There is an old Chinese saying, 上有天堂下有苏杭 (Shang you tian tang xia you Su Hang). This means up above us there is the Heaven, down here there is Suzhou and Hangzhou. This saying compares Heaven to Suzhou and Hangzhou; ever since ancient times these cities are renowned for its beauty and civilization. Last week I visited Suzhou, so it is only fair to visit the beautiful and bigger city of Hangzhou.
Before Shanghai is the megacity as it is today, Eastern China flourished with the cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou. These two served as major economical and cultural centers of ancient China. Hangzhou has even been a capital of China once! Of course we know Marco Polo called Suzhou and its surrounding towns as the Venice of China, but Marco Polo adored Hangzhou the most. Marco Polo visited Hangzhou and fell in love. With the culture, people, and the West Lake. He vowed to come back again. Later in his life, Marco Polo came back to Hangzhou and even served as the mayor of Hangzhou for quite some time.
My journey to Hangzhou is a valuable experience. I woke up and rushed to the station, and in my tight time frame, I forgot to bring my phone charger! So for the entire day I was trying to save my battery (hence there are no pictures in this post). I also forgot my credit card which would come back to haunt me later. I had with me my backpack and some cash.
In Hangzhou, it was indeed very developed and proud city. Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province and is considered one of the cultural centers of China. When you enter the city, you feel like you are in any big Chinese city, except Hangzhou made you also feel the years of tradition it has. The main attraction is the West Lake. A beautiful and enormous lake that has attracted many visitors and inspired the works of many Chinese poets and artists. It is not as tranquil as Zhouzhuang, but it was more grand and full of history. I did my best walking through the famous bridges and along the West Lake. It is very big and in the center of the city, it is kind of like Central Park in NYC. One side of the lake you see the tall skyscrapers and the other side you sea dozens of mountains and the blue sky. During my stay, I also visited the site of the Longjing (Dragon Well) tea. The same tea that Emperor Qianlong, Obama, and Queen Elizabeth drank! Hangzhou prides itself with tea and tea plays a huge role in the history and identity of Hangzhou and Zhejiang province. At night, there was the spectacular “Impression West Lake” by the famous Chinese director, Zhang Yimou. This is a play that actually takes place on West Lake! The entire West Lake is the background decorated with lights and an incredible performance of Hangzhou’s traditions, stories, and memories in an East-meets-West style. This show is really something out of this world and needs to be seen to explain.
At the end of my journey, the trouble started. I spent ALL my cash very quick! Oh how I wished I had my credit card. I tried my best to arrive at the train station to catch my train to Shanghai, only to discover there was a problem with my passport that does not let me board the train. After a long time struggling (and no money), I managed to get a ride back to Shanghai but I had to wait A LONG time at the station. I waited, starving (skipped lunch) and thirsty. I had no phone, and no time either! I had to rush back to Shanghai ASAP to catch my metro home before it closes because I have zero cash for a taxi. This experience has been a valuable one. It has taught me first to be more careful, be more humble, and glad that I am bilingual. It made me come back to earth after I was lost in Heaven. It has a difficult journey, but in a way, I am glad it happened. In the end I managed to get on the train (no seat for me) and caught the absolute last metro home. Hangzhou has been a great and valuable experience, but Shanghai welcomed me with open arms and a warm bowl of noodles!