Hangzhou is in Zhejiang Province, China. It is one of the most important tourist cities in China, famous for its natural beauty and historical and cultural heritages. It is the political, economic and cultural center of Zhejiang province as well. Famed for its natural scenery, Hangzhou and its West Lake have been immortalized by countless poets and artists. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276, during that time the city’s population is estimated to have been as high as one million, making it the largest city in the world at the time. Even Marco Polo claimed to have passed through, calling it “beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world”.
With the gradual silting up of its harbor, much of the city’s trade and industry passed north to nearby Shanghai, but the city still has a bustling population of 1.7 million and ranks as one of China’s most popular tourist attractions.
There are plenty of airlines offering flights to Hangzhou from major UK airports including London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen, Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff, New Castle, London Gatwick.
Despite the name, Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH) generally services domestic Chinese flights. There are frequent services to Beijing and Hong Kong, but using Shanghai’s domestic Hongqiao or the international Pudong airports and connecting by bus or train is also a viable option. International flights are possible. International cities that have service to Hangzhou include Amsterdam (by KLM), Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Osaka, Bangkok, Seoul, and Singapore. Flights from Kuala Lumpur can be obtained from AirAsia, a low-cost airline that provides flights to China and throuhgout Asia. The service to Bangkok may not currently be operating.
The airport is about 30km east of the city centre, taking 30 minutes – 1 hour by taxi. A taxi to or from the airport from the city centre is around ¥90; on the way back, you should ask if the driver is willing to take you that far before just jumping in the car with all your bags. No additional fee is payable for travel to/from the airport, the normal metered fare applies. A cheaper route would be to buy tickets for the shuttle service (¥20) to/from the Xiaoshan Bus ticket office on Tiyuchang Road next to the KFC just west of Wulin Square. The shuttle bus also stops at the main railway station en-route. Buses run every 30mins during the daytime and take about an hour; join the queue for your ticket at the booth just outside the exit before boarding the bus. The Shangri-La Hotel also has a shuttle service to/from the airport for ¥50, inquire within.
Alternatively, if flying into Pudong Airport in Shanghai, there are direct buses to Hangzhou. They leave from the 2nd floor parking lot across from Gate 15 of Pudong Airport, departing every 1.5 hours from 10:30AM until 7PM. It costs ¥100 (Summer 2008 price). These buses arrive at the Hangzhou Yellow Dragon Sports Center (football stadium), 3km to the west of the city centre.
A train from Shanghai is the easiest way to get to Hangzhou. Frequent trains run from Shanghai Zhan (Main) Railway station and from the new Shanghai South Station, both on Metro line 1. Check the train schedule for the duration of the trip as some trains are considerably faster than others. In general, the train will take between 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes, but “local” trains can take over 3 hours. New high-speed “D” trains can take 1 hour and 18 minutes and mostly depart from Shanghai South Station. Travel from Shanghai to Hangzhou by D train is 54 RMB in Second Class and 64 RMB in First Class. Also, it is better to arrive in Hangzhou at the main Hangzhou station, rather than the East Hangzhou Railway station as the main station is right in town.
In addition to Shanghai, Hangzhou Train Station serves trains from Guangzhou, Beijing, Chengdu, and everywhere in between. For destinations further away, such as Kunming and Urumqi, you would first want to go to Shanghai or some halfway-point train station. There is an East Train Station as well, but it is not in such a smart part of town. Trains returning from Shanghai often only stop here rather than at the main station.
Hangzhou has 4 bus stations (N, E, W, and S). Usually, the direction of your destination corresponds to the bus station’s name, eg if you are going to Shanghai, you’ll want the East Bus Station. If you are going to Huangshan, buses leave from the West Bus Station; Nanjing is served by a frequent service from the North Station, and so on.
For travel to or from Shanghai, the bus has become at times more convenient than the train, as it can be more comfortable if only hard seater train tickets exist, and the buses depart more frequently than trains. From Shanghai, buses depart from the north bus station (Hengfen Lu), the PuDong bus station (Bailianjing, PuDong Nan Lu), and from Xujiahui Bus Station, ticket cost ¥58 (October 2008 price). These buses arrive at the north bus station of Hanzhou.
