Our next pit stop on tour was in Hangzhou, a city not too far away from Shanghai. Sam and Al have another friend from uni - Mark - who is currently living there teaching English and learning mandarin. We managed to come up trumps in terms of getting there, securing a cheap flight wednesday morning. Mark met us at the airport and we were immediately whisked away to a mountain retreat for the evening. It was nice to get an idea of rural China, removed from all the bright lights of the city. The village where we stayed was called Moganshan, a place formerly popular with the Chinese mafioso! Interestingly we met an English guy there - Mark Kitto who runs 'The Lodge' serving up western meals (we had a roast there the first evening - obviously I lost out there!) and fresh coffee. It soon became clear he was quite an eccentric figure fond of name dropping too! The next day was another occasion beckoning a trek - our second in one week, in line with our 'Get fit for Thailand' plan. It was supposed to take 4hrs. although Kitto (joker) had given us the most pathetic excuse for a map and, because Mark spoke mandarin - advised us to follow the trail in the reverse?? Obviously disaster ensued and suffice to say we got lost....twice. We took a wrong turning at a crucial part of the latter stages of the walk - the most challenging bit as it was uphill. It soon became dark, none of the party had bothered to bring a torch. We continues uphill with some difficulty before abandoning that plan and heading dishearteningly back down. By this stage, anxiety had set in. We phoned Kitto who rather uselessly told us to 'Traverse left'! Pillock. Try doing that in the pitch black not knowing what is beneath you. It became clear that 'bum on the floor' technique was the safest approach, grabbing any bamboo in sight. Eventually retracing our steps back, we were picked up by a taxi and got back to base by 9pm, a mere 3hrs late. Ok so it wasn't endangering of life territory but it was still mildly worrying! At least on our return, there was a banquet waiting for us, courtesy of the village chief.
The next day we returned to Hangzhou and saw some of the city. A favourite tourist spot among the Chinese, Hangzhou has a rather endearing lakeside area, equipped with its own Strabucks and Haagen Dazs. Back of the net. Am really starting to hate Chinese food with a passion. What's more is that it is customary out here for 1 person to order for all when dining out - so poor little veggie me gets shafted every time. Bring on Thai food. Had a great night out with the resident ex pats of Hangzhou at an all you can eat and drink japanese which certainly served as a welcome break from Chinese cuisine. Too much saki and asahi beer later and we found ourselves in a club called 'The Inn.' Dont remember too much of the night from then on but had the mother of all hangovers the following day and was bed bound until late afternoon. Mark had planned for us to go to Lin'an, a small city an hour away from Hangzhou where he teaches every Sunday. We enjoyed another banquet feast with his girlfriend before indulging in a foot massage which was great. The next day we did some sightseeing, including another bloody uphill trek before getting the bus back to Hangzhou.
I had already been to SH once before (last year with Miss Friedman) so wasn't that excited about going again. THe bright lights are all very impressive etc but the city itself seems to lack some sort of character. There isn't all that much to do, aside from a boat ride and a stroll along Nanjing Rd to absorb the sheer luminosity of the city. You really need to have money to burn to enjoy SH properly, although we had a few drinks the 2nd night there and headed to Bar Rouge, a swanky ex-pat orientated hang out, just off the Bund. It was packed with Westerners; rich businessmen sipping on their Champagne and trying to chat up anything in a skirt. The bar however was cool with great views of the city and beds in which to curl up in, martini in hand!