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HangZhou [HANG-Geological_Area More Detail] (11th Nov)
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  "Bad things go, good things come ... bad things go, good things some ..." Do I sound like a superstitious old man? But if saying that 1,000 times works, I will say it! Desperate, ain't I?
img_2505.jpg After a bad day. I wake up to a refreshing city scene. Doesn't seem like it's the same HangZhou I was afraid of a few days ago.  img_2509.jpg To kick off the day, I take a tricycle and head for HangZhou's must-go - XiHu. 

Ding, ding, ding, coming thru, coming thru ...

  HangZhou is perhaps the most poetic and romantic city in China. Why? For one, countless ancient poets expressed their affection towards HangZhou in their poems. For two, I have heard so many times teh saying "above there is heaven, below there is Su, Hang (SuZhou and HangZhou)". How can I not believe so?

The most poetic of HangZhou is XiHu [West-Lake More Detail] If XiHu were there, HangZhou would have been just another city in the big China. In every Chinese's mind, XiHu has willowed banks, singing birds, peaceful water, and all the romantic elements. Sort of like if you take your lover for a walk around XiHu, she/he will marry you right away. 

This is the boat I hire to tour XiHu. The boatman is smiling big because he's got business in the coming hour. I am the  one who is not smiling because I have to spend $20 in the coming hour.
Then I find it's not easy money after all. The boat is fully man-powered. It must have taken the boatman 10,000 calories to get the boat this far.
Pagoda and bridge. The poetic XiHu can't afford to not have them around.
Row, row, row your boat ...

XiHu is only a few feet deep and it's all mud below. So try to keep yourself above water level.


  This is the marvel of modern technology in action. A few Shots are stitched together by one click of the mouse. It's like I have my eyes wide open.

XiHu is surrounded by mountains on 3 sides and city on 1. Above is XiHu's mountain view.


  The panoramic city view of HangZhou from the middle of XiHu. Now you would accuse Kam of lying. How poetic and romantic this can be!!??

In 1985 when I first visited HangZhou, it was just a tiny city. In my memory, everything from accommodation to eat to bus station to sight seeing was within walking distance (I could be wrong but I couldn't be very wrong). Today, I am not sure if I can have a complete tour of the city in a day even if I take a cab. HangZhou is more like a concrete jungle now and the 25+ cranes that dotted the skyline tell me it's only the beginning.

It's that same old dilemma about development, it's that same old war between preserving nature and getting immediate economic return. Oh well, I think the Chinese people have made up their minds already.

This is a tour boat, not a floating restaurant.
Willowed banks. So relaxing.
"Don't try to stop me honey, I want to marry you!".

Too romantic to stay cool.

If I were 15 years younger and I have 5 friends traveling with me, I would have taken the DIY tour. A few years later, I would even have to ask for a wheelchair before I get on board a boat.
  The quick tour is over. I get ashore. How come I don't have the calm and peaceful feeling I am expecting from XiHu?
  Lunch time! I am prepared today. A friend recommended a 150 year old restaurant located just beside XiHu. Ha ha, yummy time.

A a few famous HangZhou dishes are in order ...

"Dung Po Meat". Named after a famous ancient poet. It's stewed fat-and-lean-layered pork with secret soya sauce. Supposed to "melt in the mouth" but this piece's skin is chewy and the lean part tough.
"XiHu Vinegar Fish". One of the most famous dishes. The fish tastes, well, fishy. It's obvious that it's fresh ... ly taken out of the fridge. The smell of the fridge is hard to miss.  

img_2615.jpg"LongJing Shrimp". LongJing is the famous green tea of XiHu and is one of Kam's favorite tea. Supposed to be a heavenly combination. 

Turns out the only thing good about the dish is the pair of classic chopsticks. There is no LongJing taste in the dish, shrimp not fresh, corn flour on the shrimp, and there is a free hair. My god.  


  The meal is 3 times more expensive than a regular lunch and I what I get is shit (excuse me)!

Experience tells me so far that the more famous and expensive a restaurant is, the more likely I get shit (excuse me again).

