Written by Composthp on 17 Dec, 2011
While Beijing is known as the political capital, Shanghai, the economic hub; Hangzhou is the cultural and historical ancient capital dating back to the Qin Dynasty in 222 B.C. Today, Hangzhou is a modern city which takes pride in its historical legacy and makes constant…Read More
While Beijing is known as the political capital, Shanghai, the economic hub; Hangzhou is the cultural and historical ancient capital dating back to the Qin Dynasty in 222 B.C. Today, Hangzhou is a modern city which takes pride in its historical legacy and makes constant efforts to preserve and restore many of its relics. Commercialism of such efforts are inevitable, however, Hangzhou has not lost all its charm yet. Avoiding CrowdsTo avoid the tourist crowds in Xihu, visit the West Lake in the early mornings, it not only makes for a pleasant peaceful stroll, you will also encounter many locals practicing the various martial arts like Tai-chi or Qigong as well as other local forms of exercises. To avoid the crowds in Moganshan, avoid staying over the weekend. The weekends are when the locals in the nearby cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou etc visit. The accommodations are also more expensive for weekend stays. FoodThere are many restaurants and street foods in Hangzhou. One of the best places to try them is along Hefeng street. For fine dining, head for the established restaurants like Lou Wai Lou restaurant in West Lake. For the budget conscious, try the restaurants located across from West Lake like Family Lu restaurant. Must try foods include stir-fry shrimp with Longjing tea, beggar's chicken and braised dongpo pork. Do ask about the interesting origins of the dishes.In Moganshan, rustic fare is the order of the day. My advice is to bring your own bread, coffee, instant noodles and favorite snacks. Bread and coffee are practically non-existent unless you are staying at the Foreign-run villas like Naked Retreats. The alternative is to rent a villa that includes all meals. Getting AroundIn Hangzhou:Taxis are perhaps the most convenient way to move around the city. It is also relatively inexpensive. Flag down fare starts from RMB10 for the first 3 kilometers with RMB 1 for fuel surcharge. I paid approximately RMB 80 from the airport to the Orange Crystal hotel. The traffic conditions are slightly better compared to Beijing or Shanghai, still, do avoid the rush hour and shift changing time (3-7pm) where possible. Although there are many taxis on the road, hailing one may sometimes proved to be a frustrating challenge. As in Beijing, you will need to stand along the road towards the direction of your destination. While taxi-drivers in most countries I visited will gladly do a U-turn or a loop should your destination be of the opposite direction, taxi-drivers in China, notably Hangzhou and Beijing (I have not tried the other places yet) will refuse your business. If you find yourself being rejected, do ask the taxi-driver where or on which road should you be standing in order to get a taxi.Most taxi-drivers speak and read Mandarin or Putonghua only. Do bring along a version of the Mandarin-language address or map of your destination. An alternative to taxis are the sightseeing buses that ply the famous tourist sights around the city. The buses start from Y1-9, Y13 as well as 3 sightseeing lines 4, 6, 8. Do have exact fares as there are no refunds; or purchase the Xiling card, which is valid for 1 day or 2 days travel on all buses. The most popular way of touring Hangzhou's sights is via the eco-friendly bicycle. One cannot miss the many bright orange bicycles that ply the roads in Hangzhou. Hangzhou is the pioneer for developing an extensive network of bicycle rental system for locals and tourists to rent and return bicycles almost anywhere in the city. There are many kiosks that provide this rent-ride and drop service. To rent a bike, you will need to apply for the T or Z smart card at the Smart Card center at 20 Long Xiang Lu, Shangcheng District using your ID and top up the card with a minimum of RMB 300. There is a RMB 200 deposit which is refunded when the bicycle is returned to any of the service stops. Rental rates for the first hour is free; subsequently, RMB 1 for the next 1 to 2 hrs; RMB 2 for the next 2-3 hrs and RMB 3/hr for rental of bikes above 3 hrs.In Moganshan:There are literally no taxis in Moganshan. Taxis need to be booked in advance as they need to travel from the town of Moganshan at the foot of the mountain. The best way to move around is by foot. Really, most sights are within walkable distance, it's only when you will reach your desired destination. Close
Written by nofootprint on 05 Apr, 2010
Outside of Hangzhou we went to visit the Dragon Well Tea Plantation. We are told it is the best ....don't know if it is or not but we enjoyed it. It is supposed to be the "Empress" of Green Tea.I was surprised to learn they…Read More
