Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Day 1 - Hangzhou Sights Ling Yin Temple, Red Carp Pond and more

We were going on holiday!  Our destination was Hangzhou, followed by Shanghai.  The plan:

Day 0 - Depart Singapore to Hangzhou (Scoot Airlines), Arr. Hangzhou 2135hrs
Day 1 - Hangzhou, got a driver, tour the city, including West Lake and Ling Yin Temple
Day 2 - Depart from Hangzhou to Wu Zhen (water town), and then transfer to Shanghai Courtyard Marriot near Disneyland
Day 3 - Shanghai Disneyland! (One full day)
Day 4 - Transfer to Shanghai Marriott City Center
Day 5 - Private day tour to SuZhou
Day 6 - Shanghai Free & Easy
Day 7 - Home sweet Home - Shanghai to Singapore on Singapore Airlines (Business Class)

This is Day 1 - Hangzhou

We were in Hangzhou, China! We arrived the night before, via Scoot Airlines (Singapore to Hangzhou.  Today, we would hire a driver to bring us around to see the sights of Hangzhou.  But before that, let me show you the narrow beds in our hotel room.  Our room came with two twin beds, but when we booked on the Holiday Inn IHG website, it room clearly stated two double beds. Oh well.  For the fun of it, I got two models to show you the breadth of the twin bed, for laughs!


Breakfast
The day started with a good breakfast at the Holiday Inn Buffet.  Our room rate came with breakfast for two adults.  The buffet supervisor allowed my two kids to eat for free.  Video below shows the good food we had.  Breakfast area wasn't too crowded, which was nice.


Below, a picture of the stylish buffet area.  A mixture of Western and Chinese food.  I liked the porridge and fried dough sticks.  Also had eggs from the egg station.  Breakfast was good and we felt happy.

Journey to West Lake (Xi Hu)
Our driver picked us up from the lobby, as per the arranged time.  Our ride was in a very comfortable MPV.  There were many skyscrapers in Hangzhou.  It looked to be a developed city.  There was construction outside our hotel - driver told us that they were building new metro/underground lines.

Driver's 7 Year Old Kid Studies All Day
Glad that we could speak some Mandarin, and that allowed us to have interesting conversations with our driver.  We did not book a guide, only driver.  But as you can see and hear from the video below, our driver was more than happy to tell us about China, and his family and other interesting nuggets of life in China!


West Lake, Hangzhou 
First stop, the famous West Lake 西湖!  West Lake (Chinese: 西湖; pinyin: Xī Hú) is a freshwater lake in Hangzhou, China.  There are numerous temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake. Map of the West Lake in Hangzhou, China Leifeng Pagoda West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history for its natural beauty and historic relics, and it has also been among the most important sources of inspiration for Chinese garden designers. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, described as having "influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries"and reflecting "an idealized fusion between humans and nature". (Source wiki)

Below is the video of our very calm boat ride.  Again, glad that we could understand some Mandarin.  The boatman was most enthusiastic in telling us about Chinese culture and history.  Made for some good story-telling.  The scenic boat (or human powered sampan) ride took 40 minutes and cost 150 RMB.  The boat can take a max of 6 pax, but I think 4 is ideal.  Any more may be a bit of a squeeze.


A picture of another boat going past.  See that the boat is very low and we are very close to the water.  You could play with the water, if you wished.  Don't fall in! (Not sure if there were life jackets, maybe under the seat).

There were these larger boats too, but we didn't take them today.  The ticketing booth was near these boats and they cost 70 RMB per person.  I think the ride is a longer one, and it brings you to the other side?  Not sure.

After an calming boat ride, we took a walk around the waterfront.  Even though we only paid for a driver, his service was excellent. He took pains to bring us around the waterfront.  He brought us to see some squirrels, and then a slow walk back to the vehicle.  I noticed all the electric buses and carts.  Saving the environment!


Even the Police Car was an electric one.  Looks like the Chinese authorities were very serious in ensuring clean and fresh air around their famous Lake. 

Next stop, Ling Yin Temple (灵隐寺). 

Lingyin Temple (simplified Chinese: 灵隐寺; traditional Chinese: 靈隱寺; pinyin: Língyǐn Sì) is a Buddhist temple of the Chan sect located north-west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. The temple's name is commonly literally translated as Temple of the Soul's Retreat. It is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and contains numerous pagodas and Buddhist grottoes. The monastery is the largest of several temples in the Wulin Mountains (武林山; Wǔlínshān), which also features a large number of grottos and religious rock carvings, the most famous of which is the Feilai Feng (飞来峰; literally: "the peak that flew hither"). [Source: Wikipedia]


We decided not to enter the temple, so we only bought a ticket to view the external areas, which had the famous Buddha carvings into the rock. Check them out in the video above.  Here is a photo of the main entrance to the temple scenic area.

And this is the famous Buddha (was he laughing?) carved into the rocks.  One of many, but this particular one is the most famous (I think).  There were some paths for us to walk up to the peak, but we didn't get very far.  In the video, you will see how steep the steps were.  We got up to a pavilion and the adults took a rest.  I sent the kids higher for a look and they reported back that there was nothing to see.  This was also confirmed when I asked some passers-by whether it was worth the climb all the way up.  They said 'no'.

