I almost hesitate to write this post because I don’t want to let the secret out. Though my passport is full of China visas from living in nearby Hong Kong, I can’t say that I’ve ever been to a more beautiful part of the mainland than Hangzhou in the spring.
I will go into significantly more detail in the coming weeks about this gorgeous spot, but here are ten things you may not know about Hangzhou.
1. It’s An Hour By Train From Shanghai
Chinese G or bullet trains are new, clean and an incredibly smooth ride. Hop on one to Hangzhou from Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities.
There are two stations—Hangzhou City and Hangzhou East—to choose based on which part of town you need to be in. On the flip side, Hangzhou is an easy 2.5-hour flight on Dragonair from Hong Kong. Note that those who don’t need a visa to enter Hong Kong may need a visa to enter mainland China.
2. Marco Polo Loved It
Yes, over 800 years ago Marco Polo declared Hangzhou as, “The finest and most splendid city in the world.” After being there in the spring, I tend to agree.
3. West Lake Is A UNESCO World Heritage Site
With its well-maintained spectacular setting comprised of immaculate vegetation, pagodas, temples and more, it’s no surprise that Hangzhou’s West Lake (pictured in the top photo) has inspired poets since the 9th century.
4. It’s The Tea Capital Of China
Dragon well or longjing tea is grown in Hangzhou and considered the finest and most expensive tea in China. I can vouch for the latter as I nearly blew my entire customs allowance on longjing tea (it’s that good)! The taste of this green tea is rather mild and pleasant.It’s the sort of tea you can drink constantly. I’m sipping some as I type this.
We were lucky enough to participate in the April harvest by picking tea leaves alongside workers in the fields (thank goodness the leaves go through a sifting process). It was an experience I’ll never forget.
5. China’s Grand Canal Ends In Hangzhou
The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, is the longest canal or artificial river in the world. It’s connected northern and southern China for over 1400 years and is still in operation today, however, some parts are too dry for ships to pass through.
6. There Are Four Seasons
(Yes, we stayed in the fabulous Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou but that’s now what I’m talking about… yet. It’s pictured above.)
It snows in Hangzhou in the winter, blooms in spring, gets hot in the summer, and enjoys a fragrant and dry fall. Some argue that the best time to visit is between April and October, though the lake and surroundings are still beautiful when covered in snow.
7. Hangzhou Is Famous For Silk
You’ll see silk clothing and trinkets everywhere in Hangzhou for a reason. Silk fabric was developed in China and according to archeological findings, as far back as the period of the Liangzhu Culture (3400-2250 BC), the ancestors of the Hangzhou people were already engaged in a series of silk making activities from raising silkworms to making primitive tools for silk weaving.
Hangzhou is considered the capital of silk as silk from here is incredibly soft, luxurious and decorative. The techniques were a closely guarded secret for thousands of years for a good reason. It’s also an incredibly labor-intensive process!
8. There’s A Public Bicycle System
Grab a transportation smart card (the Z card is designed for tourists) and have access to over 1000 bicycles around the city. You’ll see the red bikes that are up for grabs stationed around town. Riding a bike isn’t a chore in Hangzhou, especially around scenic West Lake. However, some luxury hotels have free loaner bicycles.
9. People From Shanghai And Beyond Take Wedding Pictures Here
West Lake is truly beautiful enough to pack up all of your wedding gear, arrive in Hangzhou, have hair and makeup done and then take pictures for the day. If traffic cooperates, the drive from Shanghai is 2.5 hours. In April with the flowers in bloom, there were brides on what seemed like every green space.
My driver couldn’t believe it when I told him in the US, we take pictured and get married on the same day. Not so in China.
10. Rain or Shine, A Show Takes Place On The Lake (Literally)
Impressions West Lake, designed by the same person responsible for the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, is staged at night on the water. There must be a stage a few inches below the surface. The colored lighting around the perimeter of the lake during the show is what makes it. I’ve never seen anything like it. More details to come.
Have you visited Hangzhou?