Friday, August 8, 2008

Hiking Around in Hangzhou

I've only had this blog a couple weeks and I'm already getting behind on things that have been going on, so I'll try to write a post at 5 pm on a Friday despite my policy of not working at all on Fridays. I'll be watching the opening ceremonies pretty soon, which I'm pretty excited about. In China, the number 8 is considered to be a lucky number and in keeping with everything being very planned out, the opening ceremony starts on 08/08/2008 at 08:08 pm. Enough 8's for you? Last weekend I decided to do a few tourist things in Hangzhou and see some of the city. I first headed out to "Qinghefang Historical Street" (pronounced roughly Ching-huh-fahng). Qinghefang consists mostly of historical buildings converted into clothing shops, food vendors, and even a few carnival like games where people would throw bean bags to knock over some little statues for prizes. Of course, there was a McDonald's there as well to bastardize whatever authentic historical element might still remain. The main focus of the street seemed to be tea shops and traditional Chinese medicine pharmacies. Most of the tea seemed pretty expensive, around 300 RMB (~$45), although it was for very large cases of tea. Now $45 might not seem that expensive for a large container of quality tea in a tourist area, but when most my meals cost 20-30 RMB, you can see that few teas are worth 10-15 meals. The traditional medicine pharmacies were very cool. In fact, one of the students in my class is a German woman who comes to China specifically to buy the medicines to sell in Germany. Honestly, though, I don't know what types of medicines they were selling as everything was in Chinese and no one in the pharmacies really seemed to speak English.
Qinghefang Historical Street
After Qinghefang street, I hiked up to a pagoda called "Heavenly Wind over Wu Hill". It wasn't a huge hike, but because of the heat I was of course thoroughly soaked with sweat by the time I made it to the top. It was a very cool pagoda and looked pretty dramatic perched up on the hill. The view of Hangzhou was also very good from the top of the pagoda. I ran into several people who wanted to talk to me on the pagoda, including some South Korean guys who were about my age. Their English was pretty good, so I talked to them for a little while. When I told them I quit my job in Chicago to move to China, I thought their heads were going to explode. For them, quitting a job when you're young is very uncommon, where in the US it seems almost all my friends were switching jobs or trying something new after 2 years at their first jobs. It's fun talking to some random people and seeing what they think. It's one of my favorite things to do so far in China and there are plenty of opportunities to do it.
Heavenly Wind over Wu Hill
View of Hangzhou City View of Hangzhou and West Lake
After the pagoda, I decided to hike down a different way and see some smaller temples that were nearby. The temples were cool and most had places where you could put a candle near a prayer altar. I kept going down the hill and eventually came out into the city. However, as most people know, my sense of direction is pretty bad and I wasn't sure where I was at. Unfortunately, where I was at also was outside of the range of my tourist map. I eventually got my bearings and decided to start heading in the general direction back to the main part of the city. I slowly started to go into some poorer neighborhoods that look much different from the high rise apartments that are the norm where I am living in Hangzhou. Most people seemed pretty surprised that I would be there when they saw me. Then, the neighborhood seemed to abruptly end and all that was left was a small mountain. At this point, I was definitely lost, but figured climbing to the top of the hill was the best way to get my bearings and also thought the main part of the city was on the other side. Once I had hiked for around 30 minutes it, of course, started to thunder and lightning and sprinkle rain. After a little bit, I ran into an older Chinese man who was coming down the hill. He stopped to talk to me and warn me about going up further with the lightning. He didn't speak any English, so he was mostly talking and motioning with his hands, but I understood what he was trying to say. I could only get him to understand that I understood him by making lightning noises with my mouth and making my fingers shoot from above my head and point to the ground. He laughed at that and then headed down the hill, while I kept heading up. Once I reached the top, I realized that it was a good move because I saw the city on the other side. On the way hiking down, I came across some carvings and statues in the mountain side and also another cool temple. This temple actually had a monk dressed in traditional garb, but he was just chilling reading a newspaper instead of meditating and saying "ooohm," like I figured most monks spent their time. Once I reached the bottom of the mountain, I came across a traditional farm they had for tourists to see how farming was traditionally done. It was a small farm and was divided into eight sections, each containing a different type of crop that was grown in ancient times.
Wall Carvings in Mountain
Farmland of Eight Trigrams
In the end, I saw a few things I hadn't planned on as a result of getting lost. So the moral of the story is that everyone should travel with me and and put my sense of direction in charge. That way you'll be able to see a lot of cool things you hadn't planned on seeing. For those interested in seeing more pictures, here is the gallery on picasa:


Phil Dawsey said...

I seem to remember you leading us to a hostel that didn't exist in Krakow -- but that ended up working out too after a long confused sit on the side of a small Polish street. Next time you "go hiking" I expect something in the Himalayas!

Stephen said...

Nice work on the blog, its thoroughly entertaining to read... makes me want to quit my job too. Hows the air quality over there; any improvement over last year?

Wes said...

G-court: The air quality in Hangzhou is fantastic compared to Shanghai or Beijing. Since Hangzhou is mainly a tourist city it doesn't seem there is as much heavy manufacturing and I see blue sky quite often. Hangzhou is a pretty cushy place to live for the most part.

Wes said...

I should mention that the pictures make Hangzhou look smoggy, but that's because it was a rainy, cloudy day. Normally it's pretty clear.