We usually reserved weekends for our mini-trips, usually to places near or around Shanghai (with the exception of Beijing). On one of our earlier weekends, I took a bus ride to Hangzhou along with 29 other friends, including 1 friend from Taiwan and 1 from China to take us around.
Our Chinese friend hired a guide (for what amounted to RMB5/person) to enable us to get a lunch reservation at Lou Wai Lou, an excellent restaurant right beside the West Lake.
My Hangzhou trip was one of those rare excursions where I did not have a clear idea of where I was. We just basically wandered the perimeter of West Lake I think, first visiting a park with a lot of greenery, a pond where if you manage to shoot a Chinese coin from one of the stone mounds you receive luck in career, love, etc (depending on which mound you were standing on), and a fertility statue (count how many kids there are in the photo below).
We climbed some rock formations that had caves in them as well. I forgot whether the sculpture at the top of the rocks is a tiger or a dragon. In any case, whatever it is–I think that’s the name of the park that we went to.
Lunch was a terrific smorgasbord of food, food and more food at Lou Wai Lou*, located near the West Lake. The restaurant had a long queue of people waiting to be seated outside, so it’s best to call in advance for reservations in case you plan on eating there.
We had a set lunch that exceeded expectations both in taste and quantity: there was so much food that at one point they piled the plates on top of each other for lack of space. I think the specialties of the restaurant are its “West Lake sweet and sour fish” (which we had–quite good but bony) and “beggar’s chicken” (cooked and served in a clay pot–brown cut-up chicken that looks like it’s been wrapped in clear soft plastic, but those are actually lotus leaves).
I liked the fried eel, which nobody dared try at first because it looked like fried snake, the sweet pork (called dongpo meat) served in small bowls and the crispy custard dessert (one of the three desserts they served).
After all that, everyone felt incredibly full and lazy, so it was decided to just go for a cruise on the west lake. We all piled onto a boat (fee RMB15 each, I think) and enjoyed the view. It was alternately hot and humid that day so the breeze from the slow-moving boat was quite welcome.
After that we took a bus ride to the “Peak Flying From Afar” / Lingjiu Peak, a park which had many old stone statues carved into the rocks. There are several caves there, including the Qinglin cave, Yuru cave, Longhong cave and the Huyuan cave. There are 345 stone statues in total.
A cute trivia: they used different colors on each statue to identify which dynasty it was built in. Dark grey represents the five dynasties; light brown represents the Song dynasty; dark brown is the Yuan dynasty and light grey represents the Ming dynasty.
Another popular temple, the Lingyin temple, was within the compound but due to budget constraints (entrance fee of RMB30/person) and general tiredness, everyone just decided to walk on for a bit further before heading back to the bus.
All in all, Hangzhou is a pleasant, peaceful little retreat in case you want to escape the busy Shanghai cityscape for a day.
*Located on 30 Gushan road, Hangzhou