The Tomb Sweeping Festival or Qingming Festival in China meant I finally had 2 days off. I decided to go to Hangzhou – the place that had been on my “to go” list for quite a long time. Travelling during Chinese festivals or national holidays tends to be quite inconvenient as every place is crowded and the train tickets sell out incredibly fast! However, we (me and my Chinese friend, Amelia) successfully made it and after a 1-hour-journey from Shanghai, we were finally in Hangzhou!
Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province. Renowned for its natural beauty, West Lake (probably its most famous attraction), numerous parks and gardens, it’s one of the places you definitely have to visit when you are in China.
Our first stop was Xixi Wetland Park (西溪国家湿地公园)- China’s first national wetland park. Initially, we were not sure whether we should go or not, however, we were pleasantly surprised and ended up spending around 5 hours there! Apart from gorgeous views, there are multiple attractions inside the park including museums related to the daily lives of Chinese people in the past. We could have a look at a traditional Chinese house and saw a display depicting the lives of farmers and fishermen in ancient China. We couldn’t leave Xixi without having a quick boat ride around the park, which was a highlight of our visit!
Our next stop was the Dragon Well Tea Plantation. Hangzhou is well known for Longjing tea, which is a kind of green tea. Drinking tea plays a huge part in Chinese culture and instead of coffee shops that are so popular in the West, there are a lot of so-called tea houses （茶馆）all around China. We decided to visit The Dragon Well Tea Plantation. Located a bit outside of the city centre, it is one of the most peaceful places we visited in Hangzhou, offering breathtaking views and the refreshing green tea aroma wafting through the air. After that, we wandered around a big bamboo forest just outside of the tea plantation!
In the evening, we went to Hefang Street, which I would definitely recommend to visitors. It’s very lively, especially in the evening, and it’s great for shopping, walking around and trying a wide variety of local snacks! By “a wide variety”, I mean snacks ranging from delicious Chinese dumplings to fried seafood creatures, pancakes with fried tofu and… weirdly enough, snakes – though I can’t vouch for that as my friend was not sure if the snake-like serpents were actually snakes or a kind of seafood. Anyway, have a look at the photo down below J We also had an enormous mango juice with cream and fresh sliced mango on top.
On our second day, prior to visiting West Lake, we went to see Lingyin Temple, one of the largest Budddhist temples in China. If you love visiting new temples (like I do!) it’s a must-see. Later on, we climbed up the Feilang Feng Peak, located a few steps away from Lingyin Temple.
Then, we headed straight to the West Lake to have enough time to walk around and see the sunset. West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I can’t even describe how beautiful it is. If you plan to visit, allow at least a few hours since the lake itself and the area surrounding it are both quite huge. The best time to go is either during sunrise or sunset as the views are spectacular. Now I know why Marco Polo once wrote that Hangzhou is “without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world”.