Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hangzhou and the West Lake

19 October: Reenie and I took a taxi to the train station, which the driver overcharged us. I tried to pay him ½ the bill, as we had taken a taxi the day before and knew the going rate. Also, I watched at how fast his meter was turning. Of course, I couldn’t stop him. Several men approached us and tried to help. The taxi driver argued with them but in the end we paid. I did take his license plate number down (actually took photos). One person said to call a particular number, but how could I? We needed to get on the train for our next destination. He was one of 2 drivers that “took us for a ride.”

Reenie and I couldn’t believe there was no elevator or escalator at the Hangzhou train station. Many people were traveling with their luggage and everyone had to use the stairs. Reenie had a hard time with her foot, so I had to lug all pieces down the stairs. After getting through to the main area, we met up with Rebecca, a young woman that would be with us for our two days in Hangzhou. She was recommended on Fodors wiselindag, a fellow fodorite, who used her services a few months ago.

It took quite a while to hail a cab, as many did not want to go the short distance to the hotel; but I was able to get one. Our hotel was located right on the West Lake on the southeast side. We stayed at the Liuyang Hotel, which is set in a garden area with bamboo and other trees, shrubs, and flowers. I had corresponded with a person at the hotel, who told me earlier this year the entire hotel was booked due to a conference. I was told to check back later, which I did. Still, no room. My last email to the woman was, “That’s alright, I’ll find another place but will stop by to say hello.” A couple of hours later I received an email saying the manger of the conference gave up one of the rooms for us. Talk about nice people! We were in room 2105, which is on the ground floor. No view to speak of. It was a small, basic room, probably equivalent to a 2-star hotel in Europe. The beds were very hard and the bathroom was small. Also, the bathroom had the ‘hose’ type hair dryer, which I hate. We paid 528RMB per night.

After check in and dropping off our bags in the room, we all headed out for the afternoon. We walked to Hefang Street, which is an ancient shopping street. Just before the start of the street there was a huge festival in progress. Many people were out and the street was crowded. There were many food vendors and people pushed and shoved to get their food. One food item I saw and should have bought was squid on a stick. It looked so good! And they were large squid too. We snacked on some food, including stinky tofu, although it wasn’t the authentic stinky tofu – just very tasty. We sat at a nearby park, which a police office walked by telling people to get off the grass. I asked Rebecca to tell him we needed to sit because of Reenie’s foot. He accepted our reason for sitting.

Hefang Street was a lot of fun. We bought a few items, including some Chinese paper cut-outs. There were all sorts of designs, including pandas, flowers, mountain scenery, etc.

Later, we took a taxi to a garden, but it had closed down for the season. Rebecca felt bad. We walked around the area, next to the West Lake, where we saw several bridal couples having their photos taken. All of the women were wearing cream-colored dresses and they wore jeans under their dresses. Out in the distance on the lake, we saw several boats. The views were quite hazy from the pollution. It was a shame to see the pollution in such a beautiful setting.

For dinner, we dined a Zhiweiguan, which is a well-known restaurant. We dined outside on the terrace. Fortunately there were no bugs or mosquitoes. We ate sautéed beans, whole fried shrimp, and a beef dish, which was similar to short ribs. They were the tastiest dish of the night.
Realizing it was too far to walk back to the hotel (we had walked about 20 minutes), we grabbed a taxi and planned to meet Rebecca at 9am the next day.

No comments: