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Back to China - Shanghai - Nanjing - Hangzhou - August / September 2012 - Page 4

Day 10 - Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The lake in the fog

The west lake is the #1 tourist attraction in all of China if you believe the signs. I kind of struggle to accept more people come here than say, the forbidden city, but there you go.
It certainly is impressive, and very well set up, with lots of things to see and do all the way around.
I walked the full circuit, apparently about 12 miles (18 kilometres). Plus the kilometre or so each way from the lake to my hotel. This sounds about right as it took me just on 5 hours stopping twice for coffee.

Theres picture overload, the fog makes the pictures pretty crap, but I dont see this mist lifting anytime soon! I was kind of glad its cooler though, in the heat I would have struggled.

Before I hit the lake, I warmed up by punching this bull square in the head. Check out my calves, im a super hero.

When I got to the lake, this was the view. Very inspiring. Inspiring if you like a sea of grey nothingness, which I do!

There are certain places you are encouraged to appreciate the view, all with poetic names like 'the autumn moon descends slowly through the everlasting infinity unto its aqueous slumber'
I dont remember any of the actual names, so I am just going to go right ahead and make them up.

There would have to be 1000 or more wooden boats available, in all shapes and sizes.

Most of the walk is a good distance from any road, and scooters and cars are banned. When you do get close to the road you can see theres a lot of upmarket retail around. Including this. Chinese people love wine from my home town it seems.

'A floating symbol of virility springs forth eternally from whence upon a dream it beheld motionless'

'The bovine whilst inept in pursuits most buyoant is forever triumphant as the everlasting force of nourishment'

This is the path. Theres trees all the way around and generally a couple of hundred metres of park. On the far side of the lake there are mountains, which I may investigate further, you cant see them today due to the fog.
There are also man made causeways across the lake, kilometres long, and maybe 50 metres wide, with many arched bridges.

'Rising embers of a time yet to be reach ever upwards towards the stars that bind us all'

There are 3 proper pagodas, as can be seen in the background here. I think they have all been rebuilt though.

2/3 of the global goldfish population amassed in one pond.

One of the more impressive boats. apparently at night they are lit up in ridiculous amounts of neon.

Things only I would notice. You can walk all around here at night. Pretty much every tree has these vines growing up them, until you look closely. They are clevery disguised electrical cables for the lights.

I am not afraid to photograph someone elses wedding. If you are going to have your photo taken in one of the worlds most photographed locations, you should expect this to occur.

Without a doubt the nicest location for a starbucks ever. I had a second coffee just because of it. This is a fine example of how Hangzhou has done a great job of not making the West lake area a tourist hell. There are no vendors selling plastic crap with loud speakers blaring, all the buildings look like this one.

There are also a number of temples around the lake, and tombs. This one is a temple and a tomb. I decided to visit, perhaps to use the bathroom after my second enormous coffee.

Looks like fabric but is actually carved stone thats been painted.

A real tomb. The two mounds here are genuinely old.

OK, this is a different wedding. But they have decided to have their photos taken in a bus stop. I can only hope the reason is this is where they met, otherwise, perhaps they like busses.

My lunch, it wouldnt be right if I didnt photograph it. It turned out to be very rich and fatty pork belly under fried onions. It was nice and I was hungry from my long walk.
Ordering was interesting, there was no menu, just Chinese characters on a wall. They had photos out the front so I took the girl outside and pointed. It seems they dont update their photos often because most of what I pointed at was 'mei yo' which is cant have.
Eventually I asked 'Wo curyi shemme ma?'. Which may be wrong grammatically, but worked as she pointed at 3 things, and I just said yes, not knowing exactly which I would get. It turned out ok, no dried bear penis that I know of.

And now 2 bonus panoramas. If you click them they are quite large. My camera does these in the camera automatically, you just hold the button down and sweep in the direction you choose. The original image was over 8000 pixels wide.

The second panorama.

Not sure what I will do tonight, legs are sore!

Best meal ever?