There are also airport shuttle buses (100rmb per ticket). There are buses between Yellow Dragon Stadium and Pudong Airport (direct), Wulinmen Ticket Office and Hongqiao Airport (direct), and Wulinmen Ticket Office and Pudong Airport (with a stop en route at Hongqiao). Tickets can be purchased at the area with all the buses in front of the Yellow Dragon Stadium or at the Wulinmen Ticket office near the KFC on Tiyuchang Rd. by Wulin Square. To find the buses from Pudong, you have to go across the street from the international terminal to the large parking garage, then go to the 2nd level of the parking garage to find all the buses to various cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
The overnight boat service between Hangzhou and Suzhou/Wuxi has been discontinued. You can still take a ferry along the Hangzhou-Beijing Grand Canal to the north of Hangzhou proper (see “water taxi” section below).
Hangzhou has an extensive bus network, but you must be able to read Chinese to ride the crowded buses with ease. However, almost any bus that has a Y before the bus number (Y2, Y5, etc) will be “youke” – tourist buses, and are guaranteed to take you to a tourist site for ¥3 – ¥5. Therefore, if you want to just ride Y buses around all day, you will save money and still see the sites without having to tell the taxi drivers where you want to go in Chinese.
Otherwise, a bus with just a number will cost you ¥1 or ¥1.5, and a bus with a “K” before the number (air conditioned) is ¥2, ¥3 or occasionally, ¥4. Night buses are usually ¥2.5 – these are indicated at the bus stop by having a blue background colour. If you don’t understand Chinese, don’t worry, since the fare is written at the bus stop next to the bus number, so you can prepare your coins in advance (better have the exact fare, no change is given). Payment is made into a box next to the driver as you board the bus. The amount to be paid will be written on this box, but almost invariably in Chinese characters, not numerals, which is why it’s vital to check the fare at the bus stop first if you don’t read Chinese. Most buses in Hangzhou don’t have a conductor inside as they have in Shanghai, the exceptions being articulated trolley buses with rear- as well as front-entrances. On these trolley buses, its possible to get on and pay at the rear (sometimes less busy than the front).
For those arriving in Hangzhou by train, note that bus K7 goes from the Hangzhou Rail Station to the West Lake for ¥1.
For those with computer or mobile web access, Google Maps may be used to plan bus trips. Simply click choose the “Get Directions” option and enter the departure and destination addresses in Chinese, then choose “public transportation” to view the available bus routes. Alternatively, you may simply right-click to select where to start and end your route.
Like most major world cities, Hangzhou has a large number of taxis which allow for quick and convenient travel within the city proper. Most of the city’s taxis are turquoise-green in color and easily identifiable by the word “Taxi” printed in both English and Chinese on the vehicles. Taxis for hire are marked by the green (or sometimes yellow-orange) light-up signs above the dashboard on each car.
Hangzhou taxi drivers always use the meter as required by law. All routes under three kilometers are charged a flat rate of 10 RMB (May 2008), plus the temporary addition of a 1 RMB “fuel tax” increase mandated by the government in 2006, is now charged. There is a low “slow-speed” charge for when the taxi is waiting at lights, stopped in traffic. It is advisable to take a receipt each time use you a taxi, should you wish to contact the taxi company or driver at later time to dispute a fare, recover a lost article, etc. Avoid the taxi touts at the train station and major tourist attractions, and instead, use the designated taxi queue or flag one off the street.
Few, if any, of the city’s taxi drivers speak English or other foreign languages. It is therefore important that you be able to point out your destination on a map, present the driver with the name of the destination (in written Chinese), or properly pronounce the name of the destination in spoken Mandarin Chinese. If you have a Chinese acquaintance whom you can reach by cell phone, you can allow him or her to speak to your driver through the phone to convey the desired information.
Hangzhou taxis are not allowed to carry more than four passengers, although you may be able to convince or bribe a driver to allow you to “hide” an extra passenger in the backseat. This can be worth if the trouble or expense if it saves your group from needing to take two taxis.
Taxis, like all public transportation, are difficult to come by during the tourist weeks (Chinese New Year, May Golden Week, and October National Week); also, taxis between 7:30 and 8:45AM and 4:30-7:00PM are difficult to flag, as they are always full or in the middle of a shift change. A taxi with an imminent shift change (around 4.30-5PM) will be showing a plate in the windscreen (Chinese characters of course) and will only take you if your route coincides with his (or hers, a good number of taxi drivers in Hangzhou are women). A good rule of thumb is that if you need a taxi, there won’t be any, but if you don’t need one, they will be driving extremely slowly in the right lane disrupting traffic and honking and flashing their brights at you. Being familiar with areas that taxis frequent or places where taxi passengers are likely to be dropped off at will aid you in finding a ride. Don’t be visibly upset that your hailing position will be gazumped by a new arrival 20 metres up the road. The only rule is; it’s the quick and the dead.
