Monday, August 10, 2009

Aaron's Visit Part 1 - Hangzhou

Recently, I had a Northwestern friend of mine (who also worked at Deloitte) come and visit me for awhile in China. He had spent two weeks in southeast Asia traveling around with some other Northwestern guys and decided to add a stopover in China at the end of his trip. I picked him up from the airport on a Saturday night and the first thing that struck me was how tall he was. He's probably around 6'2" or 6'3", which is quite a menacing height in China. Before I had never really thought about his height, but at this time, needless to say, I felt quite threatened by this towering white man.
Since it is commonplace to hold a sign for the person you're waiting on at the airport and just in case Aaron wouldn't recognize me, the only non-Chinese person there, when he came out of the terminal, I made an all-American sign to make him feel quite at home upon arrival. Note my superior drawing skills.

Airport Welcome Sign

Even though we didn't get back to my apartment until around midnight, we decided to go hit up one of the areas with a lot of street vendors selling food since Aaron hadn't eaten much that day and we wanted to spend some time catching up.

Aaron Eating the Northwest China Muslim Spicy Fish (My Favorite Street Food)
Street Food Vendors and Shirtless Chinese Men in the Summer Heat
The next day we decided to ride bikes around West Lake and see the city. Since my ankle was still not that healed, it was a lot better and faster to ride bikes around. Before we set out, I took Aaron to my favorite cheap restaurant on the street near my apartment. They sell great soups with hand made noodles and lamb for around $1. You can't beat that deal. However, we miscalculated because it was so scorching hot outside and hot soup is not how to deal with 100+ degrees and heavy humidity. During our first half hour riding around I think we neared the point of total saturation in sweat.
Wes and Aaron at the Restaurant
Noodle Soup
Lamb Meat on a Stick
I took Aaron around all the usual places in Hangzhou. The best thing in Hangzhou is West Lake, with the lily pads, lotus flowers, willow trees, and traditional Chinese gardens.
Bridge at West Lake
Aaron in Contemplation
Pagoda at "Lotus in the Breeze at the Crooked Courtyard" Garden
You can ride bikes around the whole lake in just a couple hours and the views are pretty good the whole way around of pagodas and the city.
Wes with West Lake
West Lake with Leifeng Pagoda
Leifeng Pagoda
The next place we went was Wushan Square and the "Heavenly Wind at Wu Hill" pagoda, another cumbersomely translated name. This is one of my favorite pagodas in the city and I think the view of the city is great from the top.
Aaron at Wushan Square
Wes and Aaron at "Heavenly Wind at Wu Hill" Pagoda
"Heavenly Wind at Wu Hill" Pagoda
When you go to the top of the pagoda, you can see a panoramic view of West Lake and the city of Hangzhou.
View of West Lake
Neighboring Pagodas
Leifeng Pagoda and West Lake from a Distance
Hangzhou Downtown
After Wushan Square, we were feeling a little hungry, so we went to this place that has some interesting types of donuts. It's one of the few places in Hangzhou that I know of to get donuts and it has some unique flavors and the designs are pretty classy. One of the flavors Aaron got was called "Spicy Flossy" which has spicy fish or something on it.
Best Bite Donuts
After eating, we went to the Qinghefang historical street that is right next to Wushan Square. It has a lot of shops with traditional Chinese goods like medicine, tea, crafts, etc. A lot of the stuff is pretty touristy and not really worth buying, but it's a cool street to see just for the style of buildings and to see what kind of things they're selling.
Qinghefang Historical Street
Making Some Snacks
Some Kind of Medicinal Root
At the historical street, there is an alley with some street food vendors that sell crazy types of food. You can buy anything from bugs, duck heads, chicken parts, crabs, and much more there.
Some Shrimp Looking Creature and Bugs
Duck Head
Unknown Meat with Spicy Peppers
Chicken Wings
Qinghefang Street at Night
Aaron with Buddha and Qinghefang
By the time we finished at the historical street, we were both pretty beat from riding around on bikes, walking, and just being in the heat all day. However, before we made the ride back home, we stopped at the fountain and light show they have at the lake every night. They have the fountains synchronized to different songs and it's normally pretty cool to check out. It's something like the fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, just not nearly as large and glamorous.
Fountain Show
Fountain Show
After that Sunday spent going around Hangzhou, Aaron went alone to Beijing on Monday morning since I had to work during the week. When he came back, we had some Sichuan style hot pot on the Friday night before our trip to Yellow Mountain. The hot pot is filled with some kind of broth and a few vegetables or other spices. You can order some vegetables and meats that you get on the side and put in hot pot to cook whenever you like.
Aaron and I were feeling like having something a little outside the norm, so we decided to get some pig brains. I have never eaten brains before, but it was actually not that bad. They were really soft, almost like a foam, and you didn't really need to chew at all. Compared to other crazy meats or organs I've eaten before, the brains didn't have any bad or mineral aftertaste. I wouldn't eat brains everyday, but they were a lot better than I expected.
Wes and Aaron at Chuan Wei Guan Sichuan Hot Pot
The Hotpot
Pig Brains
Sea Kelp
Beef Strips
Brains Anyone?
These Brains Look Delicious
That was pretty much everything we did in Hangzhou. The second weekend of Aaron's visit we went to Huangshan or Yellow Mountain, so stay tuned for that one.
Here are some more pics of our time in Hangzhou:


Phil Dawsey said...

Sweet sign to pick Aaron up at the airport! Aaron fits the unemployed look with that hair. Have some duck heads next time!

Alice said...

aw man, that post made me hungry...