Hangzhou is huge.
Like many Chinese cities there is a new city area, which is far away from the old city area.
In Hangzhou I estimate its about 15km away, too far to walk. This meant I had to brave the bus network!
There are a ridiculous amount of busses criss crossing every street, they have English numbers on the busses themselves, but thats where the English stops.
Theres no announcements on the bus in English, the signs at the stops only tell you where you are in Chinese, and the drivers are expectedly aggressive, hardly getting off the horn and opening the doors before the bus comes to a complete stop.
You can get an IC card, but if you dont have one (I dont), knowing how much to pay can be a bit of a guess too. Theres a rubbish bin like thing you throw coins in as you get on. The internet tells me its 1 yuan for non air conditioned, and 2 for air conditioned.
It also says all busses in Hangzhou are air conditioned and that the city has the most modern and extensive bus network in all of China.
It then says that since they dont turn the air conditioner on in spring and autumn, you only have to pay 1 Yuan regardless, confused yet?
I just threw in 2 and stood up in the crush, peering out the window trying to recognise where I was going.
This plan didnt quite pay off as hoped, I spotted a giant mall which I thought was my destination, it had a Tescos, but once I got off and found the nearest crossing road with English writing which I could recognise on my blackberry, I realised I still had about a kilometre to go.
No problem, I got to wander through an awesome skyscraper ghost town. This one was almost finished, and presumably in the next few weeks, 50,000 people will move in.

Standing up on the bus. When I first got on it was far too packed to try and take a photo, I sat against the front window.
The bus ride back was less busy and I got a seat. They show Chinas funniest home videos on the bus. The passengers are either having hysterical fits of laughter or have an unbelievable ability to fall fast asleep the instant they sit down.

The skyscraper ghost town. It was really quite surreal, there were 32 such buildings with as far as I could tell, no one living in them. Yet all the landscaping and playground equipment were completed.
You could film the best zombie movie ever here.

The mall however was great. You cant really compare Australian westfields to the concept of a Chinese mall. Since so many people eat out in asian countries, the malls are much more a collection of restaurants and entertainment than they are supermarkets and stores with cheap baby clothes.
Despite all the buildings around it being seemingly vacant, it was quite busy.

The only supermarket is on basement level 2. An Ole which is an expensive foreign food only supermarket. It is massive and fancy. I enjoy looking in these places a lot but rarely buy anything.
The varieties of pop corn were what had me amused this evening, whiskey flavoured, ham and pineapple?

On the roof of this mall there are 4 very fancy restaurants. All seem to have small private dining rooms for groups of 10 to 20 with butlers. I wasnt about to eat there on my own but I do enjoy appreciating the view from the roof. Theres no one else outside enjoying the roof garden.
I loved being up there on my own, its as if they constructed the entire garden just for me.

Next door theres what looks like an extension to the mall going on, I can stand and watch construction sites for hours.

And now for my excellent dinner. I dont know the name of the place, as it was Chinese writing only on the sign and menu, but this is part 1 of my meal. I think the closest I have had in Australia would be Dan Dan noodles, which is pork with spices, hand made noodles and no soup. This is similar but added strips of vegetables. It was awesome. The pork had a great spicy flavour with the right amount of szechuan pepper, the noodles were a perfect level of chewiness.
My drink in the background was freshly squeezed lemon soda (I watched the chef go crazy with lemons) with honey. Also excellent!

Part 2 of my meal was amazing. Bean curd with a rather unique sauce. It is hard to describe just how great the texture and flavour of it was.
It was even better when eating it with the noodles.

The cost for this meal was $7.

On the bus home I thought about this, it may be the best meal I have ever had?

Last picture, the mall also has an ice skating rink. The kids skating here are the real deal, doing proper spins and whatever despite appearing to be 10 years old.

After today, I will upgrade my opinion of Hangzhou to great. It gets the same recommendation as Nanjing - definitely worth visiting if you come to Shanghai. It may be worth waiting a year until at least the first 2 lines of the metro are running and the main street is no longer mud.

bobule on 2012-09-06 said:
the lake looks amazing!

Day 11 - Thursday, 6 September 2012

The great buddah scam

I did two activities in the day today. The first one was great, the mountain area on the northern shore of the West lake.
The second activity, after getting on a random bus, was a rip off for domestic tourists involving buddah at a place called the Lingfeng temple.

Picture overload in 3,2,1 go.

There are many ways to get to the mountain. Its not much of a mountain really, maybe an hours hike from one side, over the top and back down.
My route was largely undefined, and was determined by paths I found along the way. I decided once near the top to walk along the ridge and see the various sites, which was a great idea.

There is a sea of bamboo. Similar to the forest in Japan where business men traditionally suicide themselves. I didnt see anyone attempting self decapitation (Its real, look it up!)

The path is very high quality, and again seems to be lit in case you feel like going up at night. This is something I should do.
Old folks love to walk along side the path, clapping and beating each other. Most carry small radios with them, or a bird in a cage.

At the top is this secret looking compound. I have mapped the perimeter in detail should we need to mount an assault.

This seems to be the man only area. They are up here telling rude stories to each other and arguing politics. A couple of old dudes just hang around in their underwear stretching. I joined them, we all hung out together!

I am impressed that theres a few toilets like this on the mountain. Each has a dedicated cleaner stationed there. He was so happy that I used his facility.

This is a taoist temple hidden amongst the trees. They train people in here to infiltrate falun gong and report back. There were people in it making strange howling noises, possibly upset that they have chosen a religion that no one seems to understand?

Descending away from the temple you go past lots of little caves with incense burning.

Then head back up again, through some great boulder areas forming caves and crevices.

I have spotted my next destination. Also note the disguised rubbish bin. No sooner do you put your bottle in there that a cleaner takes it out and sorts it into various bags which they presumably carry back down periodically.
There was no rubbish anywhere on the mountain at all, I started trying to spot some.

Heres your chance to get rid of her. It will be an accident, I wont tell anyone! We all know her constant shoe and handbag buying at the new luxury malls is punishable by cliff plunge!

Looking down on the west lake, through the pollution. Today its not really rainy so it is just smog!

And looking the other way at what I presume is the city, somewhere in there.

Here I am, towering over the tower! Fear me...

Getting to the pagoda requires going down narrow gaps between boulders. It is really narrow, fat people need not attempt it. If someone comes the other way you have to back up until you get to a wider bit.

This pagoda is filled with concrete and was only built in 1980. The original conveniently fell down along with a few others at around this time when the government decided to redevelop the lake area.

Coming back down and theres some little villages in the hills. There were quite a few funky bookshops and tea houses for gay or similar Chinese people to spend their money at.

Picture for tax purposes. The team of rubbish collectors on the mountain carry the stuff back down to here.
Honestly, I can think of worse jobs!

OK, now for the great buddah scam. I caught a random bus which went further away from the city. Catching the bus is fun as you can see a lot more and relax in the relatively air conditioned comfort.
I was on a regular bus but theres also hundreds of tour busses going along this road, they seem to come straight here from far off cities, its the last stop for the bus so I got off with everyone else.
I paid an entry fee not even knowing where I was! About $6 which for China I thought was high.
Then you walk through a maze of shops selling crap.
Eventually you get to some quite nice carvings in the cliff face, but also more ice cream shops, corn on the cob etc.

The carvings are nice, but I think I can see similar elsewhere, the real thing here is some sort of giant temple.....

Last shot of this tourist trap, once you get to the temple, its like visiting a castle in England. You have to pay more to go in, after having paid to walk up the path to get to it through gift shops.
I found this idiotic. And so decided to not go into the temple at all. The only bathrooms are inside the temple, so me and about 2000 other men equally annoyed at the buddhist sales technique just relieved ourselves in the stream.
Theres 3 different temples, all have additional entry fees. Theres also beggars everywhere dressed as monks.
It does occur to me that buddhists are the biggest scammers of all religions! You get no money from me.

After exiting through a heap more gift shops, you can get a brief glimpse of a tea field.

Theres a long line of people waiting to get a bus back, but it was quite amusing.
You can either wait in the line for each bus that comes, then fill the seats, or go to a different line to stand up on the bus.
The bus ride was about 15 minutes, so standing was no issue for me, but I watched 3 busses come and go at about 5 minute intervals, it occured to me that the people standing in the get a seat line had already been standing in line for much longer than they would stand on a bus.

And that was another exhausting day! I didnt even have time for a real lunch, it was too late by the time I got back. So no noodle photo!

Somehow no pollution

Late afternoon the pollution started to clear. Amazingly by dark it was gone, I could see stars. Either it was stars or I have stuck pixels in my eyeballs now.
The strange thing was, streets I had walked down a few times already looked completely different. I was lost because I could see, how stupidly poetic.
To celebrate I walked the full length of the street thats dug up for the metro, just to confirm that everything along it is being rebuilt. Apart from the very far end where theres one finished mega mall on one side and a carrefour on the other, the entire length is a disaster!
I cant imagine a city in Australia doing this. Imagine George Street in Sydney or Rundle street / mall in Adelaide just completely demolished on both sides!

I also made a quick walk along part of the lake at night, with the clear sky I could see the mountains on the other side even though it was dark. I hope this lasts until tomorrow so I can go take advantage of being able to see.

Photos will be boring!

I celebrated the clear skies with a photo of nothing in particular.

Look closely. If you are a construction guy in China you need to be good at rope climb.

