China 2014 Day 3: Hangzhou and West Lake
This was one of the most epic, action-packed travel adventure days of all time. I say this is "Day 3", but not really... Day 2 didn't exist due to time zone changes and Day 1 was spent completely on the plane. So, after a quick sleep last night, this was essentially our FIRST DAY in China, and WOW did we ever carpe-diem the heck out of it.
Due to jet-lag, we were up and ready to go at 5am. We started with some of the nice fruit and treats in our hotel room.
|Tasty fruit bowl|
|White Rabbit milk candies|
|Rockin' the robe|
After that part, headed outside to go sit and wait for Michal and... there was GINGER TEA there!!!!!!!!!! Ohhhh MAN!!!!!!!!!!!! It was SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SOOOOO good. It was just really excellent, a fantastic hardcore ginger flavour, a little sugar, and very hot. It was stellar and a great wake up and smooth-out for your stomach after a long flight. Incredible! "Well, we're DEFINITELY coming back here every day!" we said.
Back up in the room, made a nice Illy Espresso with the instant machine in the room and it tasted great. Then off to get some cash and walk "The Bund" - the main downtown area along the water. I suppose, somewhat like Shanghai's Embarcardero.
|Outside of the Fairmont Shanghai|
|Lays Italian Red Meat Flavour|
We got to the Hongqiao station and took a long walk to get to the departure floor. Once there, we wandered for a little bit after going through a security check again. We wanted to get onto the train at a reasonable time. But it was really quite easy, you could tell from the ticket what the train number was, the big signs told you the gate to go to, and the ticket even (somewhat clearly, though only in Chinese characters) told you what train car and seat you were in.
The train station was pretty cool and we found some fun stuff upstairs, including a place called Bread Talk where we got an awesome cheese stick. McDonald's was sadly not that interesting. I tend to love to see McD's in other countries as it's always cool and fun to see how they have localized to the destination's culture. So not much at this one, we'll have to wait and see a larger McDonald's later. There was a "Disney" store which had a Minnie with a Kimono on :)
|About to catch the Bullet Train!|
|The train car|
|On the way out of Shanghai|
Crossing the road so far in China is insane. As someone mentioned to us, the stoplights are for cars only -- bikes and pedestrians and especially scooters do not tend to pay much attention to the stoplights. So, we joined into the exciting fray and just went for it.
|Crossing the street...|
|Makes for some interesting stories|
|Cool lamp store|
After some wandering, we found it and went inside. They took us upstairs and had absolutely no English. Our tea server was somewhere around my age but had no English words so he just sort of sat there staring us down as we drank the tea. We did manage to get a few smiles but not much! They sat us down and unrolled a cool vertical menu made of of Bamboo, and said 120 Yuan each for Longjing, OK? (Approx $20 each for the most well-known Green Tea of the area.). We figured it was a little pricey but we should just go for it as this Tea place had been recommended by a few people. We agreed and assumed we were paying $20 each for the most epic green tea of all time. But, soon after, lots of food and other tea snacks came out. Red Bean chewy cake, weird fruity porridge, peanuts, ginger, some strange mung beans, and more.
|Our tea guy making us some Longjing tea!|
|Ginger, kumquats and other tasty things to go with the tea ceremony|
|Nice one of Spring!|
|Mochi, dates, a twisted almond thing|
|Pouring over his shoulder|
We got a Chrysanthemum tea and Green Tea cookie upon arrival and giddily looked around at the impressive natural surroundings. Rather than being on West Lake which is the main to-do in Hangzhou, this hotel is built upon the XiXi Wetlands. It was glorious. We were celebrating our 1 year dating anniversary there but I guess they thought it was our 1 year wedding anniversary, (haha, close enough) so they upgraded our room to one with a Tub in the bedroom on the floor!!! The bed also had the word "Happy Wedding Anniversary" written on it in leaves and rose petals. SO crazy!!! It was amazing. In the room there were a couple of oranges there waiting for us, most likely the juiciest and tangiest orange I've ever had. Incredible.
|This hotel is ah-mazing!!!!|
|Epic tub!!! On the floor!!!|
|Amazing lounge area|
|SO much tea!!!!!|
|A massage bed... in your room?!?!?|
|What a view! :)|
|Insane bathroom too|
So we told Nick that we were hoping to to move the taxi pickup so we could have a little more time so that we might be able to swim... "Spa? Now?!" he said, somewhat nervously, keen for us not to miss our show at West Lake at 7:15. "Um... yes, OK! 6pm is OK! 6:15 is the latest a taxi can leave to get you to West Lake on time for the show." So it was 5:15 and we raced back to our room, grabbed our bathing suits, and headed to the pool/spa!! Do ALL the things!!!!!!!
|What an epic place|
|Boat-in hotel rooms|
We changed and then rolled out. The Taxi to West Lake was fast, as expected, and we had plenty of time there to get our tickets at the Will-Call window and wander around a bit. I think Nick had originally planned for us to have more time there so we could see the Causeways more and wander more thoroughly, but we were glad to have seen the pool instead. We still had enough time to see the area and wander nicely and grab some street food for dinner. We got Tofu on a stick that was very tasty, and some Corn-on-the-Cob that looked very promising but was only OK. There was also a random KFC there so we walked in and tried to get one of the weird localized options, a "Szechuan Hot Sandwich". They didn't have it so we got a more normal chicken burger which was actually quite tasty. We also got regular fries and a Blackcurrant juice which ROCKED. And off to the show!
|Arrived at West Lake|
|Tofu on a stick|
|Crazy KFC menu|
Staged entirely upon the lake itself (a stage has been built 3 centimeters below the surface), Impression West Lake is a spectacle of light, music, dance and theatrics. The story is based on a Hangzhou legend (somewhat lost on foreigners, but that does not detract from enjoyment). Using the lake and its surroundings as props, lights and hundreds of actors create a sensational performance. Similar performances are staged in Yangshuo and Lijiang. Hangzhou’s Impression West Lake is certainly not to be missed.
