Wednesday 23rd September
Too funny, the guys in our room were coming in from a heavy night out, just as we were getting up to leave for our train, one of them even asked us if we were leaving, he couldn't believe the time, they just collapsed on their beds, I think there'll be some very sore heads in the morning.
Ad grabbed an omlete type breakfast from a stand just outside our hostel, I opted for some muffins as I didn't feel my belly could handle that this early, it was about 6:30ish I think.
Found our way to the train station easily and was shocked to have our own seats, the way everyone was pushing and shoving to get on the train, we assumed that it was first come first serve, but as we were shown to our seats, the two ladies already occupying them got up and walked off, so we were chuffed to be comfortable for this journey. Only took just over an hour to get to Hangzhou, was very pleasant and a lot easier than we expected.
Wasn't that impressed when we arrived at the other end, people had told us such nice things about this area and when we walked out of the station it looked just as run down as Shanghai, with lots of traffic and construction everywhere, didn't know what to think.
Just goes to show you should never judge a book by it's cover. We jumped in a cab which was sooooooo cheap, considering it took us a good few minutes to arrive at hostel, it was quite a distance away. Signs were hanging off the buildings and we walked down a very dirty back street to enter the hostel and thought OH NOOOOO this doesn't look nice at all, but once inside it was a whole different story. The reception area was cute and actually really nice staff, the rooms were perfectly fine and the showers etc were very clean and to get to them you walked across a lovely garden, with ponds full of fish, it was really nice. The bar was the best area, really sweet, with lots of little seating areas cut off in their own little sections, quite dark with nice low lights, was really snug.
This was just the beginning of all things good. We settled down our bags and ventured out - WOW whatta place, we were 2mins walk from the West Lake which everyone had been telling us about and it was Beautiful. So calm and quiet, lots of little Chinese boats out gracefully gliding across the water, was just what we needed after the maddness of the city, I felt instantly relaxed. The walk ways were surrounded by little gardens, bridges, ponds, seating areas etc, we couldn't of wished for more. So glad we took time out to visit here, it's a perfect place to forget all your troubles and sit back and relax.
Hadn't eaten yet so found a nice place just out back, away from the lake, no pic's or english writing on the menu, but using the phrase book, we managed to get some chicken and veg with rice, so that was good and very tasty.
Continued to wander the park, taking time out here and there to just sit and look out over the lake. Found a nice little pavillion looking over a pond where we chilled for a bit. A guy next to the pond was practasing some juggling, he was actually very good and another guy clapped his hands continuosly for about 30mins or more, was kinda strange and a wee bit annoying, we eventually gave in and walked on.
People kept stopping us and asking if they could take pictures, I think they thought we were someone special, couldn't really understand it, takes a bit of getting used to, really don't think I would like to be famous if this is what they have to put up with, kinda weird. A couple even ran up ahead of us at one point to quickly get a snap of us on their phones, they had to ask us to stop walking in the end, as we sped up, was STRANGE.
Really felt like we were in China now, while sitting on a bench looking out over the lake listening to some Chinese music on the iPod, it was perfect, really made us realise what this is all about and how beautiful this country really is. It was nice to see it for it's true self and not the city way of China.
At night we headed for the night market, where they have lines of stands full of all the different kinds of foods you can think of. We snacked on Squid and meat on sticks, have no idea what meat it was, some dumplings, nuts, cakes, you name it we probably tried it, was all delicious. Such a lively bubbly place, a fair few people but not over crowded. Was nice to wander into the town at one end and look at bangles, clothes, paintings, musical instruments etc. I saw some lovely dresses but they were not prepared to haggle to a reasonalbe price so left them, will save that for Thailand.
Really enjoyed the evening, was so much to see and as tempting as it was to buy buy buy, all we came away with was full tummy's and a blank book for Ad to use as a journel, so didn't do too bad this time. Back for a quick drink in our lovely bar before bed.
Thursday 24th September
Morning was used to sort some bits out that needed doing i.e. washing, which we accidentally put into the staff washing machine, they said not to worry and let us use it, which meant we got a free wash BONUS. Whilst waiting for it to finish we had one of their Spanish breakfasts on offer - spanish omelets with toast, fruit salad and a nice cuppa mmmmmmmm, out in the garden next to the fishes, was lovely. Didn't take long, was a shame a couple of guys took all the hangers and obviously locked them in their room, so we had about 4 to put all our clothes out on, how nice of them THE CHEEK. We found a way though.
Out and about, we were going to hire bikes to ride around the park, as it would probably take all day to walk it, but for some reason bikes were not allowed in the park area - WHAT IS THE POINT THEN, seems silly to me but hey ho, we went on foot.
Got to the Pagoda in no time, some great views from the top and a nice park surrounding it, seems to be a very popular place, many people here, but we had a good look around and although it is not the origional, cos that got burnt down, it was still really nice. Saw a huge terrapin in the pond, was massive, never seen one that big before, it was a giant compared to the rest of them, made sure I got a pic.
Was a gorgeous very hot sunny day, so we grabbed some ice creams and went for a wander into the park. A strip of land went right through the center of the lake, it was very thin with enough room for a path through the middle and small garden areas on each side, with a few stands and seats looking out over the lake, was really quaint and perfect to stroll along and watch the boats. Found a stall selling black corn on the cob, thought we'd give it a try, wasn't bad actually. Took plenty of pics of the boats, bridges and park area, one family on a boat saw us taking pics and decided to shout and wave at us, was really funny, as we were walking at the same speed as the boat, so were next to them for ages and they kept calling to us. Bless em.
Got some nice pics as the sun started to set a little, looked beautiful out over the lake, with some of the over hanging trees and boats approaching the bridges, made for some really nice views.
Headed for the botanical gardens which we eventually reached, but it was getting a bit dark now, so thought we would leave it. Went into a residential area and first looked in a market area, with stacks of fruit, a lady tried to sell us some oranges which seemed well over priced for this kind of area. Found a very busy restaurant, full of locals and felt it was time for some dinner. Had some idea where we were but some girls on our table showed me on the map, just so we were sure. Another girl helped Ad with the menu as it was not in english, she was surprised to see us here as it was not commercial at all, but said it was nice to see some Foreigners in this part, plus we like to try the traditional things. We had noodles in soup, dumplings and dim sum, all very delicious.
Headed towards the main street to catch a cab and realised we were in bar street, which was extremely quiet and seemed to consist of about 3 bars, we found this quite amusing, they looked like great bars, but wasn't really selling themselves to us te he. Got in a cab and it took us the rest of the way around the lake, where we saw a fountain display going off in the middle of the lake, looked nice and a bridge near the main town all lit up, very nice.
Bumped into the Swedish guy that we met in the hostel in Shanghai, he'd walked a lot today and felt the area was more for couples, although he seemed impressed with the fountain display. Shame we only caught a glimpse from the cab. Sorted our bits out for our next move to Suzhou tomorrow. Then chilled for the evening.