Taxi drivers will also negotiate for long distance trips, or full-day / half-day hiring. A trip to Pudong airport in Shanghai will be RMB600-1000 depending on time of day or night.
In outer centres of Hangzhou, small 5 seater vans are usually available at bus terminals for onward transfers. These operate quite independently and the normal taxi rules do not apply. They will take you anywhere at a negotiated price.
Line 1 is scheduled to be completed in 2010, and line 2 shortly thereafter; a total of 8 lines covering over 200km have been planned. The opening dates of the lines are “last”, it means they can open earlier in case they pass the security checks quicker. For example, Nanjing’s new subway system was opened ahead-of-time, after safety checks were passed, and the same happened in Shanghai.
By “water bus”
Ferry down the Grand Canal takes 30 minutes but only makes 5 trips per day, the first at 7:30AM and the last at 6PM. It starts at Wulin Gate/West Lake Culture Plaza and ends at Gongchen Bridge, with one stop at Xinyifang Grand Canal Culture Plaza. The boats stop first at Xinyifang, then to the newly-developed Canal Culture Square, where you can see the Canal Museum, see if there are any events in the square, and check out the new Xiaohe Steet- a series of “historical” alleys with shops and restaurants similar to Hangzhou’s Hefang Street; the area’s renovation was completed in 2008. Cost is ¥3.
While really worth taking the trip, Hangzhou now has plans to connect a series of canals and streams throughout the city with the Grand Canal, West Lake, Yuhang River, and Qiantang River, making for increased water transport and a Venetian feel when completed.
There are also passenger boats running along the Grand Canal from near the Qiantang River
Getting to the islands on West Lake, you get to choose between tourist trap Dragon or “Gaily-painted” pleasure boats (¥45 and ¥35). There are also medium-sized power boats (¥25), or for ¥160 you can hire a driver to paddle you around for about an hour. The boats are available in Hubin #X (1, 3, 6) parks and other obviously marked areas all over the lake.
While traffic in Hangzhou may seem chaotic to some foreigners, the city is comparably bike-friendly. All but small side roads have dedicated bike lanes, often divided from motor traffic by barricades or medians.
For stays in Hangzhou, making use of the city’s extensive public bike system can be a cheap and convenient way to experience the city. These fire engine red public bikes are ubiquitous on the street of Hangzhou, and the rental stations that dispense them are generously spread across the core of the city and around West Lake, stretching all the way down to the river near the Six Harmonies Pagoda.
To use the bikes, one will need to purchase a stored value card at 20 Longxiang Qiao across from the Agricultural Bank of China. If you have trouble finding it, go to the Hyatt and ask for directions; they will point you down the correct street. To do this, one must present an ID (such as a passport) and pay 300 RMB, 200 of which is a deposit with the remaining 100 to cover rentals fees. Bikes may then be rented by tapping the card against one of the automated bike racks holding the bikes. A beep and the audible sound of the rack unlocking will indicate that the bike can be removed. One can use any of the available bike racks scattered about the city if he or she wishes to visit an attraction or get a new bike. The bike is free for the first hour, 1 RMB an hour for the two hours after that, and 3 RMB an hour thereafter. For example, if one rents a bike for six hours, he or she will return to the main bicycle “hub” and receive 289 of his RMB deposit back, which covers the 11 RMB worth of bike riding.
Bikes are returned by reinserting them into an empty bike rack and tapping one’s card against the top of the rack. Another beep, a solid green light, and the sound of the rack locking will indicate when the bike has been received successfully. Bikes not returned by 8:00 p.m. each night must be taken back to the Longxiang Qiao location, so keep an eye on the clock during evening rides. After ten days from purchase of the card, it may be returned for an 89% refund.
Buy maps near the Train Station or Bus Station from street vendors or stalls when you arrive. Price is often marked on the maps themselves, if you are wondering how much to pay (under 10 RMB). Street-bought maps are usually written in simplified Chinese with no pinyin. You can find pinyin maps at foreign language bookstores. The main foreign language bookstore in Yan An Road has a reasonable selection of maps as well as travel books.