I chose my dinner purely to see what it would be! It said Aussie sirloin steak on the menu. What came was actually ok. It was on a hot plate already cooked so it only got overcooked, but it was nice enough.
I was kind of glad it was relatively expensive, about $6, if it had of been $1 I would never have believed it was beef from Australia.

My drink was great, but came some time after I had finished my steak (see previous page about China dining expectations). The drink is a cucumber smoothie. I could really get used to that, its very refreshing!

One of the mountains around the lake area has a massive lit up restaurant on the peak. Electricity prices dont seem to be of much concern.
And on that, since everyone rides an electric scooter, they must really use a lot of electricity. I have not experienced any kind of power outage since getting here. I did see a lot of wind turbines from the train window and I think solar plants too.
Most roofs are covered in solar cells and solar hot water heaters.

A street full of people selling shoes. You dont see a lot of this in Hangzhou. I can remember the main street in Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) where tip trucks would just back up and empty out a pile of shoes or shirts or plastic buckets etc.

Day 12 - Friday, 7 September 2012

My own personal cave

I originally set out just to hang out by the lake and snap photos of people taking photos of smog.
However after watching the musical fountain and appreciating that the smog had indeed returned, I decided to hop on a random bus and see where it goes.
I think the general rule here is that any bus with a K prefix goes somewhere for tourists, I had no idea where K12 goes but it was the first one that came.
As it turns out, I made an excellent choice, as I went to a great hiking spot up a sizeable hill with caves and temples that were free and where there were very few other people to ruin my seclusion.

Before all this though, as most mornings, I went to starbucks to feed my habit.
This time I went to one near a white person motel (sofitel I think), and there was a French designer family in there. By this I mean they had adopted children, one black and one Chinese.
This caused a great deal of astonishment amongst the locals who were also enjoying overpriced coffee, or more likely the cheapest tea on the menu so they can use the wifi. There were a lot of sideways glances and whispering going on. It probably didnt help that the children were dressed in fully tailored designer outfits (berets, boots with buckles) and both had their own ipads with educational software to keep the kids amused.
I watched on too! I enjoyed watching the watchers. The black girl was a little older and did most of the speaking, they were allowed to eat their fruit cup after they had sanitized their hands. But when the little Chinese girl spoke loudly in French, there were actual gasps from the Chinese locals watching on!

This was the last stop on the bus route. Looked promising!

I love steps. On this holiday I have ascended a record number of steps.

The location was called the Jade Emperor Hill. I think this is the Jade Emperor temple but since there were at least 4 temples on the hike I am not sure which one was which.

I had a strange feeling I was being watched.

About 2/3 of the way up you get to a nice tea house / cafe. There are a heap of locals up here playing cards and dominos with their bird cages hanging in trees busy acting the stereotype.

This is the view down the far side of the hill. The buildings on the left along the bank of the river are whats called the new city. Until now I didnt realise that there were large buildings on the far side of the river too.
The sign up here made mention of make sure to be appreciating the ancient octagon garden below. I used all my appreciate.

There was a little door in a cliff on the way to the toilets at the tea house. Amazingly inside was a sizeable cave!
It was strange as no one else was in here but me. The lights were all off so there were parts I couldnt go to as they were pitch black.
There were also a number of statues and carvings, but it was a bit dark to see what they were all about.
Perhaps this place is cursed! Other people climbing the hill just climbed straight past this?

This continues further down hill, I have no idea how far, it was too dark to negotiate the steps. Perhaps there were thousands of skeletons down there, or the crystal of the temple of the lost ark.

Let there be light, or something.
Honestly I could have taken my pants off in here and run around for 30 minutes. No one disturbed me for at least that long.

Its all been made safe for pedestrians to appreciate.

I tried to climb out through this hole.

Predictably on the top of the mountain theres a buddhist temple. The buddha was very impressive. However there were people surrounding it saying no photos. I snuck this one from behind the temple whilst looking for the bathrooms. It doesnt look very impressive from the back as it was built into the cliff face.

The view from the top of the surrounding mountains was excellent, smog makes photos crap though.

This is the West lake, you can clearly see one of the man made causeways across it which I walked over earlier in the week.

Bonus panorama of the smog envoloping the hills.
I set out today not planning to walk much. I am glad I did! Descending back down was much easier than going up, it started to rain very lightly which was very refreshing.

