I recently took a quick a weekend trip to the city of Hangzhou, China. About a two hour train ride south west of Shanghai, it is known for the West Lake, and various temples in its surroundings. With just a few weeks left in China, it was great to experience another city, and broaden my views.
While visiting Hangzhou was a first, another first of mine was riding on the slow trains here in China. For those who are not familiar, China is known for its bullet trains, although they still have “slow trains” that everyone is the west is accustomed to. However, we are not accustomed to the…how do I say this…interior environment of the slow train. For starters, on these types of trains it is perfectly normal for people to buy standing room tickets for a discounted price, and at times these tickets are the only available because all the actual seats are sold out. In short, the train is a bit crowded. Just get ready to make it to second base, whether you like it or not, with at least three people during your time on the train. It’s not the cleanest of trains, there are usually lots of children who enjoy screaming, and you probably will not being doing much sleeping on the rock hard seats. If you happen to be in China, I would suggest trying a slow train or two, just to say you have tried it, and the next time you are on an amtrak or any other train, you will feel like your riding in first class. An experience to say the least, I am glad I have that perspective. After all, isn’t that what traveling is all about!
My friend Jerry, who came with me on the trip, and I arrived at our hostel around 10PM local time and grabbed a quick beer before bed to rest up for a long day of waking and sight seeing the next day.
The next morning we were off to the west lake. Honestly, it was a pleasant surprise. If you talk with anyone who has lived in China for an extended period of time, most will say every second/third tier city is the same. Lots of people, big buildings, and so on. Hangzhou has the west lake going for it. Really, it is beautiful and a sight to see. There was just enough shade to keep us semi cool during the very hot and humid day, and of course water and snack stands around in case we really needed some refreshment.
Around the lake there are hundreds of paths to walk along, and believe it or not the crowds were not that terrible. It was quite peaceful on the middle stretch of a road that cuts across the center of the lake from one side to another. Much different from the typical hustle and fast passed life style of Shanghai, it was a relief to enjoy the outdoors.
Before the lake we did see a few temples, but in my opinion, unless you are a history/temple buff, there is not much to see. After you see a temple or two, the others are relatively speaking, the same. If you choose to skip out on these, you won’t miss much.
After some much need R&R we headed out to taste some of the local street food Hangzhou had to offer. Lucky for us, our hostel was right around the block from “Delicious Food Street”, and we were not disappointed. After filling up on some typical dumplings and meat squeers , we came across a stand that featured some “different” food. Different foods being, tarantula, scorpion, centipede, sea horses, and others. Lets just say, you would not see these on the dollar menu. I don’t have much experience with adventurous foods, so it took some convincing, but eventually Jerry and I gave scorpion, and centipede a try. It wasn’t half bad. Crunchy. I’m glad Iwent through with it.
The next daywas typicaltourist shopping for little trinkets, and local art. BUT! The big story this day was Jerry enjoying his very first trip to McDonalds! Yes. Jerry, a 23 year old having his first McDonalds trip. I was honored to share the experience. He left satisfied with his meal that was complemented nicely with a McFlurry.
After some more R&R it was back home on the slow train. Hangzhou was a nice getaway from the big city of Shanghai, but I was happy to be home. Less than two weeks left in China and I can add Hangzhou and Scorpions to the list of the China Experience.