There is a useful ‘what’s on’ magazine called More Hangzhou that has a good pull-out map in Chinese and English. The magazine is free and can be found in many hotels and bars.
The local Hangzhou dialect is part of the Wu family of Chinese dialects, and is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin or any other groups of Chinese dialects. However, as with most places in China, most locals will be bilingual in the local dialect and Mandarin, and you wouldn’t have any problems speaking Mandarin unless you are talking to the elderly.
English is not widely spoken, though the more expensive hotels will likely have staff who speak at least basic English. Be sure to have the names of your destinations written in Chinese to show taxi drivers so they can take you to where you want to go.
Places to see
Hangzhou’s most famous scenic sight. Technically, there are 10 Scenes of the West Lake and 10 New Scenes, but they are overrated, and often seasonal (Snowfall Over Broken Bridge, etc). Rather than make a checklist and walking back and forth looking for them, simply spend a clear day wandering the circumference of the lake and the causeways, take a ferry to the islands, and you will probably cover most of the sites anyway. The “West Lake” itself can be divided into countless smaller sites, from Mr. Guo’s villa to “Orioles Singing in the Willows”.
The “West Lake Scenic Area” itself is very large. This section only covers areas in the immediate vicinity of the lake. Other spots are covered in later sections.
- Boat Ride. There are numerous providers of boat rides on the lake. The official tour operator sells tickets from official ticket stalls for boat trips covered by insurance, with clear pricing and which covers all parts of the lake. There are lots of private gondola rides with varying insurance coverage, range and prices.
- Lesser Yingzhou Isle (Three Pools Mirroring the Moon)— Built in the early 1600s, this is the largest island on the lake. When there is a full moon, candles inside the pagodas are lit, and in the candle light it appears as though you see the moonlight (if you are romantic enough to see it), hence the name.
- Mid-Lake Pavilion— Bulit in 1552, it is the oldest island in Hangzhou. There is a Chinese inscription on the Qing Dynasty-era stone arch in which the Qing Emperor wrote “Chong Er”, or “Endless Love”.
- Lord Ruan’s Mound— This is a mound they made from piling up dirt after dredging the lake 200 years ago. However, it is not just a dirt mound. At night (summer), entertainment activities are occuring in the garden on the island.
- Hubin #X Park— Hubin Parks 1, 3, 6 and probably the numbers in between are the parks between Hubin Road and the West Lake. Relatively newly-designed as the West Lake Tunnel that goes underneath was being built in early 2004, these parks are good to sit for a bit, buy ice cream or a newspaper, and most importantly hire a boat from the cluster of boat docks at each park.
- Su Causeway— Almost 3km long, this causeway dates from the year 1189 and has a bunch of willows and peach trees. It is long north-south causeway that starts by the Shangri-La on Beishan Road and goes all the way down to Nanshan Road.
- Bai Causeway— Starting at the eastern end of Beishan Road, this cause way leads to Solitary Hill and cuts off the distances between, say, Hubin Road and the Shangri La.
- Solidary Hill And Zhongshan Park— Where Loud Wai Lou restaurant is located, this is the only natural island on the lake. At least 3 emperors constructed palaces are here. Besides an expensive restaurant, the popular area is the home of the Xiling Seal-Engravers’ Society, and the seals, calligraphy, engraving-masters, and relics that go along with it.
- Yang Causeway— This is more than 3km long and one road west of the Su Causeway. It starts at the intersection of Beishan and Shuguang Road (which becomes Yang Causeway once you are south of this intersection); the causeway runs north-south. Yang Causeway includes Quyuan Garden (aka Qu Garden aka Qu Courtyard), which is the most popular spot to see tons of lotus blossoms (late spring > summer). The water area to the west of the top of Yang Causeway is Maojiabu Scenic area, with orchids blended into the water scenery. Another tourist spot on Yang Causeway is Mr. Guo’s Villa, which was built in 1907 and is considered one of the most “classical” gardens in Hangzhou. At the southern end of the causeway, just before Nanshan Road, is a fish-viewing pond.
- King Qian’s Memorial, (Qian Wang Ci)— 5 kings of the Wuyue Kingdom are buried here in this memorial on the south end of the lake off Nanshan Road.
