This note was written by Samantha Woods, a WildChina travel consultant who recently traveled to Hangzhou on a WildChina survey trip.
The highlight of my recent survey trip was a day in Hangzhou. Having been to neighbouring Suzhou, another ancient canal town, I was expecting hoards of tourists and a somewhat falsified ‘Old Town’ experience. What I found was tastefully restored historic sites and a genuine pride of the locals in the culture and heritage of their city.
We started in the beautiful Guo Garden, where a group of budding young architects were having a lecture on the ancient Chinese technique of garden design. Our WildChina guide, Jackson, explained how long and twisting corridors, bridges and walls create partial views of the garden that are used to give the feeling of space and make the garden seem bigger that it is. I’ve been to many parks in Beijing, and throughout China, but it was only here that I discovered that the different shaped windows are positioned so that the views behind look like framed paintings hanging on the walls. Amazing!
After, we had a relaxing ride in a private paddle boat on the infamous West Lake. Despite a light drizzle, the banks were lined with brides braving the cold to have their photographs taken. Lunch of delicious xiaolongbao, which Jackson boasted was even better than the ones you find in Shanghai, was followed by a stroll through the tea plantations of Longjing, home to the coveted Longjing (or Dragon Well) green tea. A 500 gram of good quality tea can cost up to 3000 RMB. A local farmer gave us a taste of the 2nd pick of tea leaves harvested in May this year, and I learnt that Longjing tea should always be served in glass, not ceramic, cups, so drinkers can appreciate the graceful beauty of the tea leaves, which unfurl in hot water.
Finally, we were able to squeeze in a visit to the Traditional Chinese Medicine museum and pharmacy. The exhibition is housed in a mysterious old building, and has decent English descriptions – something still lacking in many museums in China.
All in all, an educational and relaxing experience, easily accessible by bullet train from Shanghai, and one which I will definitely be recommending to my clients.
For more information on trips to Hangzhou, check out Chinese Classical Gardens Tour & our new China for Foodies launching in 2012. As always, if you have questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.