KFC 肯德基 in China
After our climb, it was time for lunch!  We decided to settle with KFC, which was located just opposite the ticket booths.  Got some Rice box as well as KFC Asian-style wrap.  All very good.  Video is below.


Tea Planation
After lunch, we took a leisurely drive by the waterfront and found our way to a tea plantation.  Stopped by the roadside, and got out to take some photos.  Hangzhou is famous for tea.  There was some saying that the poor drink alcohol, but the rich enjoy tea.  Plantation was set against rolling hills.  Neat stuff.  Didn't spend too long here, just for a photo opportunity.


Red Carp Pond
Next stop? A garden that contained the famous Red Carp Pond! This attraction was called View Fish at Flower Harbour, Red Carp Pond of Hangzhou, China. As one of top ten attractions at West Lake, Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor features the flower harbor plus red carps, peony flowers, a big lawn and dense woods. With a total area of 20 hectares (49 acres), it is located on a peninsula between West Inner Lake and South Lake in the southwest part of West Lake, and is sandwiched in between the Yang Causeway and Su Causeway. The history of Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor can be dated to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Back then, the government official Lu Yunsheng built a private garden at the foot of Flower Hill (Huajia Hill). He dug a pond, and raised various fish in it. The garden was first called Lu Garden, and then became known as Flower Harbor. Later, Ma Yuan, a great painter of the Southern Song Dynasty, depicted the scene when he created the Ten Paintings of West Lake. From then on, the beautiful scene has been known as 'Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor'.  This attraction was free of charge.

True to its name, there were plenty of gorgeous carp.  No natural predators here.  Many people feeding the carp.  No wonder some of them are so big and fat.


Here is a picture showing the description of the Red Carp Pond - a few thousand red carps.  The Chinese loved to watch the fat carp.  It helps them write better poems and profound sayings.
There is a Chinese proverb 鲤鱼跳龙门 that translates to "The carp has leaped through the dragon's gate."  On first read, you would be, "DUH?".  But it is rather profound.

鲤鱼跳龙门
"According to Chinese mythology, the Dragon’s Gate is located at the top of a waterfall cascading from a legendary mountain. Many carp swim upstream against the river’s strong current, but few are capable or brave enough for the final leap over the waterfall. If a carp successfully makes the jump, it is transformed into a powerful dragon. A Chinese dragon’s large, conspicuous scales indicate its origin from a carp. The Chinese dragon has long been an auspicious symbol of great and benevolent, magical power. The image of a carp jumping over Dragon’s Gate is an old and enduring Chinese cultural symbol for courage, perseverance, and accomplishment. Historically, the dragon was the exclusive symbol of the emperor of China and the five-character expression, Liyu Tiao Long Men, was originally used as a metaphor for a person’s success in passing very difficult imperial examinations, required for entry into imperial administrative service. To this day, when a student from a remote country village passes the rigorous national university examination in China, friends and family proudly refer to the “Liyu Tiao Long Men.” More generally, the expression is used to communicate that if a person works hard and diligently, success will one day be achieved."

After the garden of the red carp, we would head to the famous pedestrian street. But before that, we did a quick stop at a Silk Shop.  Video below. Not cheap!  We didn't stay long.


Qinghefang 清河坊古街 Ancient Street
Our last stop of the day (before dinner) would be Qinghefang Ancient Street 清河坊古街, which is a section of Hefang Street which is located at the northern foot of Wu Shan Hill in Hangzhou. It is just several hundreds meters away from the beautiful West Lake. With an area of 13 hectares (32 acres), the street is the only well-preserved part of the ancient city.

As a miniature of the city's long history, it is the best place to embody the historical and cultural character of Hangzhou. Qinghefang Ancient Street 清河坊古街 has been the most flourished street in the city since the ancient time. During the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 - 1279 AD), Qinghefang with lots of shops, restaurants and teahouses was the center of politics, culture and commerce in the city. After so many years, it is still a prosperous business area. Many famous century-old shops are located in this ancient street, such as Wangxingji Fan Store, Zhangxiaoquan Scissors, Wanlong Ham Stack, Huqingyutang Pharmacy, Baohetang Pharmacy, Zhuangyuan House, Wangruixing, Yiyuanjindian, Jingyangguan and Sheep Soup Restaurant among others. It was fun to walk around and take in the sights and sounds!


Dinner at 录茶餐厅
Finally, it was time for dinner.  The driver brought us to a shopping center (which was rather empty) but the restaurants were fairly crowded.  We had dinner at the Green Tea restaurant, or 录茶餐厅.  This was a rather popular place (you can find it reviewed on the internet).  We didn't really know what to order, so we got pretty random stuff.


Heading back to Hotel
It wasn't that late when we finished dinner, but it was time to head back to the hotel to get some rest.  It was a pretty short ride back, and along the way, I asked the driver about all the overhead cameras that were flashing at us everytime his vehicle went past.  He told me matter of factly that those cameras can capture our faces as we drove past, even at night.  Welcome to 21st Century China!

Well, that's the end of our day in Hangzhou.  Good fun, and we saw a lot!  Thanks for following along.  Tomorrow, we check out of the Holiday Inn, and stop by Wu Zhen watertown before heading to the Courtyard by Marriott near Shanghai Disneyland.  Stay tuned!

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