- Wushan Square, (吴山广场 Wu Shan Guang Chang)— Wushan Square and Wushan Hill are a major town center in Hangzhou. The view from the top is excellent on a clear day, and there are also trails around the hills from behind the pagoda. The pagoda itself has been modernized with an elevator and nice open-air teahouse at the top, but the original bell is still intact and in use. This area also features easy access to Hefang Jie shopping street at the base of the hill, full of small pedestrian streets and shopping stalls. It is also extremely close to the West Lake itself.
Temples, pagodas and churches
- Six Harmonies Pagoda, (六和塔 Liùhé Tǎ)— Down by the Qiantang River, about a 15 minute cab ride from the lake in light traffic, but it is a pretty road to drive down through all the tunnels and tea fields. Besides the pagoda itself, which is arguably the most prominent of all the temples and pagodas in Hangzhou, there is an adjacent park with hundreds of realistic replicas of the world’s most famous pagodas, complete with mini-sized trees in front of the pagoda models.
- Lingyin Temple, (灵隐寺 Língyǐn Sì)— Meaning “heart of the soul’s retreat”, this temple west of the West Lake is an active Buddhist temple at the bottom of a hill. Nearby you can take a chairlift to the top of the hill where there is another temple (walking up is also an easy set of stairs below the chairlift). This is one of the 3 oldest and most famous temples in China. There are hundreds of Buddhist stone statues carved into the cliffs in the “Peak Flying from Afar” section next door.
- Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰塔)— Located on the shores of the southeast side of the lake and originally built in the year 977, all that remains of the original pagoda is the crumbling foundation, viewable from outside the glass case that it is housed in (Pagoda Remains Memorial Museum at the bottom floor of the pagoda). With escalators, elevators, and a totally new pagoda places on top of the foundation, there is not much to see within the pagoda itself; it was most recently rebuilt in 2000. However, the view of the city skyline is one of the best from here, and some of the smaller seating areas around the perimeter of the pagoda have a nice breeze and view of the structure. One of the 10 Scenes of the West Lake is “Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow”, but this is best viewed from a distance (across the lake) just after sunset. Keep in mind that the entry fee for the Leifeng Pagoda is very expensive (¥40/person, Oct 2008) and it’s not original, just rebuilt, so if your budget is not that huge, consider to not enter the Pagoda. You can still take pictures in front of it.
- Baochu Pagoda, (保俶塔 Bǎochù Tǎ) and the surrounding temples on this hill on the north side of the lake. You cannot climb the pagoda, but the view and surrounding Baoshi Hill are awesome.
- Jingci Temple— Off Nanshan Road, built in 954, the Jingci Temple has a huge 10-ton bell inside. Located on Nanping Road, they ring the bell 108 times here to ring in Chinese New Year. It is also rung every evening for much fewer times. Jingci Temple is the site of the legend of the miraculous well, which can be seen on the grounds of the temple.
- Jade Emperor Hill, (玉皇山公园 Yuhuang Shan Gong Yuan)— One of the least-visited sites in Hangzhou despite its somewhat central location. The main temple on top of the hill is currently under reconstruction (Aug 2008), but still offers a wonderful view of the city and lake below, and has a restaurant next door. There is another temple partway up the hill. The area can provide a quiet escape and a nice hike, as well as the chance to visit one of the few Daoist sites in the area (most other local temples are Buddhist). It is located directly south of Leifeng Pagoda. The main entrance isn’t far from the Silk Museum. If you are playing along with the “10 Scenes of the West Lake” scavenger hunt still, the one that applies to the top of this hill is “clouds flying over Jade Emperor Hill”.
- Chongyi Church, (崇一堂 Chóngyī táng) is one of the largest Protestant churches in China. The name, translated into English, means “Worship the one and only true God.” It was dedicated in 2005 and can accomodate up to 7000 attenders, welcoming many international visitors and guest preachers including Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham.
Gardens, forests, nature
- Longjing (Dragon Well) Tea Fields, (龙井茶园 Long Jing Cha Yuan), and other tea fields further west. These are best visited during the harvest period, usually from the first week of March till after May Holiday, when everyone is out in the field picking tea and the tea that you can purchase is of the best quality (tea crops from later in the year have had their leaves damaged by the rain).
