The capital of Zhejiang province, and the city in which the G20 summit of 2016 took place is no other than Hangzhou. Despite that it wasn’t crowded at all during the weeks before the G20 took place, the government evidently had spent lots of efforts decorating the city with LED light strips hanging on the trees and such. Later on, we heard from others that the reason for why the city was quite empty the weeks before the G20 was because the government wanted to ensure a perfect G20 so they ordered the inhabitants to have a holiday while also giving them coupons to travel around the Zhejiang province. That’s why we were quite astonished by how little the traffic was and the number of people that were on the streets.
What is definitely different about Hangzhou is the number of bikes there are in this city and that they even have wide bicycle paths throughout the city, just like in the Netherlands. You can basically rent a bike almost anywhere and on the road, you will encounter many people biking too. A fun fact is that Hangzhou’s public bicycle renting is the largest bicycle sharing system in the world, with 67,000 bikes operating in the city. For the bike lovers out there, setting a date on bikes in Hangzhou wouldn’t be a bad idea to explore the city and its history!
During our three-day stay in Hangzhou, we visited the West Lake, tea fields and explored the city centre. We rented a bike for two days, once was to bike along West Lake and the other time was to the Longjing tea fields. Man, those bike trips were definitely long and exhausting, especially the day to the tea fields since it was far from the city centre and you also have to bike uphill once you reach there.
The Wulin square is quite empty in the morning and afternoon since it is just an open space with some trees, plants, seats to rest a bit and a fountain in the centre of the square. However, at night, there is actually a water show going on and I gotta say it was pretty nice and colourful. By far, this is actually the prettiest water show I have seen in China, because it was quite lively with the colourful fountain and the mermaid statue in the centre.
Besides the water show there is nothing much to do in the Wulin Square since it is relatively small in size. However, around this area you will find some malls and the Cultural Square. We actually didn’t know that there is a water show here, so we stumbled across this coincidentally when we were passing this square and saw many bystanders near the fountain. Out of curiosity, we asked the security guard there and he told us that there will be a water show soon and that it was quite pretty and we should watch it. We decided to do that because hey, so many people were there so why not give it a try?
The most well-known attraction in Hangzhou is without doubt the West Lake.
During the summer, you would definitely spot many blooming lotuses here. The West Lake is so large that we would suggest you to spend a whole day here because you can do a lot of sightseeing in this area. There are in total 10 scenic spots on the West Lake. One of the scenic spots we visited was the Xiaoying Island where the “Three Pools Mirroring the Moon” is located. What is special about this place is that it is shown on the back of the 1 RMB money.
Many people were taking pictures while holding their 1 RMB when we were at that spot, and that moment we thought:”why are they behaving so funny?”.We first didn’t really know that the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon was actually on the back of 1 RMB, so that’s why we thought people were kinda crazy that day trying to snatch a picture with those pagodas. Later on we found out and we were so shocked. When we first saw these three pools a.k.a. pagodas, we weren’t too impressed by its two meter heights and that is was just built a few meters away from the island, thus leading the view of these pagodas being not that exciting or too special.
We walked along Spring Dawn at Su Causeway, Autumn Moon over Calm Lake and crossed the Melting Snow on Broken Bridge. The sceneries were nice, especially during the night time because you get to see the pagoda light up and its surrounding from far, just as depicted in the below pictures but prettier in reality. That night was also a night to remember for me, especially because I tend to attract mosquitoes everywhere that I go. That night I got roughly 10 bites in some hours while having the trees and the lake as companions.
Longjing Tea Fields
Longjing tea is a sort of green tea that comes from Longjing Village, a place in Hangzhou. We biked from the hotel to here, which was pretty far and with the heat and humidity, we had to stop several times just to use my hand fan to cool off a bit a la Chinese style. We visited the tea museum there, which was quite interesting because they showcased all kinds of tea leaves and also showed how teas tradition evolved over the years and vary per culture. However, most of the descriptions are in Chinese, so we surely didn’t understand everything that was written there??.
Compressed tea leaves, as shown as above, are one of the things that I have never really witnessed before until this day. They normally come in a block or round shape, but pumpkin or stone shapes are also possible. Despite that they don’t come in the regular packaging that we are used to, these “tea brick” are actually drinkable and can also be displayed as a piece of art in a room. If next time you cannot think of anything China-like to bring back as souvenirs, these can be your best bet :P.
West Lake Cultural Square
A bit further from Wulin Square, you would find another square that is much more entertaining in the night. There will not be many people walking around in the morning or afternoon during the summer, since the sun is so burning that you feel like you are cooking like a frying egg. There are three museums located here, however, we would not really recommend it since they do not showcase any interesting collections and also because their target is to inform children.
Furthermore, they also got a water show going on since it is super popular in China to have fountains with water shows somehow hahah (this has to do with good fengshui and enhancing the wealth of the place). This water show does shoot high in the sky but the performance with its water tricks didn’t entirely capture our hearts despite that it was fun to walk around the area since you can dance in the water.
Yue Fei Mausoleum
Yue Fei Mausoleum is near the West Lake, so you should drop by if you are interested in shrines or the great national hero named Yue Fei. Inside you will see the described history of Yue Fei, a famous general during the Song Dynasty, who was wrongly executed along with his son Yue Yun by Emperor Gaozong and Qin Hui.
There are two kneeling statues on each side, facing the direction of the tombs. Each of the statues refers to the ones who maligned Yue Fei: Qin Hui, Moqi Xie, Wang Shi (Qin Hui’s wife) and Zhang Jun. These people who accused Yue Fei and kindled his unjust death, are now kneeling down to him and asking for forgiveness in their afterlife ?…
Overall, the time spent in Hangzhou was nicer and more relaxed compared to Shanghai. Despite that Shanghai has more variation in food, shopping and nightlife, Hangzhou gave a more authentic Chinese feeling and the nature side of China. The West Lake was stunning, the atmosphere was relaxing and a great get away from larger cities. Would I come back here? Definitely ? Hangzhou gave me a warm feeling that feels safe and laid-back, and back to the not fast-paced life that I kind of miss.