It is a unique outdoor performance on natural settings. Staged on the West Lake, the performance appears vivid and incredibly beautiful. Mixed with the myths and legends of the West Lake, the show leads you to a sweet thousand-year dream. The special concealable auditorium ensures each seat a wonderful place to enjoy the dazzling show. The state-of-the-art sound system is surely to offer a surprising musical enjoyment. Be sure to catch it, the show is a must-see when you come to Hangzhou. Come and enjoy the most amazing and beautiful spectacle you will see in your life.
The director of this show is Mr Zhang Yimou, who was in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. This performance is co-directed by Wang Chaoge and Fan Yue. The music is composed by Mr Kitaro and the song is from Ms Zhang Liangyin. Although the whole performance is a five-act play, i.e., encounter, fall in love, say goodbye, memory, and impression, in performance there is not necessarily any clear separation between them.
Act one: Encounter A white crane became a young smart guy in the lake while another white crane was coming and evolved into a pretty girl. They fell in love at the first sight and enjoyed everything. However, their love token was an "umbrella", whose pronunciation was the same as "departure" in Chinese.
Act two: Fall in love The fish in the West Lake were full of spirit! All the fish played and chasing each other in the lake of love. In the boat, pretty girls and boys in traditional Chinese costumes were singing and dancing freely.
Act three: Say goodbye The happy time was not enduring; roar of the drums indicated that the suffering was about to come. All of a sudden, the beautiful girl envolved from crane was dead and the boy was so sad… Perhaps, where there was love, there was sadness.
Act four: Memory When the heart-broken young man came back to the place where they first met, the pretty girl was not there despite the unchanged surroundings. Subsequently, the handsome man met other girls but could not forget the girl he loved…
Act five: Impression
Act V: Just like the lake, beautiful and elegant, all the legendary stories were vivid again. Yes, man is mortal, however, the love between the boy and the girl never die, just faded away! What a beautiful impression, what a perfect night!
SO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!! We both really loved the show. The people dancing on the water were so amazing, and there were great costumes. There were some people in some kind of traditional dress spinning with their staffs in the water, making for a very impressive sight. There was also some kind of lit-up tea house thing going back and forth along the water which I loved. The lights made up to look like fish and birds were also awesome.
I'm so glad we went. This was sooooooooo cool.
And here's a short video that doesn't do the show justice, but gives you an idea of how people were dancing on the water. It rocked.
After the show, we had intended to go the Green Tea Restaurant on Longjing Road, on the way to Longjing Village. It was a fair ways but it was impossible to get a Taxi. So, in our true adventurous fashion, we whipped out my iPhone with the predownloaded map, got the GPS going to make sure we were going the right direction, and walked for over an hour! It was great. That also helped us work up our appetite since we weren't sure how hungry we were with the jet-lag, and also we got to see a bunch of West Lake at night which was nice. A long walk but a great one.
After quite a while we finally got there at about 9:15pm, and they only closed at 10pm (as we determined in advance) so we weren't going to feel rushed. It was so cheap there that we over-ordered by a lot. I got both a Mango AND a Kiwi juice. Haha. I also was so excited to see something called "Green Tea Beer" and "Green Tea Bread" -- WHAT?!?! So I ordered those as well and, since the restaurant is called "Green Tea", they meant this more as "The House Beer" and "The House Bread". Oh well, it rocked anyway. :) The bread was especially good because it tasted like Baozi bread.
The Eggplant Clay Pot was amazing, and tasted so great. As we had heard, China really rocks it in the Vegetarian Food department. It was really outstanding. The chicken we got was nice but a little weird, and the beef... well... "we're not touching that!" we said to each other. Unfortunately, it was likely Beef intestine or something like that, and was not at all what we were expecting. The dishes were only about $3 or $4 each, but it did feel quite bad to leave one of them. That said, it seemed like a lot of people were sharing food "family-style", so often there was some food left over at other people's tables too. We felt bad not to try something but since we way over-ordered, it was OK. The Ice Cream-Bread concoction was one of the best things we ordered, and we also crazily got the Neopolitan dessert too which was huge and had layers of mango, kiwi and dragonfruit in it. Crazy.
|Bread and Ice Cream!|
|Eggplant Clay Pot|
|"Green Tea" Bread :)|
|Back home at the hotel|
What a long and amazing first day in China, and it was insane to think that we'd only been in the country for 24 hours and had done this much already. Do all the things. ;)
Tomorrow is a tour of the farms for the best and most sought-after Green Tea in the world. But for now, some sleep. :)