  A few minutes down the road, I see another restaurant that bears the same name as the "Hairy Shrimp" restaurant. I ask and find out this one is the main shop, the one I ate at was a branch. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

What a crooked world this is .

  I do the afternoon trip by bike. After this morning, I believe I should look at XiHu's water from the shore instead of look at the shore from the water.
This is more like the XiHu I am expecting.
Ok, see that guy on the right? When you see a shabbily dressed guy with a coat covering one of his arms who pays more attention to passerbys than to XiHu, you know he is a pickpocket. Be a smart tourist.
On the shore of XiHu, I meet the great artists of tomorrow. Keep up the good work kids.
Romantic even under bright sunlight.
"Honey, I know you don't mind but you have just pulled out and swallowed my decayed molar." 
Late afternoon, I have done circum-navigating XiHu. Biking on the tree-shaded roads, the real mood of XiHu I enjoyed 16 years ago comes back again.
I drop into the famous Ning Yin Temple after I give up the bike.
Maybe I am too tired, maybe I am too busy taking photos. I am not paying attention to what the tour guide says. 
I only remember it's not easy to have Buddha statues preserved in such excellent condition, blah, blah.  
I am supposed to go into the temple but I lost my appetite when I see the crowd in front of me. Bye guys.

I didn't ask for a tour guide. My tour guide follows me the second I stepped into the temple and she is not going away no matter what. I wonder what she is going after.

img_2656.jpgShe tells me she is a tea farmer blah, blah, blah. Ah ha, she is getting to the point. I remind her I am not a stupid tourist but I can tell she thinks she can  handle me. That is a challenge.

She takes me to her booth, spreads about a ton of LongJign in front of me and starts telling me how good the tea is. She is trying to hypnotize me instead of leaving the judgment to my taste buds. I know that trick. I smile, drink cup after cup and after cup. 

At the end of the trials, my comment is still "so-so". Then she raises her voice and goes for the kill "well you don't know a thing about tea then. This is the best LongJing and you can't tell!" Fellow tour guides nod with fire in their eyes and the pressure peaks. It's the moment of truth.

But hey, I am a psychology major. "Yeah you are right. If I can't tell the difference, why should I pay for it? You said the tea is free right? Thanks and I got to pee." I hear her cursing behind me. Ha ha ha.

Is there anyone in China's tourist industry who genuinely wants to serve the tourists?

And gosh, there is no washroom around!

  LongJing [Dragon-Well More Detail] is one of the best teas of China. LongJing comes from the 5 peaks (not sure about this number though) beside XiHu. I wanted to find out more but I know the tea farms now are 102% tourist oriented and it will be yet another bad experience if I visit the farms. 

Here is unconfirmed information I heard about LongJing. The 5 Peaks are the Lion Peak, Tiger Peak, Elephant Peak, and some other animal Peaks. The very original bushes of, as well as the best, LongJing are grown on the Lion Peak. It was named LongJing because there is a well at the Lion Peak which ancient emperors (dragons) like to get water from when they brew LongJing.

XiHu LongJing is seriously under supplied. Let's not talk about meeting world-wide demand, LongJing produced from the small area around the 5 peaks is not enough to even go around friends and relatives of the tea farmers. Solution? Farmers "import" LongJing grown in other provinces, which is not as tasty, and sell it as XiHu LongJing.

Sorry I have to break someone's heart. If you think you are drinking the original LongJing when you visit these tea farmers of XiHu, you are a happy tourist, and they are happy framers.

The night takes over and everything comes to a stop. But poor me is still busy arranging for tomorrow's bus ticket.
Don't have time for dinner so I grab myself a couple of mutton brochettes. Holy sheep! It's good!  
Night scene of XiHu.

The PICs become too dark after processing. Please turn your monitor's brightness all the way up.

"Will you marry me?"

"Shhh. Could you get rid of that guy who has been picturing us for the past 30 minutes first?"

  I am not serious about this HangZhou part of the trip because I know right from the beginning that HangZhou is just the stepping stone to HuangShan. Gonna have a long ride tomorrow.

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