Whenever I visit China, I always make it a point to visit Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province's capital and largest city.
As I used to visit this beautiful city during either Spring or Summer, it was my intention to see how it would look during winter. As it is close to Shanghai, there is a great chance that it won't snow in Hangzhou but for this year, Lady Luck was on our side. We arrived late in the afternoon after an overnight stay at Tengtou Village in Ningbo for work. As advised by the secretary of Mr. Fu Qiping, we got off at a bus terminal in Ningbo and bought our tickets (the place was packed with people buying last-minute tickets to their hometown; it was a few days away till the Chinese New Year).
In the past I usually rode a fast train (动车) from Shanghai to Hangzhou as it is a lot more convenient and faster than taking a long-distance bus. This time though, we went for the latter as it is exponentially cheaper.
It took more than two hours to get to Hangzhou from Ningbo. It was freezing cold and every seat on the bus has a passenger--oh boy!
The bus is actually a lot bigger than it looks. We were sitting somewhere in the middle.
This baby made the two-hour trip bearable, thanks to his curious stares and occasional chuckles.
Upon arrival, we wasted no time and tried to hail a taxi to the hostel/inn we planned to stay in. The drivers kept refusing to take us to the West Lake area for a variety of reasons so we settled for the private vehicles parked along tight alleys near the terminal. It was very much like colorum vehicles in the Philippines except that the drivers are Chinese and you can't say "Diyan na lang po sa tabi." We shared the van with a fashion student from Shanghai who willingly started a conversation with us. Second time I've been mistaken for a guy from Guangdong.
It was already nearing dark by the time we exited the inn to walk around and take photos. We were told that it had been snowing the whole night and the roads were not passable for several hours, hence the snow by the roadsides.
This time, we ate at the famed Lou Wai Lou as per a close friend's recommendation. It took about an hour's walk to get to Solitary Island (West Lake) from where we were originally taking photos but with the cold winter air to keep us from perspiring excessively, it felt rather comfortable walking that far.
The long path to Lou Wai Lou. Be ready for a long walk as it may take more than 15 minutes to reach the other end of this island bridge at the heart of West Lake.
The REAL Lou Wai Lou restaurant. There was another restaurant near this building that had the same name (楼外楼) but is considerably smaller and looks like a small diner so don't get confused.
After dinner, we walked some more and even watched the musical/dancing fountain located along the East side of West Lake (at Park #3, near Hyatt Regency ). The display runs every 30 minutes so make sure you're there early for the next run as it can draw quite a big crowd.
This fountain shoots high up and with musical accompaniment! Why else would it be called a musical fountain if it lacked musical qualities?
A stroll along Hangzhou's West Lake is considered by many as a magical and humbling experience. It pales in comparison to strolls in Shanghai's busy streets and Beijing's history-rich travel spots but Hangzhou has 2,200 years under its name and has a popularity that is written even in the oldest of Chinese classic literature.
(above, there is heaven; below, there is Suzhou and Hangzhou)
To have seen Hangzhou's West Lake during Winter was a wholly different experience and one that I wouldn't mind doing again in the future.