Almost missed the best bit

My hotel is near Wulin square which as I have repeatedly mentioned, is now a meteor sized crater.
At the other end of a trench you can surely see from space is Wushan square. This evening I went there.
Turns out its awesome, the internet undersells it. It is the 'old' street for tourists, but its not like other such streets.
Theres very little touristy crap, lots of interesting real stores including a sword maker, lots of big restaurants as well as the snack street.
All this is amongst real old buildings and at least 3 temples, I think its the nicest part of China I have seen yet, in any city.

Looks can be deceiving, the map shows just the temple. I didnt see much else around but its all hidden beind residential apartments.

My first glimpse of the old area, dorky guy with cool hair posing with buddah. I especially like how he didnt take his front mounted back pack off for the photo.

Theres a heap of streets like this around, as you go up the hill a bit the streets get narrower and the stores less commercial. There were places actually making pottery and like I said earlier, what looked at least like someone heating metal to make swords.
There was a super impressive sword shop but I especially obeyed the no photo sign in there. The guy behind the counter looked like he was a master swordsman.

The silk lantern burn your house down special.

One of the many temples dotted around the area. There were people everywhere, including quite a few western tourists, many of whom seemed to be German. You can tell by their high pants and silly moustaches.

The snack street goes at least for a mile. I had my dinner along here in bits and pieces. I havent died yet despite people folding parts of pig into dough and then steaming it in the streets. As well as xiao long bao I had a scallion pie which was great, but very fattening!

There are a lot of statues and carvings like this around. No one seems to pay much attention to them despite their impressive size.

Another view of the general area now that its dark.

Go towards the city a couple of streets and theres lots of restaurants. However I had already had enough snacks. I wouldnt have been able to get in anyway, they are all giant round table places, and I am Nigel no friends.

I forget what they call these, they are as tall as I am. Just off in an alley way somewhere. I have seen them depicted in cartoon form.

The actual cultural square part of Wushan square has an art gallery and a big open area. There was a threatening thunderstorm that never eventuated and just a few drops of rain.
This had the usual effect of people screaming in terror at the risk of getting but a single drop of water on their heads. Those without umbrellas were upturning the buckets they were eating snacks out of and wearing them as hats!
The grandmas line dancing came prepared though. They line dance through rain, hail or tsunami, just add an umbrella to the routine.

Check out the awesome carving on this ivory! Its huge, I think it came off a mammoth.

I didnt eat too many snacks, so I thought I would have dessert. All kinds of beans soaked in no idea what floating in something. It was very nice, not too sweet. The lady that ran this independent shop (not one of the 20 or so chains) sat and chatted to me paitently in Chinese, in exchange I then had to do the same in English.
She dreams of visiting Orr-Day-Lee-Ya and wishes for her children to move there.

Tomorrow I go back to Shanghai. Hangzhou was excellent. I bookended my trip with Shanghai as thats where the plane comes and goes from. Had I of known Nanjing and Hangzhou would both be so much fun I would have had an extra night in each and a couple less nights in Shanghai.

thomas on 2012-09-07 said:
very interesting places! Have you seen any hutongs yet?

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Latest Update

Day 1 - Monday, 27 August 2012
  Time to go
  Getting here
Day 2 - Tuesday, 28 August 2012
  I forgot my passport
  My bag arrived
Day 3 - Wednesday, 29 August 2012
  Wuxi, the dusty city
  More canals, far canals
Day 4 - Thursday, 30 August 2012
  There is no museum
  Bottle opener
Day 5 - Friday, 31 August 2012
  No train pictures
  Bed turn down service
Day 6 - Saturday, 1 September 2012
  Sombre please
  Twice as lost
Day 7 - Sunday, 2 September 2012
  Purple haze
  Sleep now please
Day 8 - Monday, 3 September 2012
  Panda dead, again
  Cool weather is cool
Day 9 - Tuesday, 4 September 2012
  Wet, lost and confused
  Rivers of mud
Day 10 - Wednesday, 5 September 2012
  The lake in the fog
  Best meal ever?
Day 11 - Thursday, 6 September 2012
  The great buddah scam
  Somehow no pollution
Day 12 - Friday, 7 September 2012
  My own personal cave
  Almost missed the best bit
Day 13 - Saturday, 8 September 2012
  Back to the start
  American TV advertisements
Day 14 - Sunday, 9 September 2012
  Mao's plane
  Its raining but thats OK
Day 15 - Monday, 10 September 2012
  Humble administrator
  Bike crash
Day 16 - Tuesday, 11 September 2012
  Expo of urban decay
  Still walking
Day 17 - Wednesday, 12 September 2012
  Countdown to deportation
Day 18 - Thursday, 13 September 2012
  No legroom photos