A Weekend Away: Hangzhou
Updated: May 27, 2019
My boyfriend, Jacques, and I decided to go away together for New Year as he was in Shanghai to visit over the Christmas period. Hangzhou is known in China as a 'hidden Paradise' and last week I found out why. It is a beautiful city with an enormous park home to mountains, a lake, and some of China's oldest and most famous temples. Hangzhou is one of the seven ancient capitals of China and luckily it's just a 50-minute train journey south-west of Shanghai. Booking tickets wasn't too much of an issue. I did everything through an app called Trip.com and collected the tickets from the main train station.
Something I am gradually getting used to about China is the sheer size of the country. Hangzhou, for example, is considered a small city, but its population is still 1 million larger than that of London. Even on a Wednesday, the more touristic areas of Hangzhou's West Lake park were still very busy. It took a hefty hike up a mountain to get away from the crowds, which was entirely worth it. We loved the stone buddhas and statues carved into the rock face, some of them in plain sight and others hidden away in dark caves. At the top of the mountain, there wasn't much of a view - the fog put a stop to that - but the peacefulness and mystery of the place was enchanting. Silence is a rare find in China as the noises from traffic, video adverts, the metro, and people shouting conversations to each other are constant and can sometimes reach overwhelming levels. Given that I live near to a motorway in central Shanghai, I've found myself craving silence since moving here.
On New Year's Day, Jacques and I walked along the perimeter of West Lake (a UNESCO heritage site) where we visited various temples and climbed Leifeng Pagoda, just south of the lake. The roofs of the temples and old buildings are so different from any Western architecture. They are mostly made from dark-coloured tiles and they curl up at the edges like a stereotypical British pre-war mustache.
The most impressive of all architecturally speaking would have to be Lingyin Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hangzhou. The temple has a variety of different buildings sprinkled across the face of the mountain and it seems that at all hours of the day you can see monks in floor-length orange robes chanting and going about their daily business.
Hangzhou was all in all a perfect weekend break. It helped that we booked a gorgeous Marriott Executive Apartment just East of the city centre. The waterfall shower was simply divine, as was the King size bed. The stay came as a welcome break from my (slightly run-down) apartment in Shanghai, where it has felt like we've had a constant stream of workers in and out fixing light bulbs, drains, and various household machines. I came to China with the knowledge that I was moving to the fastest growing economy in the world and therefore I somewhat naively expected everything to be efficiently run and functioning to a generally high standard. But of course, no country in the world is perfect. As much as I love it out here, there are still aspects of the ex-pat life to which I am yet to fully adjust.
Jacques has now disappeared back off to the U.K. but we have plans to go travelling again together over Chinese New Year. In the meantime, I suppose I'll just have to throw myself into work and book up as many zumba classes as I can at EF HQ.