After living closely with Shanghai’s other 20 million residents for a period of time its recommended to get the hell out of dodge occasionally. Last weekend we did just that and caught the train down to Hangzhou.
Hangzhou is a lazy 180km south of Shanghai and is one of the more stunning areas of China we’ve seen thus far. The area is one of the centre pieces of China’s beauty and culture with the picturesque West Lake surrounded by mountains covered in thick forest. It’s one of the big tourist areas in China and has plenty of visitors from all over mainland China. Suffice to say my ginger hair and our pale skin got quite a few stares. Obvious stares.
There’s enough cultural temples, tombs, ancient stories, pagodas, and other ancient ruins to keep you busy for a week but if none of that interests you then just kicking back by the lake and enjoying the abundance of green is cool too.
We mixed it up a bit and saw Lingyin Temple, an active Buddhist temple originally founded in 328AD which houses some of the most magnificent statues I’ve ever seen. Also on the cutural list was the relatively new Leifeng Pagoda. Neither of us were surprised when we found out the old Leifeng Pagoda fell over in the 1920s because people were stealing bricks from it in the belief they held some magical powers.
Other than that we just took it easy by the lakeside, ate some great food, and rode around on hired bikes around the lake. I think we’ll be back so this won’t be my last post on Hangzhou.
Where: West Lake, Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province.
How to get there: From Shanghai catch the train. You can get tickets at the rail station but it’s best to book ahead so grab tickets at the various train ticket offices around town. I got mine just around the corner at Jing An Temple and they spoke perfect English but there are a few offices around:
- At YMCA, 123 Xizang Nan Lu, Huangpu
- Corner Hua Shan Lu/Beijing Xi Lu, Jing An (Next to Post Office)
- CITS office nr cnr Hengshan Lu/Dongping Lu
- Yi Shan Lu (between Nan Dan Lu/Hongqiao Lu – 500 mtrs from Grand Gateway, Xujiahui
Try and catch the D train. A first class ticket will cost around 75RMB one way and you’ll travel in style at 160km/h. We caught the T train to Hangzhou and it was a bit slower because of the stops but is was still comfortable and a bit cheaper.
How to book a hotel: There’s plenty of online reservation sites or you may want to try direct but I found elong.com to work fine and the cost was reasonable.
Getting Around:The best way around West Lake is to either walk or hire a bike. For trips to some of the cultural attractions you may want to get a taxi, which can be hard to get at times, or squeeze on a bus. The buses are easy enough to follow so get a concierge to help you or you can work it out at some of the bus stop signs. While cheap the buses aren’t a walk in the park – the buses are constantly overloaded and it’s a fight to get on. If you catch the metro system in Shanghai you’ll be a seasoned campaigner at this but defeats the purpose of taking it easy.