Outside of Hangzhou we went to visit the Dragon Well Tea Plantation. We are told it is the best ....don't know if it is or not but we enjoyed it. It is supposed to be the "Empress" of Green Tea.I was surprised to learn they drink and brew tea at a much cooler temperature than we are accustomed to. It is brewed at only 80 degrees ,we rather it hotter but the tea was great and we bought three tin to take back home. We are enjoying it everyday but even though a little goes along way we'll see it end all too soon , I'm sure.It was interesting to learn about tea making . I was surprised to learn that black tea is fermented green tea . I always assumed they were different types. At the Dragon Well Tea Plantation we see the tea makers drying the leaves by hand in a large wok . It looked like hard and boring work! No wonder the tea is so expensive!Tea growing in China is on a scale similar to the great chateaus we saw in St Emilion France. When we visit the ancient tea plantations of Dragon Well Tea we learn that the tea bushes can live for 98 years. A new tea-plant must grow for five years before its leaves can be picked and, at 30 years of age, it will be too old to be productive.Picking starts from the end of March and lasts through October, altogether as many as 30 times from the same plants every week or so. The fresh new leaves are picked.Close
Hangzhou is known as the city where honeymooners came to relax near the beauty of West Lake . So much of what we will remember of this city will revolve around this beautiful lake and the ancient legends it inspired .The stuff fairy tails…Read More
Hangzhou is known as the city where honeymooners came to relax near the beauty of West Lake . So much of what we will remember of this city will revolve around this beautiful lake and the ancient legends it inspired .The stuff fairy tails are made fromIt seemed everything about this beautiful area of China was steeped in legend and mystic. Maybe that’s why it was described for hundreds of years as " Paradise on earth."Is there anything that says China clearer than a lake surrounded by lush green and a pavilion in the distance!West LakeOnly six and a half feet deep with a muddy two foot bottom this is not a swimming lake . None-of the less this lovely lake is why Hangzhou is known as the Paradise City of China. Surrounding most of the city are arched bridges with rolling hills on three sides, temples and of course legend. Willows drape the banks of West lake making it a classic scene found in many Chinese silk scrolls. The gardens are fantastic, with lots of ancient evergreens trained and pruned into shape by many gardeners over the yearsWe enjoyed our stroll early one October morning and loved listening to the fascinating legends told to us by our guide.The Broken Bridge Only legend can explain why this bridge is named Broken Bridge as the bridge is not actually broken.Once there was a magic white snake that lived in the lake. She eventually turned herself into a lady and fell in love with a handsome man. They lived happily for many years until one fateful night when a mean and magic Buddha turned her back into a snake again. They were then tragically separated and even though the husband still loved her she disappeared under the waters by the bridge where they once fell in love. So it is really a broken hearted bride and not a Broken Bridge.Close
Written by MythMin on 21 Jan, 2006
The Chinese TV and Movie City is approximately 4 hours away from Hangzhou City. Heng Dian, in Zhejiang Province, is considered the most excellent TV and movie shooting base in China, being the main shooting bases for famous movies and serials such as Jet Li’s…Read More
The Chinese TV and Movie City is approximately 4 hours away from Hangzhou City. Heng Dian, in Zhejiang Province, is considered the most excellent TV and movie shooting base in China, being the main shooting bases for famous movies and serials such as Jet Li’s ‘Hero’ and the Hong Kong popular serial, ‘A Journey to the Past’.
Our first stop in Heng Dian was at the shooting base for ‘The Riverside Towns in Southern China’. It was practically empty, except for a small river and quaint houses built in ancient Chinese style. The highlight of this shooting base (seriously not a highlight at all) was the dancing and singing performance of the Wa Tribe, the main tribe in Heng Dian. They were mainly just jumping around, hollering, shouting, stamping their feet, pulling their hair and shaking their head while dancing around a bonfire. The best part of the performance was the flood scene, where water rushed down from the top of a small man-made hill, into a large empty pool. There is even rain for the extra effect. Overall, the performance was rather awful… especially the fact that it was crowded and there were too many people for the number of seats available. It was terribly unorganized and messy… people were standing around and sitting anywhere they pleased.
After that, feeling extremely unsatisfied, we headed to the Qing Dynasty Shooting Base. This shooting base consists of old houses, small cottages, temples, small palaces, watch towers, lakes, hanging bridges and even a dodgy looking haunted house. We were able to walk through what seemed like an old market street, exactly like the ones we see in olden Chinese movies. There were also small performances to entertain the tourists; a Justice Bao act, an acrobatics act, a court room scene act and even a walk through the haunted house. There was a Chinese movie in the making on one of the sets we passed by.
What I remember most about the visit to the Qing Dynasty Shooting Base was the cock fight. We were allowed to bet on the cock of our choice and watch it take on the other cock in the ring. They were extremely violent, pecking on each other and pulling one another’s feathers off! After a few rounds, it was just too much so for us, so we called the whole fight off. Well, unfortunately for me, my dumb chicken was declared the loser.
