After the first leg of our trip ended in Beijing, we boarded a flight south to Hangzhou, China. Although I am terrified of heights, I have never been scared to hop on an airplane and fly above the earth at 30,000 feet. Turbulence does a number on me, but I’ve managed to deal with it over the years. Unfortunately, flying for the first time within China from Beijing to Hangzhou was TERRIFYING; not only because of the turbulence but because of the disregard to safety by most passengers. People were unbuckled, standing, and disregarding any direction from the cockpit and from the flight attendants. Our group managed to survive the ordeal, and the book I had been reading about China later told me how unsafe flying within China was. Out of curiosity, the internet deems travel within China very safe, so I’m hoping that it changed since our trip six years ago!
Once we landed in Hangzhou, we all took a coach bus to our hotel. We had an uneventful dinner with interesting food choices (much of which I don’t remember due to the exhaustion and events of the day). Breakfast every morning consisted of unparalleled views of West Lake – the main tourist attraction in Hangzhou. The city ultimately reminded me of my hometown, Boston, MA. Hangzhou is a manageable city, small enough to get to know and enjoy without feeling lost or overwhelmed.
One night while in Hangzhou, we all went to a local outdoor market, where local handmade goods and food stalls were in abundance. I may have bought one to many trinkets due to my love of bargaining with the market owners. A group of us also decided to get an authentic Chinese foot massage. And let me tell you, these massages are heaven on earth. It was my first time getting one, and the Chinese definitely know how to relax and put you at ease! The Chinese foot massages consist of massaging your feet where the pressure points are, which ultimately effect nerves all over your body. I’ll be honest – it was painful at times, but definitely worth sitting through. It also helped being in a room with four ladies ranging from age 19 (me) to age 60+, and the conversations that ensued in the room will never be spoken about again!
Another highlight of our short time spent in Hangzhou was participating in authentic Chinese karaoke! The karaoke bar we attended was right across the street from our hotel. My group and I were given our own karaoke room, which was complete with couches, a big screen TV, and microphones. Alcohol may have made an appearance as well. We ran through classics such as Living on a Prayer and Free Fallin’; Lady Gaga songs such as Paparazzi and Bad Romance; and random songs picked from our international group which included Saudi Arabians, Spaniards, Australians and Americans. The best part of the night, however, was when we meandered over to another karaoke room and crashed a local group’s karaoke night! We couldn’t communicate with each other because of the language barrier, but still had an absolute blast!
The highlight of our visit to Hangzhou was a tea plantation near West Lake. Part of our visit included a presentation regarding the proper brewing and drinking techniques. Tea in China is brewed with various items such as leaves and nuts which are placed directly in the drinking water. After the presentation, we were able to wander through the tea plantation gardens, which were peaceful and magnificent. There was the lake, places to sit, and beautifully decorated and curated gardens. The best part? There was no smog, no car honking, no yelling, no pushing and shoving; just peace and beauty. A definite change from Beijing.
Spending time in Hangzhou was one of the most enjoyable parts of my China trip. The city is high on my list to return to and I hope to spend more time in Hangzhou in the future. Hangzhou, although modern, still holds on to it’s history, and maintains it’s small-city charm and personality.
Next up on the blog: the final leg of my trip to China – visiting Shanghai! Stay tuned for more!