Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The other day was filled with a day trip to nearby Hangzhou. We woke up early to head Shanghainan station to pick up tickets, but had trouble finding our gate. So, in an international covert operation, I posted myself near the ticket booth until a passenger purchased a ticket as well to Hangzhou. After the unsuspecting couple had ticket in hand, we followed them through the station at a comfortable ten meter distance. Almost lost them once on the escalator, but my extraordinary mysterious assassin skills locked them in sight and we were able to successfully follow them to the appropriate gate without blowing our cover. Turns out we walked past the gate twice, no matter.
Hangzhou is the most pedestrian friendly city I've found in China with walking paths everywhere and multiple bike rental stations. We filled up on some jiaozi and then meandered through shopping stalls before a leisurely stroll along West Lake. Dotted with temples, pagodas, and parks; it was bliss to get out of the giant city and intake some relatively clean air.
We abandoned bipedal motion half way round the lake and picked up a couple of bikes to head out to the nearby temples and tea houses in the rolling hills just west of the lake. Hangzhou can appropriately (I think) be compared to the Sonoma Valley. While the Californian visitors get raging drunk on the wine produced by the fields of grapes, Hangzhou denizens and visitors enjoy some of the finest tea that China has to offer- longjing. For five hours we biked along the terraced fields covered in cloud and mist, along groves of bamboo, and past historic temples. It was a much needed respite from the bustle and groan of Shanghai.