Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hangzhou, China: Gorgeous West Lake & Its Sunsets

Why is it that Chinese people spit everywhere?  Do we all have a ton of flemmy stuff in our throats and we, in Western culture, have just learned to suppress it and not notice it's there?  Or does sometimes the pollution here generate extra flem?  Question of the day; which occurred to me as I was enduring an incredibly long bus ride yesterday where (yes this happens all the time!) the old man behind me kept hacking and spitting huge spit wads all over the bus floor. This is why you never sit on any floors in China, people.

Anyhow, from magical, misty Huangshan, Jess and I headed to the city of Hangzhou!

What It's All About:
Hangzhou is where all the pretty girls in China come from. Just kidding. But really, someone told me that once.

Hangzhou is a city about 2-3 hours away from Shanghai (to the Southwest), and is the capital of the Zhejiang province (fun fact, one set of my grandparents are from the Zhejiang province!).  It's a super fast-growing and cosmopolitan city - it's noticeable fancier-looking (to me), and construction is EVERYwhere you look.  The G-20 Summit this year is taking place in Hangzhou in September, and you'll see signs for it everywhere.

Walking through pretty (re-created) Hangzhou; giant boba in hand

Hangzhou's most famous attraction is the West Lake (西湖), a beautiful, giant lake right in the middle of town. You can rent bikes and spend a day (or two) leisurely riding around the lake and enjoying all the gorgeous views.  West Lake is also the photo on the back of the 1-yuan note!  There's also tons of hiking trails and nature stuff you can do in Hangzhou.

And the views of the sunset from West Lake are pretty epic

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • A couple-hour, relatively pain-free bus ride from Huangshan to Hangzhou got us in around early afternoon.  What was pain-filled was the hotel process, as there was a couple mix-ups here and there, but we finally managed to book ourselves at a hostel near the lake.

There was some legit-adorable village scenery on the bus ride to Hangzhou

  • We took an early afternoon walk down this incredibly happening pedestrian street/side road (Hefang St.) that ran right alongside our hostel and led all the way to the lake.

Eeee Hangzhou has such pretty streets! So leafy and clean!

Even the McD's is pretty! Also, did you know Chinese McDonald's have a life-changing matcha soft-serve ice cream in an Oreo cookie cone? ALL FOR $1?!?!  IT IS AMAZING.

So much shopping! 

I may have gone shopping for qipaos - Chinese traditional dresses - because Hangzhou is known for its silk!  I tried this one on with my tennis shoes. I think the shopkeeper was horrified (she was like, "Of course you're not gonna want to buy it if you try it on with that footwear! You need heels!").

Prettiest street ever

Then you come across a pretty park

And people fly kites in the square next to the park, Wushan Square

And then we arrived to West Lake 

We sat by the lake and watched the sky get dusky

Then went to dinner at a delicious restaurant - this is a Hangzhou specialty called Dongpo pork (braised pork belly). It looks jelly-ish and unappetizing, but it was amaaaazing.

On our walk back home after dinner, we encountered more synchronized park dancing.  I LOVE SYNCHRONIZED PARK DANCING SO MUCH. I also love that there is a lit-up temple in the hills behind them.

50 ft  away, there was another group of park dancers getting down with another song. <3

Hefang St. was in full swing when we got back - this man was painting shirts to sell.

Lots of sketch artists

This man was firing glass and making shapes

Girl, I know how you feel #spiritanimal

  • Next morning, we went and did the classic Hangzhou activity - rented bikes to ride around the lake!

Sweet rides

Picturesque pagoda with lily pads

More park dancing! This one was couples - the men would invite the women to join, and the man on the right in the gray pants was my absolute fave

Then we rode through a super fancy part of town, with all the luxury brands (nobody is saying Forever 21 is a luxury brand here, btw)

Jesse: "Hangzhou is fancy"

And then we found a causeway that cut across the lake

Lilypad heaven

All the different corners of the lake had such different viewpoints and buildings and shops and vibes

And then I maybe coerced Jess into dressing up like an emperor and empress and taking photos by the lake.  In China, they have these photo ops everywhere - they often have local old-world costumes, which you can choose and put on and take photos by the tourist site you happen to be at.  Obviously, I wasn't gonna settle for the princess or courtier or concubine costumes - emperor and empress it is.

The lake got prettier as the day got sunnier #poetry

Jess took this very artistic photo of the lake in my sunglasses

Some pagoda that I'm sure is famous for something. (I'm Connie, and I'm a terrific tour guide, I know)

We stationed ourselves near this pagoda to watch the sunset

Which we knew was an ideal spot to watch the sunset due to the million people with their cameras set up

And then there was a wedding photoshoot happening (Chinese photoshoots are no. joke. Anywhere remotely stunning, you'll always see tons of brides and grooms doing very involved/intricate/over-the-top photo shoots. WANT.)
And yes, I did take this photo myself with my phone!

Stunning. I'm sure you know by now to prep yourself for numerous sunset shots that may not all be necessary, but I couldn't possibly get rid of.

And the sun peeked out for the grand finale. Sunset on West Lake is a must-do, according to CNN WorldTravel, and they were not lying.

Walking back to the hostel, and people in the square were still flying kites with the epic sunset as a backdrop

We had eggplant for dinner, because China loves eggplant and I love eggplant.  (Don't worry. We ate more than just eggplant.)

Topped with a huge head-sized mango dessert. Basically consisted of mango slices, mango juice, cream, icy stuff, and more mango

And then we had to leave Hangzhou after a couple days.  And I took this photo of the train station to show you that China has these crazy huge modern train stations in every city. HUGE. 

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • As briefly mentioned above, we had a slight debacle when we first arrived to Hangzhou, as it turned out that our hotel was only for Chinese mainlanders and they didn't realize that we weren't.  This turned out to be kind of a major thing, because we learned that many hotels are only targeted at mainlanders - they are often much, much cheaper because hotels in China need a special expensive license to be able to house foreign guests.  It's kind of sad really, because you'll find these hotels that are super nice and half the price of the places you've seen, but then most likely they are not for foreign guests. Some websites specify, and some don't, btw, which is how we encountered this mix-up in the first place (dislike you, Ctrip.com!!!)
  • Uber is super super super popular right now in China (as well as another ride-share app called DD) - they are cheaper than regular cabs, but the government doesn't know how to regulate them and sometimes chooses to crack down on them, as this is a huge problem for the taxis.  Anyhow, the ride-sharing option on Uber (called UberPool in the States) here is called the "People's Uber."  So Communist, China.  Also, it doesn't necessarily group you with people going to same way, as we learned once our cab drove us an hour out of the way to drop off our other UberPool passenger before taking us all the way back to ours.  

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