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Category Archives: Hangzhou
We took a stroll along the famous West Lake – a huge lake smack bang in the middle of the city. Standing there looking at the still waters and peaceful surroundings, it’s hard to imagine that the main shopping road (with huge malls and crazy traffic) is only 1-2 roads away.
Pagoda on a hill
At a bridge crossing over a part of West Lake
Loving how peaceful it was
Was fascinated with those pink blossoms, when everything else was barren
Gorgeous weeping willows lining the banks of West Lake
Totally rugged up in the cold
Zonked on the 3 hour journey back…
what a lovely Valentines Day weekend :)
We did a total power-shop through Hefang Street Market, a famous shopping market in Hangzhou. We had way way way too little time there, which was such a shame because it was incredibly fun! Loads of little shop houses as well as market stalls out on the street, selling all sorts of food, souvenirs, handmade goodies, etc. It had pretty unique goods, and I would have loved to poke around in all the shops for hours and hours, but we basically had to rush straight through because we didn’t have much time :( Absolutely loved it though, and probably a good thing we didn’t spend long there or I’d have tried to buy everything ;)
Hefang Street Market – a shopping paradise
Making little glass characters
Making peanut candy
We bought some – yum!
We also dropped by the History Museum which was on West Lake. Featuring relics from the past, it was pretty amazing to see what people got up to in China thousands of years ago. I loved all the jewellery that they made out of jade, gemstones and ivory. Also amazing was all the copperwork ornaments and eating/drinking vessels. I don’t know much (OK, I know nothing) about China’s history, so it was really interesting to get a small snapshot. Now I’m really keen to go to the big Shanghai Museum to check it all out…
The History Museum
Kinda looks like a hotel lobby, no?
Looking down at the ground floor (there were 3 levels in total)
Painting on wood
An ancient big copper bowl thing
Artworks from many moons ago
The way they resolved disputes in olden times ;)
A really cute ‘lil copper dragon!
Lou Wai Lou
30 Gushan Road
Solitary Island (West Lake)
No trip to Hangzhou is complete without a trip to the famous Lou Wai Lou restaurant. Translated, it means “a building within a building” – not too sure why, but the building is huge, with the restaurant split out into a few rooms. Make sure you ask for the main hall on the second floor, for the best views over West Lake. This 150 year old restaurant one of the oldest and most famous restaurant in Hangzhou, so we were told repeatedly by colleagues to go check it out. Situated on a small island in the middle of the large West Lake, it’s also one of the most picturesque restaurants I’ve been to.
After a stroll around the island, we stepped into Lou Wai Lou and were immediately blown away with how ornate it was. It was absolutely huge, with high ceilings on both floors, and with a spiral carpet-lined staircase leading to the second floor. In the main hall upstairs (where we were seated, upon request), there were MASSIVE crystal lights covering the high ceiling, and huge paintings on the walls. Quite an incredible sight.
We were delighted (and surprised) that the thick menu was in both Chinese and English. Loved how their famous dishes also came with a blurb of their history – a very nice touch. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of dishes on offer, we decided to go with just 2 of their signature dishes. Sounds small, but considering it was 1 whole (large) fish and 1 whole chicken, we ended up pretty damn stuffed afterwards!
The West Lake sweet & sour vinegar-glazed fish was an absolute stunner. This famous traditional dish is said to emerge from a folktale of the Song Dynasty. It is made by lightly poaching a fresh grass carp fish from West Lake itself, and serving it with a tangy sweet and sour vinegar sauce. The fish was unbelievable, absolutely white in colour and so so so tender it melted in our mouths. It had a lovely fresh, sweet flavour when eaten just by itself… but when eaten with the sauce, was a total explosion of sweet and sour combined. It’s not like the fluro-orange sweet and sour sauces that are prevalent in Western countries, but was a dark thick sauce with a strong vinegar taste. Just a small dab was enough to give the fish a huge flavour kick. It was crazy good!!! We ploughed through the whole fish like our lives depended on it. The best whole fish I’ve ever had. It was also the most expensive whole fish I’ve ever had ;)
The Hangzhou’s Beggar’s Chicken was also a specialty. It is said that this dish was ceated by a beggar who came upon a chicken, and unsure of what to do with it, he put it into a lotus leaf and buried it in the mud. Later, when one of his companions was starving, he decided to dig up the chicken to feed his friend. Without a proper place to pare and cook the chicken, he put the whole chicken with the mud around it into a fire. When he opened the mud casing the aroma and tenderness of the chicken cooking in its own juices was heavenly.
The restaurant adds some local Shaoxing wine and lotus leaves from West Lake, and I don’t know if the restaurant follows exactly the beggar’s cooking method, but the chicken really did turn out splendidly. The meat just fell right off with a mere poke of our chopsticks, not to mention it was hella fun eating out of a leaf :P The chicken was tender and moist, and was delicious dipped in the juices at the bottom, wish there was more of it to drizzle on my rice too. I didn’t think we’d finish the whole chicken as well, but we easily did because it was that good.
The meal turned out to be exorbitantly priced at 428元 (US$63), most of which was the cost of the fish. I don’t understand why it’s priced so high compared to everything else on the menu, and felt a little annoyed that they’re banking on their success to rip people off. Still, it was an incredibly culinary experience.. and I heard they have a branch in Shanghai so I’m hunting that one down to see what it’s like!
Lou Wai Lou (aka “a building within a building”)
Looking down towards the ground floor of the huge restaurant
The main hall upstairs with its lovely crystal lights
We were fascinated with their custom-made bamboo chopsticks
Chris ordered a drink called “Wa Ha Ha” because he wanted to be exotic. Turned out it
was just a canned drink with sweet tea. Haha! I had the hot Dragon Well (Longjing) tea.
The live and very fat fish brought to our table so we can check (for what? I have no idea!)
Hangzhou’s Beggar’s Chicken
Melty tender meat
West Lake sweet & sour vinegar-glazed fish
Snow white meat, absolutely absolutely tender and so delish!
So I actually did a very stupid thing whilst walking around Hangzhou. There was a dip in the pavement where one of the pavement stones had sunk a little into the ground, and I tripped and rolled my foot. I’ve rolled my ankle before, no problems, but this time was different. The inside of my ankle was SO SORE afterwards I had to stop for a few minutes and breathe through the pain. Usually, after awhile, it goes away and I just continue walking. But this time, it HURT LIKE HELL!! It was only slighly swollen, but the slightest touch sent white flames of pain up through my leg.
Despite that, as well as Chris’ protesting, I still hobbled around.. stubbornly wanting to sightsee. Plus I kept expecting and assuming it’ll feel better “any minute now”. When we finally got back to the hotel to sleep, I woke up constantly through the night because every slight movement nearly killed me with pain. Woke up in the morning expecting it to be all better, but it was SO TENDER I couldn’t even put it on the ground. Chris spent half the morning icing it for me, which really helped take the edge of the pain :) It’s taking days to (slowly) heal though. I wonder what happened? It felt like I pinched a nerve when I rolled my ankle or something….
Feeling sorry for myself at breakfast
…but quickly perked up when I saw the huge array of food on offer. Yay!
It was both an Asian and Western buffet.. so I was compelled to eat one of everything :P
3 serves of assorted dim sum
Congee with preserved veg and peanuts
Random things from the Asian buffet (my Western buffet plate wasn’t photographed – too lazy!)
After that, we went on a mini hike to the Nine Creeks Meandering Through a Misty Forest. Yu Yuezan , a Qing dynasty scholar, described it in a poem: “The serried hills roll on; the paths bend and wind; gurgling and bubbling the springs flow; high and low the trees grow.” I’m definitely not one to wax lyrical or appreciate poetry, but I have to admit it does describe the place really well. It’s gorgeous – a flat, serene lake with a bridge that you cross over and onto another bridge right in front of a waterfall. Interestingly, it’s actually a man-made waterfall, but doesn’t look like it at all.
We climbed all the way up and up and up until we got to the top, and sat in a little pavillion overlooking it all. The sky was misty and we were overlooking all the trees in the forest – a gorgeous sight. That is, until I accidently kicked my (full) bottle of water over the edge and it went careening off downwards, nearly whacking someone in the head down below. Oops!!!! Apart from that little heartstopper, it was a wonderful place to chill out and relax.
Oh yeah, and the Nine Creeks? We never saw ’em. Don’t know whether they were hallucinating when they thought of the name, or if we didn’t walk into the right area.. but we saw no creek, let alone 9 of them :P
Nine Creeks Meandering Through a Misty Forest. Apparently.
The huge waterfall
Finally at the top *pant pant*
At the lookout
Chilling out. Can anyone translate those Chinese words??
Some lucky (rich) person’s house
When we climbed back down, we saw a lady milling around outside – no doubt looking for tourists. She said she could take us to “a famous place to buy tea”, aka the Dragon Well (Longjing) Tea that Hangzhou is famous for. Now, we normally would say HELL NO to people like this. But we went beyond all rationale and said yes because:
1) We were in an area that had no public transport and taxis. We literally had no other way out unless we walked 1hr onto the main road.
2) We actually did want to buy some of that tea :P
The thing is, you can go to the proper touristy places for this tea – they show you how it’s made and then you can buy some. But this lady took us in her car up the road for 10 mins and ended up in someone’s house. The houses are all white, and set into the hillside. It’s picturesque and just so still and silent.. what a wonderful place to relax in. The lady was very nice and poured us loads of tea to sample, and didn’t charge too much either, so I was less suspicious. Plus, she had an official business card (looks like she has an actual store in the city, called Xi Feng Long Jing) with an address and phone number, and she let us take a photo with her, so I ended up deciding she was legit. Plus, dodgy people tend to make me prickle, just from the way they look/behave/talk, and she seemed really open and genuine. Oh, and her tea was terrific! Grown high up on the mountains, it was light and crisp, and had a beautiful clean flavour. Also, a snippit of information: Did you know that this tea is believed to guarantee good health and prevent diseases like diabetes and cancer?
She invited us back next time we were in Hangzhou, and she’d cook us a “traditional meal”. That actually sounds really exciting – eating a traditional Hangzhou meal outside and up in the hills. I think we’ll take her up on that offer! :)
With our cheery Dragon Well (Longjing) Tea seller
Bought 2 lots of the famous tea, one for ourselves and one for a girl friend
Imarigawa Japanese Restaurant
Grand Metro Park Hotel,
2 Pinghai Road
Chris decided that Japanese was the way to go for our Valentines Day dinner.. and he picked Imarigawa Japanese Restaurant, which was touted to be a very traditional Japanese restaurant in Hangzhou. However, we (okay, it was me) were very silly and thought that the massive Grand Metro Park Hotel (where the restaurant is in) was in the city, “just around the corner”.. and so walked there. And walked. And walked. And walked. OK my defense is that when we asked a girl, she said it was only 10 mins away! YEAH RIGHT. 1.5 hours of walking later, we finally found ourselves there. Cripes.
All we wanted to do was zonk out after that unintended exercise, but at least we’d worked up quite the appetite ;) The restaurant is actually reasonably priced (for Western standards) but fairly expensive (for local standards). Fantastic, attentive service though, and the food was served promptly. To be honest, I actually thought it’d be more unique or romantic.. as when I heard it was “traditional” I expected loads of very Japanese dishes and sitting down on the floor. But it was regular dining and their menu was fairly restrictive.
The food was very good, but not spectacular – which I’d (fairly or unfairly) expected in such a fancy hotel. The star dish for me was this sort of rice soup with seaweed, salmon and floating crispies. It was a novel concept and totally hit the mark. Cooked rice in a tasty broth, with floating bits of shredded seaweed and salmon. We were fascinated with the generous portion of little balls floating on the top, which we couldn’t figure out what they were ;) It was a delicious dish – satisfying and oh so tasty. I’m going to try and hunt it down in Shanghai!
The impressive Grand Metro Park Hotel
A little Japanese garden at the restaurant entrance
Bottles and bottles of sake and other liquor
Pretty (and English!) menu
Asahi (it’s better than the Asahi in Australia, weirdly) and edamame
Some bean jelly thing, crispy lotus chips and prawn
A sort of rice soup with seaweed, salmon and floating crispies.
First time I’ve ever seen it but it was so so so good!
A very cool spade-spoon :P
Writing Chinese words in chalk on the street. Are they proverbs or something??
Taking a stroll after dinner through the city
Downtown Hangzhou… a far cry from the bamboo forest just 20mins away ;)
One of the most beautiful places I’ve seen – the “Bamboo Lined Path at Yunqi”. “Yunqi” means “clouds lingering”, because it is said that some colored clouds floated over from Color Clouds Hill and lingered there, hence the name.It’s essentially a bamboo forest, so absolutely serene and beautiful that we were captivated the moment we stepped in. It was actually quiet, which felt a bit weird as we’re now accustomed to the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. Here, it was so peaceful and still.
The forest is breathtaking. It really makes you realise how insignificant you are when you stand next to the bamboo trees towering way above you. We were surprised at how hard the bamboo actually was – no wonder Asian builders use it as scaffolding! The thing I really liked about the bamboo forest is the light – even though the forest was dense, it still seemed really light and crisp, because of the fact the bamboo’s all green (not like normal trees where the trunk is dark brown). It gives the forest a totally different vibe, hard to explain but it was just fascinating.
We wandered slowly along the path, just enjoying the peacefulness of it as well as each other’s presence. A very nice way to spend a Valentines Day afternoon :) We’ve decided we are definitely going back there again, it’s well worth the trip and a wonderfully refreshing change to the cityscape of Shanghai.
“Bamboo Lined Path at Yunqi”
Quite literally, a bamboo lined path
Was quite impressed someone could carve their name into the bamboo
There were little pagodas as rest stops
It was quiet and serene. Such a far cry from Shanghai!
View towards the sky. Some of the trees there were over 1,000 years old
At a little wooden bridge winding through the bamboo
The sheer height of the bamboo is breathtaking
At a quiet little stone bridge, to the left is the “Mind Purifying Pond”
A very wobbly bridge – so fun to cross ;)
Well, the “toilet” sign DID point down to that spot….. ;)
In the middle of the bamboo forest…. we found a restaurant! Well, it was more like a little hut ;) They had charming little bamboo tables and chairs outside, under the trees. There were a few people relaxing there drinking tea, so we decided to sit down and have something to eat. THAT was a challenge, because the waitress spoke not one single word of English, and the menu was all in Chinese. Ack!! She rattled off the dishes, explaining them, and was met with our blank stares. *sighhhhh*……. Finally, we just left it to her to serve up some food, whatever she thought was good ;)
She chose well, because we were absolutely blown away by it. It was very very good, homecooked grub. Very simple, yet ticked off all the right boxes. The sticky fried rice in bamboo was such a novelty – rice stuffed into a bamboo cup. It was deliciously hot and had little tidbits of mushrooms, peas, etc inside. We also ended up with sweet and sour pork, though I swear it sounded way more exotic when she said it in Chinese! But really, it was like a China version of sweet and sour pork ;) The pork was deliciously meaty and tender, and the sauce was sticky and had a wonderful blend of flavours. Very very satisfying when eaten steaming hot when it’s cold outside, as we did. We also ended up with wok fried vermicelli with cabbage and egg, again, sounding way more exotic in Chinese ;) The charcoal smell of the wok was really strong in the vermicelli, and it was absolutely perfect comfort food. Loved loved it.
We also had their Dragon Well (Longjing) Tea, a famous variety of green tea in the region. You can select anything from 5元 to 80元 a cup. We chose the mid-range at 30元 (US$4.30) per cup. It’s exorbitantly expensive, considering you can get a full steak meal for the same price in China! But that’s just the price of this special tea, which is grown in the Longjing mountain area of Hangzhou, southwest of the West Lake. The waitress proudly told us that it was served with spring water from high the mountains, which is boiled then cooled to about 80 celsius before being used to brew the tea leaves. It does taste like green tea, but slightly different, with a distinctive fragrance.
Thorougly enjoyed ourselves eating in the middle of the forest, then sipping our hot tea in the winter cold. A magical experience.. I am so glad we went.
At Yunqi Teahouse, a little food joint in the middle of the bamboo forest
The famous Dragon Well (Longjing) Tea, at 30元 (US$4.30) per cup.
Most expensive tea we’ve had in China… and we only got the medium-grade one!
The sticky fried rice in bamboo. Heavenly.
Don’t know the name, but basically sweet and sour pork. LOVED it!
Some sort of wok fried vermicelli with cabbage and egg. OMG this was amazing..
Happily fed and heading back