Monday, October 20, 2008

Hangzhou and the West Lake

20 October: Today we spent time around the West Lake area, which included a visit to the Lingyin temple. We had met in the morning and took the local bus (Y2), which cost 3 RMB per person. Tour groups were already filling the area. The temple grounds are large and we only saw a portion of it since we had other sights to see. We saw lots of buddhas carved into the walls and caves of the area (Feilai Feng, “Peak That Flew From Afar”), which I was glad to see since I had cancelled our trip to Luoyang (although I’m sure the ones at Luoyang are more impressive). These carvings are about 600 years old. Walking through the caves, one needs to be very careful, especially if the rocks are wet. Some of the ceilings are short, so that can be a problem too.

One hall contained 500 Arhats, which were made out of copper and apparently weigh a ton each. The hall’s floor plan was shaped like a swastika and there were swastika emblems on the walls and ceilings.

Moving on, we took the bus to the area of the Shangri-la hotel. We peeked inside for a few minutes (and even used their lobby bathroom), lovely place! The street in front of the hotel (main street around the lake) was busy with traffic. I don’t think I would like to stay there. We had lunch at a small place across the street, which was a little pricey, but we enjoyed the baked fish with a sweet vinegar sauce; beggar’s chicken (entire chicken served with head and feet); bokchoy with mushrooms, and cucumbers in garlic sauce (large chunks of garlic too!).

After our lunch we walked along West Lake and took a ride on a boat and visited two of the islands in the lake. It was the late afternoon and I enjoyed the scenery. Still, it was pretty hazy out. Both islands were lush with gardens, bridges, and pagodas. The sun was setting as we continued on to the northeast side of the lake. I think I got some good shots.

Running out of RMB, we found an ATM machine and filled our wallets. Took a bus back to our hotel where we picked up a bottle of wine to enjoy before dinner while Reenie iced down her ankle and foot. For dinner, we enjoyed Indian food at Haveli India Restaurant and Bar, located on Nanshan Road (#77) and within walking distance from our hotel. The restaurant was quite colorful with purple chairs, silk draperies of assorted colors, and a beautiful woman who danced every so often to Indian music. Having Indian food (Tiki Masala Chicken, chickpeas and lentils, raita, a mixed vegetable dish, and rice for 220 RMB for 3 people) was a nice change from all the Chinese food we had been eating.

After dinner, we headed back to Hefang Street to buy more Chinese cut-outs.

I have to say we only scratched the surface in Hangzhou. We spent a lot of our first day on Hefang Street, which we had fun, but could have done more. I think this city deserves at least a 3-night stay. We did enjoy the lake views from our hotel the first night and I took some night shots of the nearby pagoda (which was the only time I used my tripod – Nutella, you were right, it was a waste to bring it).

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