Good times go fast, and my vacation is about to finish. During my time away from the office, I spent some lovely days in Hangzhou. There are ten famous sites surrounding the West Lake, all of which are standard and well-known. Instead of talking about those, let me tell you about some of Hangzhou’s hidden gems.
Guo Garden 郭庄
Guo Zhuang is said to be the best existing traditional private garden in Hangzhou. It was built in 1851 and opened to the public in 1991. Being one of the garden masterpieces of Jiangnan (the lower region of the Yangtze River), it has incomparable surroundings and a smartly managed garden space.
Rooms can be rented for private banquets.
You may also sit on the villa’s lakeside pavilions for a relaxing afternoon tea while avoiding the tourists.
Hu Qing Yu Tang Chinese Medicine Museum 胡庆余堂
Most Chinese people may know Tong Ren Tang Herbal Shop in Beijing. While Tong Ren Tang is famous in the North, Hu Herbal Shop is famous in the South. There’s a saying: in North China there’s Tong Ren Tang, and in South China there’s Hu Qing Yu Tang. It is located on He Fang Street, an ancient Qing-style street.
Here, you get a chance to learn stories of Chinese herbal gurus in history, such as Li Shizhen and Hua Tuo. You can also sample Chinese herbs, pharmacy methods, and tools.
At the exit of the museum there’s a real herbal shop where many locals come to buy traditional Chinese herbal medicine.
Dragon Well Village 龙井村
From the name, you can tell it’s the origin of one of Chinese favourite tea – Long Jing (Dragon Well) Tea. Yes, that’s right. One best type of longjing tea is from this village, called “Lion Hill Peak Longjing”.The village is located on the east of Lion Hill. In ancient time, tea picked in this village could only be sent to the emperor.
April is the harvest period, and when the best tea is collected. Visitors to Longjing may also learn some tea making techniques from local tea farmers.
Nearby the village, there’s a valley named “Nine Creeks & Eighteen Gullies” (九溪十八涧), which is surroundedby the tea terraces. It is very pleasant for hiking and sightseeing.
Baoshi Mountain & Baoshu Pagoda （宝石山和保俶塔）
Baoshi Mountain was just behind my hotel, so I went for a hike in the early morning. After rain, the air smells clean and fresh. Though the mountain and pagoda is not that attractive as other Hangzhou attractions, if you climb up the hill, you’ll find the view is awesome.
On the way down the mountain, I was kind of lost. Luckily, I met a local old man there for morning exercise. He walked me down the mountain. It was really nice of him, and also intersting talking with local people as you gain a lot of insights into the city.
Longjing Restaurant 龙井草堂
More like a garden than restaurant, the total size of Longjing restaurant is 27 亩。There are only 8 tables in this restaurant and guests have to book a week ahead. The place is suitable to truly high-end guests.
This luxury restaurant doesn’t have a menu. The chef will customize dishes based on number of guests, and are all Hangzhou style dishes. The drink menu is also well-done, and looks like an ancient Chinese bamboo book.
In the evening, if the weather is good, there will be some girls playing the Chinese zither.
Thanks to our local partner Jackson for showing me his hospitality. I hope we can show our guests these highlights of Hangzhou soon!
(Fan Na @ Hangzhou, Aug 2008)