Arrived in Hangzhou on Sat after two hours on a bus which made a nice change from the sleeper trains we've been relying on to travel overland. Unfortunately, it was raining for the first time since we've been in China but as we were travelling it didn't affect us too much.
Our hostel, right on the edge of West Lake was lovely, felt very warm and homely as soon as we walked in. The staff were genuinely interested in what are plans were. Lara and Lowri were also staying at this hostel so we'd arranged to stay there as it would probably be our last chance to see them. After checking in we walked through the city to the main train station to try to book our tickets to Guilin as we've learnt we have to book in advance. The city itself wasn't very different to any other Chinese city we have seen previously but we did walk past a Hooters which made Rach very happy! We had no luck at the train station and so headed back to the hostel to look for an alternative. After spending a few hours on the internet looking for internal flights we still couldn't find a way to leave Hangzhou on the day we had planned and so thought we would have to extend our stay. Fortunately, the guy we were sharing our dorm with helped us get train tickets the next day.
Having arranged to go to the Pagoda with the girls after the train station we were a little disappointed to find them fast asleep when we got back to the hostel so instead headed out on our own to wander around the lake. We walked for a while before getting on a boat to visit the two man made islands in the middle of the lake. (Luce is very disappointed to here they were not natural!). The scenery at the lake and its surrrounding areas was very beautiful. It was just a shame that the weather was quite hazy so we couldn't see as far as we would have liked.
As it was the girls last night we all went for a curry in an Indian restaurant on the lakeside. It was just as good as at home and much cheaper! Mmmm.
On sunday, after eating the best dumplings we've had and saying our goodbyes to Lare and Lowri, we took a bus to the Lingjing temple. The bus itself was very old skool with wooden benches. It drove around the lake and past the famous tea fields in the area, a very scenic drive.
We took a cable car to the top of the North Peak to view the city and lake from above but the hazy weather again stopped us from getting a decent view. We had an ice cream (was still very warm) and descended to go and visit the temple.
The gardens surrounding the temple were very picturesque with carvings in the limestone and statues of Buddas with a small river running through. The temple itself is the 10th largest Buddist temple and houses the largest sitting Budda in China in one of its halls. The Budda is made from 24 pieces of wood and was pretty impressive! After wandering through most of the rooms in the temple we heard what sounded like drums banging and on investigating found the monks carrying out a worshiping session infront of the large Budda which included them chanting and preying. Was very interesting to see. Many of the other tourists were lighting large bunches of insence sticks from fires outside the temple halls as a form of worship. We almost felt that we were intruding at times.
Our last evening in Hangzhou was spent watching Pans Labarinth in Spanish with some German guys we met the night before! We all followed the film (it did have subtitles though).
West Lake is the prettiest site we've visited so far in China. It was nice to have some peace after the hussle and bustle of the big cities. Off to Guilin next on what will hopefully be our last sleeper train.
Love to all at home xxx