Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Honeymoon: Days 7-8 (Hangzhou)

16/04/12 - We got a private car rather than taxi from our hotel in Beijing to the airport for out trip to Hangzhou [Hangzhou, which is relatively near Shanghai, is reputed to be one of the most beautiful cities in China and is a popular tourist destination for the locals]. It was with a guy who was hanging about outside the hotel who's main job was doing private tours, but had time before his first tour group to do an airport run. He spoke excellent English and was very chatty - he said that we should go to Xi'an (probably best know for the Terracotta warriors), where he'd studied, if we got the opportunity as it had the best sites from the ancient dynasties. Unfortunately it wasn't on our schedule, and having done a lot of historical sites we were quite looking forward to seeing different things.

We were in Terminal 2 of the airport and it was quiet and easy to get through security. They had free wifi too, which Jen made use of. After boarding the plane on time we were then told it was delayed due to a lack of take off slots being available. So, we got fed before take-off, but we didn't really eat much of the unappetising looking chicken and rice dish.

We weren't too delayed in getting to Hangzhou airport, which again was a new and modern looking building. From there we got a taxi to take us to our hotel on West Lake. In general the surroundings were much greener and less dry than Beijing. But, like in Beijing there were loads of building sites en-route, mainly for what looked like hi-rise appartment blocks. The houses along the road also had a quite distinct look about them that seemed quite specific to the Hangzhou area. The taxi ride took about 40 mins, but was slightly longer due to the taxi driver's meter not working properly and him having to stop by the taxi office to get a new SIM card!

The dancing fountain at West Lake
We were staying in the Hyatt Regency hotel - as a big chain hotel it was very international with better English spoken and a lot of non-Chinese residents. It had a very impressive lobby. There was a slight issue with our room not being ready, but this was sorted out quickly. The room we got was nice, but not as big our one in Beijing. We hadn't paid the extra for a room overlooking the lake. After settling into the room we went for a wander about the bit of West Lake nearest the hotel. We discovered that just opposite the hotel there was a dancing fountain, which performed a music and light show every half hour (we went back to watch the show later when it got dark, but I was particularly underwhelmed, especially as the views across the lake were so amazing anyway). On the lakeside promenade we got accosted by an old man on a mobility scooter who was Chinese, but had learned English (to a very proficient level) by listening to BBC Radio 4 over the internet - he did admit that he found some of the characters with strong accents in the Archers hard to follow (later we passed him again chatting to a group of German tourists in English). We also saw the original (we think) The Grandma's restaurant, which, as in Beijing, had big queues.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and despite the very good looking buffet decided to go for pasta (Jen) and a burger (me) as we felt in need of some western food! After dinner we went back out to watch the dancing musical fountain. Later we went to go swimming in the hotel pool, although the set up they had was very confusing. I swam briefly before we tried going for a sauna, but we found there were only separate saunas and hot tub areas for men and women, so didn't stay long.

We planned to get the high speed train to Shanghai when we left Hangzhou, so rather than attempting buying tickets at the station we went to the hotel business centre who booked the tickets for us (they needed to take copies of our passports, because foreigners, who don't have the state issued ID cards, need to give their passport numbers when travelling about on the trains).

Wedding photo shoot
17/04/12 - Jen was unwell overnight with a high temperature and sore throat. We made it down to breakfast for the very good buffet, but then Jen went back to bed. I walked all the way around West Lake (I'd planned to go round a bit and turn back, but once I got near half way I decided I may as well go all the way round) - this took about 3 hours. It was pretty busy with lots of golf-cart-style tourist buses going around the lake, which you had to make way for every few minutes. It was pretty, but there was a low mist over the hill surrounding the lake that meant the views weren't as good as they could have been. I also spotted the first, of what would prove to be many later sightings in Shanghai, wedding photo shoot. Later in the afternoon Jen had recovered enough to venture outside. We briefly walked through the shops behind the hotel and then walked all round the lake again. This time we went slower than I had before and spent more time at some sites like Solitary Hill Island. We also saw barges setting up the big light show that happens at the north of the lake, and a few rowers out doing lengths.

For dinner than evening we went to Chamate (one of the chain of Taiwanese restaurants that we went to in Beijing) for dinner. It was on the edge of lake and we got to eat outside, although it did get rather dark and it became quite difficult eating in the dim candlelight.