- Guo’s Villa, (郭庄 Guo Zhuang ), is the best existing traditional private garden in Hangzhou. It is one of the garden masterpieces of Jiangnan (the lower region of the Yangtze River) thanks to its incomparable surroundings and the smartly managed garden space. The garden develops as you enter further into it with regular switches between tight, closed spaces and sudden, open ones. The key feature, or spirit, is water. Cleaverly juxtaposing shade and light, curved and straight, yin and yang, the garden of Guo Zhuang is a wonderful embodiment of the Chinese wisdom of Tao and the Way of Nature. The teahouse, Liang Yi Xuan (两宜轩 Belvedere of Both Good) sits in a prime viewing spot within the garden between two superb water “yards”, one large and the other small. While there are plenty of “old villas” in China to visit– and many are similar– this one is also on the shore of the West Lake. The 10 yuan entry fee keeps many people away, and you can have some tea (40 yuan) on the lakeside pavilions of the villa while avoiding the tourists.
- Hangzhou Botanical Gardens, (植物园 Zhi Wu Yuan), and flower nursery as well nearby. If you can’t make it to Suzhou, these gardens aren’t bad, especially in the spring and during the brief period when the leaves change in the fall. There is also a peacock farm, some nice ponds, and basically a wide range of plants and ecosystems to walk through. The redwood tree that Nixon donated during his visit has since died (in 2001).
- Xixi National Wetlands Park. Opened in May 2005, this wetlands park is in the extreme west part of the city past the west bus station. One of the easiest ways to get there would be to take a bus from Huanglong Soccer Stadium. While it may be somewhat out of the way and the road signs have the English translation as an uninviting “Xixi Swamp”, this area is not to be missed, as currently the tourists are not too many, and it is a great way to see birds and other wildlife. The birds are especially beautiful and varied.
- Dreaming of the Tiger Spring, (虎跑梦泉 Hǔpǎomèngquán), is a spring as well as a scenic and historic destination. The area includes wooded pathways, streams, bamboo groves, tea houses, historic structures, as well as the spring itself and other sights. Admission is ¥15. Tea brewed with the high-quality Tiger Spring water may be purchased for about ¥20 a glass.
- Hangzhou Zoo, (杭州动物园 Hángzhōu Dòngwùyuán). It has pandas and more and is located just south of the lake. Animals treatment here is poor. Besides a few animals which have good cages (mostly water-animals) it has terrible conditions for the panda, most bears and other larger animals like the elephants. Still, they made improvements compared to a few years ago, and it seems it’s mostly the missing support of larger investments that seems to hinder further development in a better zoo. The entrance fee includes a circus-style animal show with tigers, lions, bears and elephants that is particularly entertaining for children (if a little depressing for adults).
On the northern side of Baochu hill near the soccer stadium is Huanglong Cave (For “Scenes of The West Lake”, this cave covers “Yellow Dragon Cave Dressed in Green”).
Things to do
- Impression West Lake (印象西湖) . Directed by the internationally-acclaimed Zhang Yimou, a love story performed with impressive special effects on the lake. There are two performances every night, and it is a spectacle not to be missed.
- Early morning bikeride. Start on the north side of the lake, and head west towards Zhejiang University, then down Lingyin Road past the Botanical Gardens and into Longjing Village. Keep heading West and south through the tea villages, bamboo forest, and scenic valleys to the river and cut over towards Six Harmonies Pagoda. Go back to the south end of the lake via the road right next to Six Harmonies, past the zoo, through the tunnels.
- Walk around the lake. It will take you about 5 hours of slow walking. The lake is not very big and there are two shortcuts (causeways) through it. You can also hire small non-motor powered boats (¥120/hour for personal boat with driver, or use the ferry services) to take you around the lake and to the two islands, which feature some interesting sites.