Our last stop in Heng Dian was at the Imperial Palace of the Emperor Qing Shooting Base. This shooting base of course, like the original one in Beijing, is simply magnificent. It was so large that we had to walk an extremely long way to the main gate and up the hundreds of stairs to get into the Imperial Hall of the Emperor. Inside, the emperor’s throne shone like gold… and the hall looked exactly like the Chinese movies I usually watch. Moving on from there, we passed the many sets of the movie ‘Hero’, directed by Chinese director Zhang Yimou and acted by famous actors like Jet Li and Donny Yen. Chinese Kung Fu performances are held at these sets only during designated hours of the day, and photography is only allowed for a certain fee.
Heng Dian is actually an extremely small town with not much to offer except for their shooting bases, though it fails in comparison to the Universal Studios of Hollywood. If quaint old cottages, cobblestone market streets, temples and lakes are what you are looking for, then head on to the remote villages and small towns of China, where you get to witness all these and more in their natural settings.
The West Lake ripples serenely in the bright early morning sun. A few boatmen can be seen affectionately cleaning their prized boats, waiting for the day to start. Aging men and women dancing in tai chi style to the rhythm of the breeze. Vendors gather…Read More
The West Lake ripples serenely in the bright early morning sun. A few boatmen can be seen affectionately cleaning their prized boats, waiting for the day to start. Aging men and women dancing in tai chi style to the rhythm of the breeze. Vendors gather around unpacking their stalls, hoping for a busy day ahead. I was standing on the banks of the West Lake on a cold, windy October morning, watching the life in Hangzhou unfold. Everything seemed wonderful: the beauty of the lake, the simplicity of the people around me, the refreshing morning air. Just being there invoked a sense of calm and peace in me… I was at ease.
Later in the morning, upon returning to the West Lake, I found that the serenity of the lake had vanished in an instant. Hordes of tourists crowded the pathway along the lake banks, with sellers shouting out their wares and tourist guides yelling into handheld microphones to congregate their tour groups. It was a mess. I suppose the best way to handle the hustle is by walking to the pace of the crowd, minding your own business and remaining oblivious, just like the calm, peaceful lake.
During this time of the day, it is best to get away from the crowds and enjoy the West Lake with a cruise. There are several types of cruise boats available: dragon boats, pleasure boats, yachts, paddle ships, and several others. I suppose the best bet is to get on a dragon boat, which are beautifully painted in Oriental style of red and yellow and resemble a dragon swimming in the lake. It was a different experience compared to the normal ones we can find anywhere else. There are three islets situated in the middle of the West Lake, with certain boats making stops at these islets. So, before you buy a boat ticket, do inquire.
I took a nonstop cruise around the West Lake, taking pleasure in just observing the islets and the popular Ten Scenes of the West Lake from afar: the Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds, and The Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow, just to name a few. Each scene of the West Lake has either a meaning for its flowery name or a myth attached to it. What intrigued me the most were the stories connected to them, olden tales of love and betrayal, Chinese Gods and demons, which never failed to entertain me as a little child.
Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
There are three 2m-high stone pagodas in the middle of the lake in the south of the Lesser Yingzhou isle. These small pagodas are replicas of the original pagodas built by Su Dongpo, a famous poet during the Song Dynasty. There are five small holes in each pagoda, and when a candle is lit inside, it reflects against the calm lake, creating a moon-like appearance, and thus the name, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon.
The Legend of the Lady White Snake
The tale of the Lady White Snake is of a white snake that transformed into a beautiful woman. One day while strolling along the West Lake, she met a young man called Xu Xian at the Broken Bridge. It was raining that day, and Xu Xian, being the nice man that he is, lent his umbrella to Lady White Snake and her young maid. They later fell in love and were married.
The happy couple made ends meet by running a rather successful herb shop. Lady White Snake had powers and could diagnose her patient’s illness and prescribe the remedy immediately. One day, when Lady White Snake was away, a monk named Fahai stopped by their shop and told Xu Xian that he was married to a demon that would one day devour him. He asked Xu Xian to visit him at the Gold Mountain Temple, where he later kept the poor man prisoner.
Lady White Snake waited for her husband’s return to no avail. Finally, she decided to rescue her husband from the evil Fahai. It was a long battle of good and evil between the monk and Lady White Snake. In the end, the monk managed to trap Lady White Snake in a golden alms bowl, where she was forced to admit defeat and bid farewell to her beloved husband. The evil monk imprisoned Lady White Snake in The Leifeng Pagoda and declared that not until the lake dries up or the pagoda falls will she ever come out again!
Well, the Leifeng Pagoda did collapse in 1924 and legend has it that Lady White Snake’s young maid did rescue her in the end. The one that stands now was rebuilt in 2000 on the original site.
This is only one of the legends surrounding the peaceful West Lake, which has rippled unsuspectingly throughout the centuries. Life still goes on around the West Lake, and thankfully, the landscape surrounding it is still as scenic and picturesque as ever, for the rest of the world to marvel and admire.