Of all the 36 lakes both east and west West Lake in Hangzhou is the best. Or at least that’s their motto. This place has been eulogized by poets and I can absolutely see why. Even Marco Polo claimed Hangzhou “was beyond dispute the finest and noblest in the world”.
Today was a day for long sojourns, panoramic views of lake water, pagodas, green hills, lotus flowers, quaint stone bridges, long boats, willow trees, Tai Chi in the park and any other charming thing you can think of. And at night, West Lake is just as idyllic as it is during the day. I saw it ALL from both land and sea.
How to get there from Shanghai: Well I had to buy my ticket at Ticket Office 11 at Hongquio Station because I learned foreigners must always show their passport even in in-country passages so vending/self-service machines won’t work for us. It’s about 20 minutes from East Nanjing Station on Line 10. I just purchased the next available ticket they had and that was to Hangzhou rather than Hangzhou East. (My return was from Hangzhou East Railway Station a/k/a Hangzhoudong (just to confuse us even more) so I don’t think it matters. What does matter is that you save yourself the hassle and by your return ticket at the same time you buy your onward ticket.) Anyway, once you arrive in Hangzhou you must go up the escalator and look for the Chengshan Metro Station. (It was difficult to find here unlike most places in the rest of the world so that’s why I’m giving specifics.) Upon arrival at Chengshan, you have to buy a single journey ticket as the Purple Card for Shanghai Metro won’t work here like EasyCard did all over Taiwan. (Another reason to love Taiwan as if you needed anymore). Then you take Line 1 to Longziangqiao. Exit at D2 and head caddy corner to bus stop and take Bus 4 to Jingsu. There are many beautiful stops at West Lake from Bus 4 but I recommend starting from Jingsu Temple and moving west. I also recommend renting a bicycle there. Then you can ride to Lotus Fronds at Flower Pond, Breeze at Crooked Courtyard, continue moving up Sua Causeway as there are 7 stone bridges connecting this path of quintessential beauty, then taking a lake cruise to the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon and to enjoy the sunset, then a walk towards the Broken Bridge on your way to see Impression West Lake which is none other than a spectacle of a night show of music, lights and dance in the Chinese tradition performed on rising and falling platforms on the actual lake itself so it looks like fairies dancing on water. How cool is that!
1) Jingsu Temple/Leifeng Pagoda. I’ve been to too many of these already and will see many more so I went straight for lunch and to look for a bicycle to rent.
2) Lotus Fronds at Flower Pond dates back to 1127 although initially it was a private garden of a eunuch named Lu Yunsheng. Now it cultivates colorful fish including kio and carp and during certain times of the year they can be seen fighting over the fallen peach blossoms. Sounds like a worthy pastime. Today, unfortunately, it was too hot for anyone to come out and play so above photo of carp/kio is a photo by Lily on Justgola.com.
3) Sua Causeway – Just float – whether on your feet or on a bicycle – take your time. Take it all in…from the glass lake, the weeping willow trees with their singing orioles, the leaning towers of Pisa – Hangzhou style, the beautiful and well dressed Asian girls and women with their colorful parasols and large brimmed hats, the humpback stone bridges, the traditional long boats, the lotus ponds, that season’s flowers, the wildlife, the lush green grass for picnicking….it’s intoxicating.
4) Crooked Courtyard – Imagine pink lotus flowers filling your nostrils with the scent of spring even if it’s not spring and filling your vision including your peripherals as they spread throughout the shoreline gently swaying in the breeze coming off the lake.
5) Three Pools Mirroring the Moon Island – Take a boat cruise out to see the three small stone pagodas in the middle of the lake near the little island each with five round holes like windows and floating only at a height of 2.5 meters and which are over 800 years old. Apparently the significance of the name is that on the night of the Autumn Moon Festival when the moon is full, candles are lit inside the pagodas and the moon cast their reflections on the water. The scene is on the back of the $1 yuan bill so very famous.
6) Nangping Bell – Listen for the ringing of the evening bell at dusk at the Jingxi Temple. The sound reverberates all the way across the pond and is a reminder of the Buddhist way of practicing humility. Photo on the left from mildchina.com.
7) Broken Bridge – A long lovely bridge stretching from the north side of the lake into the center. Its name comes from the fact that due to the architecture (traditional arched shape) of the bridge, when it snows, it melts on the north side first and since the snow on the south side meshes with the snow covered landscape, it appears visually as though the bridge is broken. It’s not. In fact, it is a lover’s bridge. According to the Legend of the White Snake, two lovers met there and fell in love but the maiden was actually a white snake. Perhaps she is the same White Maiden locked in Leifgang Pagoda for eternity across the lake and she somehow escapes to the bridge and he sees her and helps her and they fall in love. That’s my twist on the story 🙂 Photo by mygola.com.
As for the Impression on West Lake, it was impossible despite walking in sandals for another 3-4 miles easy to the north side of the lake to get to the show on time. Traffic was just too crazy to get a ride by taxi or bus. Plus, it takes a long time to get back to Longziangqiao station. I would have missed my train back to Shanghai. So a little disappointed about that so hope y’all can make it if you ever visit here. The walk at night towards the event site was lovely however.
That’s all for now from Hangzhou.