty to his mother, another revered Chinese ideal. He was executed along with his son under not so solid orders, but years later he was considered a hero. The tomb featured some memorial pagodas and statues of him and his son. The tombs were gravestones engraved with Chinese characters.


We continued our walk slightly uphill past some botanical gardens with an impressive looking landscaping. One of the bushes even looked like a spider. But we wanted to make it to the final destination so we didn't stop.


At the Feilai Feng Scenic Area, we found a vegetarian restaurant much to our delight. As we walked around, we realized all the tables were full. We figured once we visited the temple, the place would have cleared out a bit so we grabbed a snack and bought our tickets to the scenic area.
We went inside to Flying Peak, limestone grottoes with hundreds of statues from previous millenniums carved into them from Buddhist figures to animals, to people. There were some tucked inside the caves and others featured on the outside to enjoy from afar. The whole experience was really neat as long as we took care not to bump our heads. Without signs to guide us we also walked high up to a peak where a stone with some red Chinese writing sat, not our happiest moment as we had expected more with that calf-burning climb.


We visited a few more temples, Taoguang, and a monastery that were both quite a hike up from where we started. The monastery was bright yellow and had plenty of greenery and arched doorways with pillars to support the inner wall and offering a nice view of the courtyards. The statues inside were golden and were male or female Buddhist figures, with brightly coloured prayer pillows below. People would bring in their incense here too.
The final temple, Lingyin Temple, required an entrance fee. We figured since we came all this way and the whole complex was named after this one. They gave us three complimentary incense sticks each and we had quite the time lighting them. Every other person there had their own lighter or a friend with a lighter. We stood around awkwardly until Ryan decided to try and ask some people. One girl who must have been watching us came up and offered us one and some help to get the stick lit. Everyone around would raised their incense to the temple, then their forehead, and bow to pray one time in each direction. Then they place the incense stick in a large black metal ceremonial censer.


We went into the main temple and monks in yellow and red, dual-coloured, robes were in prayer. The Chinese people were praying with them as well. They also prayed in different directions, reciting the prayer. The temple itself had many large golden statues, quite impressive. We went through the other buildings as well, a study area as well as a memorial hall where hundreds of statues of monks sat just above eye level. They had a variety of facial expressions, poses and accessories, even a monkey. It was a bit creepy as it felt like at any minute they would all jump down and surround us, but maybe that was just my crazy imagination.


We went back to find the vegetarian restaurant closed so we hopped on a very crowded bus and headed back toward the metro. Thankfully we made it off that bus on time as movement was severely restricted. Every time I thought there couldn't be more people added to the bus, there were.
We found supper at a tasty ramen noodle restaurant that had pretty spectacular mushrooms and both meals were wonderfully filling. Ryan quite enjoyed his fried rice and chicken. My veggie ramen was great along with the sweet lychee juice, with real lychee pieces. It was a good end to the day. We would definitely be stopping for lunch the following day.

Posted by Sarah.M 17:59 Archived in China Tagged temple metro tomb pagoda hangzhou west_lake ramen lingyin_temple Comments (0)

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