Sunday, 26 October 2008

A night in Hangzhou

Another teacher and I decided to visit Hangzhou for the weekend. Originally the plan was to catch a train - as I am not keen on the human dodgem game that traffic plays on the roads, but when we went to get train tickets, there were no seats left and the idea of spending an hour standing up in a packed train did not appeal, so we chose to go by bus.

So on the Saturday morning we were up early and caught a bus to the "Big Bus Station" and only had 10 minutes to wait for the bus to Hangzhou. There were three of us - my "partner in crime" as Sue has been described by Phillip, who is from Western Australia and was meeting a school friend in Hangzhou - they had kept in touch since college days in India over 30 years ago, but had not seen each other in that time.

When the bus arrived in Hangzhou we caught a cab, but had trouble getting the taxi driver to understand where we needed to go to meet Phillips friend. In the end we made it of course, and Sue and I sat and had ac up of coffee there. Even that was funny. The porter told us that the coffee lounge was on the second floor, but there was a restaurant there, but did not serve coffee, so we went to the restaurant on the third floor which was closed. So back to the ground floor and reception who told us that there was no coffee place at the hotel, but as we were about to leave a guy offered to help us, and pointed to the "Lobby bar" on the ground floor, within sight of the receptionist who must have been at least a little curious as we were indeed served with our coffee!

The amazing stone sculpture was in the lobby of the hotel - Days Hotel.

We eventually found a taxi and headed for the tourist area near the West Lake. Another non English speaking taxi driver, and lots of pointing, writing, and showing the map. One thing we have learned is that even the taxi drivers do not seem to understand reading maps - even if the map is in Chinese, which ours was!
It was raining, so with umbrella over us, we wandered around the shops, and stopped for coffee again, and then lunch, before wandering around the lake. There is no doubt that you'd need a couple of days to see it all, and even with the rain it was quite crowded!
We found a wine bar, but it only sold wine by the bottle. Too much for me so we settled for tea. (How disappointing!) Then when the rain came again we got a taxi and headed for our hotel, which was on the other side of the lake. The traffic was chaotic - so many tourist buses, wedding cars, taxis, and bikes all in the pouring rain. Our taxi drive stopped and told us we were there and pointed to a building with Chinese writing. So we paid and got out, only to find that we were not a the right place, but a kind lady pointed us to a place further along the road, so we had to find it ourselves.
We had seen photos of the hotel, a Chinese hotel called Flower Inn, but the photo was somewhat misleading. It was tucked in the midst of old apartments, but was quite modern. No one spoke English but we paid our deposit (despite giving them my credit card details too!) and the showed us to our room. Sue and I just laughed - it had one double bed in it, so before we even put our bag on the floor we went back to reception, and in the end they found a double room with two beds!
The room was clean and modern, and quite comfortable. Considering we were paying around $40 for it, it was good value. Nothing to complain about at all! After we dropped our luggage we went for a walk as the rain had eased a little. We found our way through luxurious villa cmplex, where the guards - all three of them happily waved us through. It was beautiful - even with two white geese in the pond!
We kept going around the lake. Shame it was raining, but it was even so, quite beautiful. As it was getting dark we headed back to the hotel. We had decided to eat in the hotel as it was wet and miserable, and we'd lost our enthusiasm about finding our way back into the city.
The restaurant "attached" to the hotel was awful, and besides we had to sit outside and it was cold, so we wandered around to another restaurant fo sorts. Quite primitive and no one spoke English, so we were taken into the kitchen to point at the food we wanted. It wasn't bad - but I'd not hurry back!
There was nothing to do - so we lay on the beds watching the Hangzhou Fireworks Festival on TV, until we decided to go to bed. Despite the noisy guys in the restaurant and few other comings and goings, we did have a good sleep!

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