I was aware that traveling around Hangzhou alone, without knowledge in Mandarin would be quite an experience. Well, my expectations were set since I arrived in Xiaoshan airport, asked 8 people where the cab bay was and NO one was able to understand me.
So I grabbed a free map available at the Holiday Inn Xiaoshan, where I stayed. While resting from 2 plane trip from the Philippines, I placed the big map on the white, king-sized bed and figured out how to go from Holiday Inn to the West Lake. And added to my frustration was this map written in Chinese. I thought, if I’ll be taking the public buses, there’s a big possibility that I might get lost. I cannot be lost that day because early the next day I will be meeting fellow delegates for the Climate Champions Programme and Earthwatch representative who will bring us to Gutianshan, Zhejiang Province. I too cannot leave Hangzhou without visiting the West Lake, what it’s famous for, and that day was the only day. That situation left me with no other choice but to ask the receptionist to get me a cab who can bring me to and from the West Lake.
The non-English speaking driver picked me up at 4pm. I tried to ask him questions about the places I saw on our way to the West Lake and he only respond with a smile. He could have been friendly had he known how to speak English.
Then I got to the West Lake before sundown.
“Heaven is for the sky and Hanzhou is for the earth” That’s an old saying in China. Hangzhou is known for its famous West Lake – one of the most renowned tourist attractions in China. The West Lake is surrounded by hills with most of the city on the eastern side. The circumference of the lake is around 15km, though this wouldn’t take into account all of the walking paths. The lake can be crossed at two points by causeway, and there are also lots of little walkways that follow small inlets and ponds. As a body of water, West Lake can be described as giant duck pond with green water. I think what makes that lake special is the landscaping and the history behind it. The lake is lined with willows and pine trees. It’s paved with stones, gardens, pagodas and half-moon bridges.
The above photo is a Chinese Restaurant inside the park. As much as I wanted to try it, I chose not to because I was saving my cash in case I get lost in Hangzhou =)
There were a lot of domestic tourist and at some point I have felt out of place as I was the only brown people there. I saw maybe 3-5 Caucasians.
But…I still went on, discovering, observing and learning from that experience.
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson