The next day Friday, in Hangzhou. Pretty much a free day, so Dan and Elaine and I did a bunch of exploring around the lake
The first shot of the lake. We were still right next to the heart of downtown Hangzhou, just a few blocks from our hotel. It was amazing to see such a nice, well-maintained, unpolluted space, as well as a tourist spot without anyone aggressively trying to hawk souvenirs. Even by American standards Xihu (West Lake) was extraordinarily well-maintained; it was shocking to come across it in China.
A pagoda right on the water.
This a good chunk of the way around the lake, whose perimeter is probably eight miles or so. We'd wind up walking all the way around.
One of many places on the lake with plentiful Lotus plants. Unfortunately, we were in Hangzhou just before it was time for them to flower.
One of a number of interesting buildings around the lake. Everything we saw there was free. Apparently, Hangzhou is doing quite well financially, compared to the rest of China.
Some trees that Dan said were Redwoods. I don't think they are Coastal Redwoods, though they clearly bear some resemblance.
A structure that Elaine and Dan got excited about. I think it would be a stretch to call it architecture, because it doesn't really serve any functional purpose: it's basically a covered walkway, except that it isn't covered.
A not very well maintained building that Dan and Elaine really liked, with the semi-redwoods in the background.
The side of the building.
View from the roof of the building.
Across to Hangzhou.
A nearby temple.
Elaine and me, with the scenic backdrop. I strategically wore my running clothes, because I figured the lake might be the first place in China where I could reasonably go running. Turns out I was right.
An island in the middle of the lake, with the windsurfers who seemed to be enjoying a beautiful day.
You can't get away from construction in China. But here, at least, it seemed to be a little bit further removed.
Nothing like green hills off in the distance.
Climbing up a small hill of the main path, we found an area that felt almost rainforest-like.
Friday night, after much searching, we found a nice spot for dinner. A crowded, trendy-looking place is usually a good bet (and no, I don't count Friday's and Applebee's as "trendy-looking"), and we found one a short distance from Xihu. Turned out their little gimmick was stirfrying food in front of you right at your table. Among other things, we got their specialty, a supposed chicken dish, which was actually rooster. They cut up the entire thing, and sauteed it all in small bits with some vegetables. It probably wouldn't appeal to most Western sensibilities, and we indeed ate around the feet, organs, and other unpleasant bits (except for Elaine, who accidentally ate the crow). However, the meat was unbelievably good, and the dish in general nice and spicy.
The next day was full of planned activities: several gardens/temples/pagodas, a visit to go tea-tasting (local Longjing, or Dragon Well, tea is terrific), an excellent lunch at a farm restaurant, and a stop at a silk shop. Lunch was probably the highlight: a very good, simple meal, with about ten dishes for each table of 7-8 people. I was the fool this time, though. Duck was cut up into large slices, and I picked up one slightly odd-looking slice. After perusing it for a few seconds, I found no meat, and mentioned that it seemed to be quite a bony piece. One person asked if I was kidding, asking why I'd picked up the beak. I rotated the piece slightly, and realized that, sure enough, it was a duck beak. Dumb white guy...
At the ancient carvings of the first temple we visited. Unfortunately, it was completely jammed with tourists, making it difficult to get many good pictures.
Elaine and I climbed up a fairly steep, long hill with two of her classmates, hoping for a rewarding view or temple at the top. Given that very few of the many visitors bothered to go up, we figured we might find a rare treasure. Alas, we discovered nothing more than an obscured view, and someone selling sodas.
The big temple, that we had to see. As is generally the case in China, photography is prohibited inside the temples. There was a gigantic buddha inside one of these temples, almost as impressive as the one we saw in Beijing.
Lots more incense. My favorite.
Cool temple, lots of people, lots of smoke.
The highest temple, overlooking other temples, hills, and another guy taking pictures.
At the farm restaurant. God, this is an awful picture.
A tree, at a park we visited after lunch. We got to explore here a little, but not as much as I would have liked. And when we got back at the official meeting time of 3:30, we found out we were in trouble: the meeting time had been changed to 3:15 without our knowing. Oh well...
Bamboo, at this same park.
A little lizard.
Another one of him. Somehow, I managed to get more shots of the lizard than of Dan, with whom Elaine and I spent half our time.
A banana tree, growing real bananas. I guess this area doesn't get too cold in the wintertime.
The famous Chinese sky, framed by China's famous trees.
Our next destination: a very tall pagoda up on a hill. We of course had to pay a second admission fee to get to the top.
Inside the pagoda.
Looking out onto Hangzhou.
Some industrial spots across the river.
More boats! I don't think this river is as polluted as the Grand Canal, though.
Going back down the stairs.
The entrance to this building, I believe.
A nearby garden. The gardens here were actually quite nice.
A nascent Hangzhou construction site, from out our hotel window.
The windows of our hotel building.
The lovely stained carpet of our hotel room.
The central control, which turned on/off lights, TV, etc. It sits right next to the bed, and could be found in our hotels in Beijing, Suzhou, and Hangzhou.
Sunday, we would take off for Shanghai. First, though, I went for another run along the lake, where I found myself treated like a true celebrity. Some people gave me odd glances, wondering what the heck I was doing. Others said hello, smiling at the chance to speak in English. At the end of my run was the highlight, though. As I finished, I slowed to a walk, at which point I was quickly accosted by a man about my age, excitedly pointing at his camera. He asked in Chinese if he could get a picture with me, and pointed over to the lake. I acquiesced, and one of his friends got a shot of him with his arm around sweaty, smelly me. That seemed to be quite a big deal, so one of his friends requested the same. I walked away, amused.
Above is an ever-exciting from-the-freeway shot on the way to Shanghai.