Traveling to Hangzhou
Hangzhou is widely considered one of the two most beautiful cities in China. Written into song and poetry as such, it’s little surprise that Hangzhou as a city, strives to maintain its beauty in order to uphold its reputation.
There are two main ways to get to Hangzhou: by bus and by train. In making your decision, you will have to choose whether you value comfort or speed more. It takes two hours by bus to get from Shanghai to Hangzhou; this is the fastest way, but it is not the most comfortable. The drive into Hangzhou is not a quiet one, as the bus drivers tend to overzealously use the horn the entire way. Believe it or not, traveling by train will be much quieter and more comfortable, but it will take you longer – an additional 30 or so minutes. This is because the train makes several stops along the way, while the bus makes none. It is also cheaper to take the bus. Both train and bus tickets must be purchased at the stations because, at this time, there is no way to purchase them online.
Once in the city, you may find it difficult to catch a taxi, but it is not impossible, it just takes patience. Taking the taxi is the most effective way to get around Hangzhou because with traffic being pretty congested. While the city buses are cheaper, it will take much more time to get anywhere.
Lakes, Buildings and the Maddening Crowds
Hangzhou is famous for several things: West Lake (Xi Hu), and Chinese traditional architecture. West Lake is Hangzhou’s biggest attraction and has long been the inspiration of poetry, paintings, and songs. The lake draws people from all over China. Lined with ambling pathways, lush trees, and quiet pavilions, the enormous lake provides visitors with both relaxing and thought provoking scenes. Different portions of the lake have restaurants and hotels featuring local cuisine. While the lake is always a popular destination for both locals and those visiting from other cities, it is especially busy during holidays. During the Spring Festival, if you stand on one of the many bridges and look ahead, you will see nothing but a sea of black hair (don’t freak out, it’s just that crowded!). In low season you can walk many stretches of the lake in peace, seeing only old women doing tai chi and couples on dates. Another common but nevertheless charming occurrence at West Lake is seeing wedding photo shoots and excited school graduates celebrating their achievements.
Popular Nightlife in Hangzhou
Nearer to West Lake, there is a very popular nightclub area on Nanshan Road. Chinese nightclubs are very different from Western nightclubs. Instead of having large open dance floors, Chinese nightclubs have several small tables and booths set up on different levels. Hangzhou’s nightclubs are not good for people who just want one or two drinks. The cost of a drink when compared to a bottle is vastly disproportionate. For example, a mixed drink can sometimes cost you close to 100 RMB whereas a bottle can cost you as little as 600 RMB.
If you are planning on going to a club with at least one other person it is best to get a bottle because, even if you don’t drink it, you can have it saved for another night. Chinese clubs are famous for being very glitzy, over the top, and having live performances. Dance clubs are very entertaining, with no shortage of interesting people, excitement, and flashing lights. Though they are very different from what you would expect to see in the West, they are a lot of fun and must be experienced.
Shopping the Best of Hangzhou
Hangzhou is a great place to buy traditional Chinese souvenirs. Qing He Fang Old Street is a famous shopping street where you can buy hand-cut paper art, watercolor paintings, and embroidered silk. Much like its sister city, Suzhou, Hangzhou is also famous for its silk and pearls. There are several restaurants, as well as places where you can to be fitted for qipaos (traditional womens dresses) and pearl necklaces. You can find a huge array of colors and patterns of silk that can be tailored or purchased as textiles.
Witness Ancient Chinese Architecture
The Old Street features beautiful traditional Chinese architecture that makes visitors feel as if they are walking into an ancient Chinese marketplace. Embracing the changing times, this area also features quiet Western-style side streets where you can dip your feet into clear, man-made water canals and rest. If you are not interested in local cuisine, there is also a Pizza Hut and a McDonald’s, which can be found at the entrance to the street.
Hangzhou is a versatile city, both modern and classical, that provides something for people of all tastes. Offering beauty and excitement, Hangzhou is a perfect weekend getaway and vacation spot.