- Go Hiking in the Mountains. Truly Hangzhou has the most accessible and interesting hiking environments within walking distance of any city. Purchase a topographic map, not difficult to find. Suggestion 1. Start with the the climb up to the Baochu Pagoda from Beishan Road, the trail passes the pagoda and continues on with a rock scramble and great views to a series of stone paths that follow the ridge. Keep going and relax, you can’t get lost because this mountain is surrounded by main roads. There are temples, shrines and caves along the way with a sprinkling of tea houses. Stay with the high ground where you can and you should come out near the corner of Shuguang Rd and Beishan Rd. in an easy 2 hours, with plenty of opportunities for side explorations. You can walk back or return by bus (be brave, as long as the bus is going inbound it will take you somewhere central. The fare will be Y1-3 and services are frequent) or cab. Suggestion 2. Start at Wushan Square, at the southern end of Yan’an Rd, and walk south through the developed park land. Stay high, and pass the war memorial, stunning stone sculptures, down the large stairway to Wansongling Rd. Cross the road, turn left and 100 metres later enter the forest past a memorial garden. From here the stone paths lead inexorably south to Fenghuang Hill and then south west finally to Yuhuang Hill, the summit of which contains a large temple complex and boasts marvellous views over West lake and the Qiantang River. Descend to the west, but beware the tricky circular road, to Hupao Road and take a bus back from the Hangzhou zoo bus stop. It will take a slow 4 hours. You will at times be geographically challenged, but soon you will get the drift of it, and be better prepared to tackle the huge mountain, forest and tea village areas to the south west of the lake. The complete circuit from Xixi Rd to Wushan Square via Northern Peak, Shi Peak, Wuyun Hill, Jiuxi, HZ Zoo, Yuhuang, Fenghuang Hill will take a party of regular fitness, with stops, 10-12 hours. Then for a hike with a difference, hike out to Meijiawu and stay at a guest house, returning the following day via a different route.
- Visit the temples and pagodas. The most popular ones are Baochu pagoda, which is the tower-like one on a hill on the north side of the lake. This hill is a great hike, with excellent views of the lake and city, several smaller temples of a variety of religions, and Huanglong Cave on the northern slope of the hill. 6 Harmonies Pagoda, located on the river, is the largest and most imposing. A fun hike after the pagoda leads from the shores of the river, behind the pagoda, and into the Longjing tea fields near the tea museum. Lingyin Temple, on the west side of the lake, is also a large complex with a surprisingly devout crowd of worshipers. This area also has many excellent hikes, as well as a cable car to the top of Beifeng Hill (with another temple at the top). Finally, Leifeng Pagoda has recently been rebuilt and has escalators and elevators, while all that remains of the foundation is on display on the main level. Despite its lack of ancient Chinese beauty, the benches and gazebo-like structures surrounding the area make for a nice place to sit in the breeze, and it also has an excellent view looking in the opposite direction as the Baochu area.
- Go for a Run. The lakeside surrounds of gardens, parks, views and items of interest make a great backdrop to a run. Join the “Even If It Rains” running group of locals and laowei at 7.30PM on Tuesday nights from the Maya Bar (across the road from the stadium in Shuguang Rd, at the traffic lights where Shuguang Rd. bends). Socialise after; it’s a welcoming group. On Sundays the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers organises a run from different locations; the time and start point is published at www.hangzhou-hhh.org and visitors are welcome. On October 18th 2009 is the Vasque Goretex mountain race of approx 35km through the mountains, tea fields and lakeside. In November is held the Hangzhou marathon, half marathon and lesser distances.
- Spend an afternoon at a tea house. A highlight of visiting Hangzhou is getting out to Manjuelong Village, (South of the lake on top of the hill) Longjin Village or Meijiawu Village, (west and further west of the Lake, respectively) to drink your tea. These villages have had a make-over in the last 2 or 3 years and while can be busy at weekends they are still great places to while away an afternoon watching the tea being picked. The tea houses all serve very local food – pickled vegetables, chicken broth etc – but often there is no menu; rather the owner will suggest what you should eat. Make sure you get a price for the dishes before you tuck in.
- Shopping — see the “Buy” section for more info.
- The West Lake Golf Club near Six Harmonies Pagoda and Songcheng was designed by Jack Nicklaus.
- Boating along the Hangzhou-Beijing Canal is becoming more popular.
- Go to a book shop. Hangzhou has several book shops, Xinhua bookstore on Jiefang road near the JieBai department store is the oldest bookshop. Boku bookstore at the intersection of WenEr road and HanCheng north road. It’s a book lovers paradise.
- Learn Tai Chi Chuan. Tai chi chuan is popular in China and as part of Chinese culture it has been highly evaluated by the whole world. But the problem is if you are from another country then the language would be a big gap. One tai chi instructor for you is James Xu. He is experienced in teaching foreigners tai chi (in English) and has his own web site at.