Ignoring the business talk between my dad and his business friend, my eyes were fixed on the passing scenery through the windows of the car. I entered the city of Hangzhou 杭州 once again, after my first encounter back in my early childhood. I wondered if it was my memory that failed me or if Hangzhou had really undergo an extreme makeover. Unlike the gravel roads of the past, the stretch of road contouring the West Lake are now paved with smooth brown bricks. Barren trees and pots of plants line up side by side on both sides of the road, marking the boundaries to an otherwise pedestrian-friendly place.
This is the modern Hangzhou – peaceful, romantic, with a tinge of touristy air.
Stuck between the need to arrive and depart from Shanghai, I spent a mere two days in Hangzhou. Fortunately, both cities are a mere 45 minutes apart, connected by an affordable and new high-speed train route. As short as two days are, my family and I only visited a select few attractions, of which some are definite “miss”es for me and some being marred by the festive crowd and winter season.
Talking about attractions in Hangzhou, the first place that comes into the minds of most people would be West Lake 西湖. The symbol of Hangzhou’s renowned natural scenery, West Lake has since been praised by poets and artists throughout history. We also visited Xixi National Wetlands Park 西溪湿地, a recently-opened natural attraction consisting of swamps, wildlife and some cultural heritage. Calling it a swamp would be a misnomer though.
The “misses” included the Lingyin Temple 灵隐寺, one of the most famous temples in China. I usually do not fancy temples and the mob of people brought about by the festive season did not make it better. On our first day, we also visited Song Dynasty Town 宋城, a theme park which was the backdrop for many films seeking to re-create the olden days. Yet, the environment felt all too artificial and it shouldn’t be the way to see the real China.
The two days I had were barely enough to scratch the surface of the picturesque city of Hangzhou. I wished I had more time once again, with a wide-angle lens to capture every part of its beauty. (: