I have always put off China on my list of places to travel. Not because I don’t want to go there, but rather the immense size of the country means I cannot cover it in 4-weeks. I kept telling myself, I will only go there when I am ‘ready’, in the sense that I can visit the place to appreciate the full significance of its history, culture & arts. On the other hand, China is rapidly turning into a nation of Starbucks and McDonalds, losing some of its old charms. So, the sooner you visit it, the better!!
Hang Zhou, is not a bad place to start. After all, it was once the most prosperous city in China, and apparently described by Marco Polo who visited there in 12th century as one of the most beautiful city in the world. I only have one day here, which is a pity because there is so much to cover!
As a child, I grew up studying Chinese writings, basic poems, and famous characters from school. Little did I know, over 20 years later, some of these famous characters would ‘re-surface’ in this one-short day trip in Hang Zhou. The focal point of my trip here is ‘West Lake’ (??). It’s 6.4 square hectares, if I heard the tour guide correctly. It’s a lake revered by poets & artists in numerous poems and paintings for its natural beauty. I can see why:
It’s a huge lake, and there are plenty of mini-attractions around the lake to see to fill up your entire day. I have covered some that I visited below:
Lei-Feng Ting (???)
The original tower situated here collapsed a long time ago. Perhaps for the sake of tourism, it was restored by the Chinese government around year 2005. I wasn’t too interested in the tower itself, but the view from the top was certainly good:
Picture: Lei Feng Ta (???)
Picture: View as seen from 5th floor on Lei Feng Ta
Perhaps, the most significant part of this attraction, is that it is the setting used by the popular ancient fiction novel Bai-She Zhuang ???. If there is one thing that a Chinese writer is particularly good at, it is imaging wild fantasies (borderline ridiculous). This one involves an immortal snake beauty (Yes.. a beauty which turns into a snake at will) who fell in-love with a mortal. If that doesn’t sound ridiculous enough already, the collapse of the tower someone ended up the snake beauty being together with the mortal man. The full story I won’t go into, and if you are interested, please read it here. The tower mentioned in the story is based on the real-life ‘Lei Feng Ta’ that I visited here.
Strangely, there is a morgue for Wu-Sung. I have always thought this is a fictional character in “Water Margin” or “Shui Wu Zhuang” <???> the famous character that fights tigers in the woods. Then, why is there a morgue for him? There’s even Wu-Sung’s older brother selling buns on the main street of Hangzhou. Whether this character is ‘real’ and if this is just some tourist scam. Here’s a discussion on it.. (Sorry it’s in Chinese)
Mausoleum of Yue-Fei ????
Yue Fei is probably one of the most famous and celebrated army general in China. As a kid, I used to read novels and TV shows about this hero who dedicated his life to his beloved country:
His real-life story is rather a sad one though. Before the tragic end, his name used to send shivers down any enemy’s spine, with his incredible records in battles. All of this eventually ended, as he was betrayed and executed by the emperor, all because of a jealous prime minister plotting to imprison and kill him. This mausoleum that I visited today is dedicated to Yue Fei, complete with his life story and statues. What was interesting to me were the statues of the individuals that betrayed Yue Fei, (named Qin Kuai) that led him to his execution:
It’s interesting that that nation is so passionate about Yue Fei that they used to ‘spit’ on these statues of the betrayers. This was eventually banned. However, most tour guides would allow you to slap these betrayers to show your condemnation of the behaviour of these betrayers like this women demonstrates:
As an alternative, the main street of Hangzhou, offers a game to allow to inflict revenge on Yue Fei’s betrayers. All you have to do is throw some sand bags, with the added bonus of winning a prize, if you happen to hit the betrayer:
Of course, Hangzhou has a lot more to offer than this which I didn’t have time for. But, I did manage to find time to try some of the local cuisines. By that, I do not mean this:
It’s a sign that KFC & McDonalds are overtaking China! And this one certainly looks pretty tempting with its ancient facade! But, we stuck with real local food here like:
Vinegar fish (??)
Just about the most thorny fish I have ever had. Just about every bite involves fish bones. I enjoyed it, but you’ll need to be patient enough if you are going to take on this one.
Poor man’s Chicken (???)
Apparently, this was how the poor used to cook and eat the chicken back in the old days. It’s relatively salty but have a unique taste. Ironically it is the most expensive dish that we had that day (58 yuan = AUD$12).
That’s all I have time for here in Hangzhou! China has too much to offer to spend too much time in one spot. I certainly hope this beautiful lake is not going to be destroyed by modern development, when I do get here next time!