Sunday, 25 January 2009
A bit of culture in Hangzhou
The China Silk Museum was on our agenda for the next morning, but first of all it was breakfast at Starbucks. The weather was wonderful, the sun was shining, the skies were blue and the cold didn't seem to penetrate the way it did in Shaoxing. We dallied over breakfast - there was no hurry - and when we left we hailed a taxi to the Silk Museum, which is not far from the West Lake. It is such a pretty city and each time we see it we see the changes brought on by the seasons. It was winter and many of the trees had lost their leaves. Hangzhou is a clean and beautiful city! The Silk Museum soon appeared - quite a modern grand building (sorry, no photo from me but you can see it here) surrounded by beautiful gardens. We went inside and followed the trail.
The exhibits were marvellous and each one had English for us to read, so we were able to understand everything. This museum was different than the Silk Museum we visited in Suzhou - it focused on the silk thread and fabric. As you walked towards an exhibition hall which was dimly lit, the lights came on making it somewhat of a mysterious journey through the museum. Each exhibit behind glass windows was exceptional. There was so much to see, so many fabulous fabrics, so many amazing old clothes, so much to learn. It certainly begs several visits and as it is FREE it would be good to see often.
We wandered for quite a while - and surprisingly did not see another visitor there. Is it on the tourist route? It certainly should be, but the tourists were flocking to other places around the lake. When we returned to the reception area, we saw a display of memorabilia and asked at reception where the shop was. Isn't there always a shop???? In a rather casual way she pointed to a set of stairs at one side of the grand entrance hall, and said "there". The only sign at the top of the stairs was "Toilets" so we wandered down. At the bottom of the stairs we found ourselves in the midst of a busy construction zone. Picking our way through piles of rock, bricks, cement and timber we set out to find "the shop."
Soon Chinese speaking people yelled at us and with difficulty we tried to explain we had been sent down her to "the shop." One of the ladies said "Come" and we followed her through more construction areas, and then a long walk along paths, through gardens and past ponds, to "the shop." which turned out to be the place where people were buying silk clothes. That is not what we wanted but we thanked her, and wandered around with what appeared to be a bus load of tourists (ah, so tourists do visit the Silk Museum??) before finding the exit. We walked back to the entrance, still couldn't find the shop to purchase the small gifts we were after, and set off on another adventure.
By this time we were looking for a W.C. - and there were many signs along the road and through the gardens pointing in one direction or another, but we never found the building we were after, although we did find a construction zone which indicated that there were more renovations happening. On the opposite side of the road was a hotel - so it was there that we spent the next half hour or so, not oly taking advantage of their facilities, but enjoying a cup of tea in the Tea Bar overlooking a wonderful garden. It was winter, but we could only imagine how this garden would look in Spring or Summer. On foot we set off again - holding our copy of More Hangzhou which had inforamtion about an Art Exhibition near the West Lake. Some more culture would be good.