Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hemming and Hawing from Hangzhou

This weekend has seen one of China’s many national holidays come and go. Hangzhou, in East China’s Zhejiang province, has seen Ace Study Tours come and go. Now wait a minute. Surely this means that the tour passed through Hangzhou during one of the busiest periods of the year? Yes, that is correct. Still, Hangzhou is a fun little town of 6 million, sitting on the banks of the picturesque West Lake. But unfortunately for us, most of Shanghai and Ningbo shared that experience with us.

The normally peaceful West Lake resembled Nanjing Road in that you simply had to walk where everyone else was going. For that reason, Hangzhou was one of China’s warmest cities over the past weekend.

True, the tea plantations offered a respite from the chaos of the downtown area, but it took an hour and a half to cover the 20km to that area. Still, it was fascinating to see firsthand how tea was farmed and produced. To the ecologists amongst you, yes, crop rotation is practiced here. To think that all the tea the world drinks is handpicked is just incredible. Everything from PG Tips on up, all handpicked.

I can see that Hangzhou is a fantastic weekend retreat for the hardworking Shanghainese, with the peaceful lakeside setting and temperate climate, and now that it can be reached in just 78 minutes from China’s economic hub, it could even be a bedroom suburb to Shanghai’s elite business force. Imagine that: a bedroom suburb of 6 million. Only in China.

Still, I wasn’t really looking to escape the buzzing madness that is Shanghai – I was looking to embrace it and whilst I will get to that over the next two days, which is hardly sufficient time to rekindle my love for the city. Whilst Hangzhou was a pretty town in the mold of Xiamen or Yangzhou, the thing I crave with China is the energy it has to offer, and pretty much universally speaking, quaint little towns are not known for that atmosphere, even in an up-and-up country like China.

1 comment:

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