Besides the omnipresent West Lake, another attraction that will satisfy water-scenery lovers would be Xixi National Wetland Park 西溪国家湿地公园, a rare urban wetland located less than 5km from West Lake. The only wetland park in China, Xixi is densely crisscrossed with swamps, lakes and ponds. Yet, rich ecological resources is not the only feature of Xixi – the natural villages signify the history of the area, and the broad open views makes cities look like suffocating mazes in comparison.
Having visited Xixi during the winter, we could only see it in its less flaterring form – brown withering plants and bare trees. But I believe this has not taken away all of its charm. The tranquility and wildness is a healthy respite from the noisy city life. Be it walking through the wooden platforms crossing the swamps or admiring the panaromic view of the cottages from a three-storey high tower, it felt simply peaceful to be there.
Besides the water-scenery, there are a handful of old stone cottages sprawling the small land areas available. While they used to be a thriving village collectively in the past, most of these houses are now converted into inns, restaurants and souvenir shops to bring in tourists. Interestingly, small stone bridges connect the different areas together, forming a unique scene of land and water when looking from the top.
While Xixi is quite walkable, the vastness and ruralness of the wetland can call for a reason to be lazy and sit in a buggy like my family and I did. Sightseeing cruises are also available, albeit at a cost. If you have some time to spare in Hangzhou, spending a day at Xixi wetland is indeed a way to escape from West Lake for a while. (: