The widely expressed Chinese proverb, "in
heaven there is paradise and on earth there are Hangzhou
and Suzhou" combined with the words of Marco Polo
who described this place as, "the most beautiful
and magnificent city in the world" have helped
to make Hangzhou one of the most popular tourist destinations
in the entire country.
Fortunately, while any city would struggle
to live up to a reputation as "paradise",
Hangzhou makes a good stab at it. Despite the crowds,
hoards of tour groups and the idyllic preconceptions
one might have before arrival, it is hard not to like
this city. Even the most cynical traveler will appreciate
the West Lake for its space and beauty, if nothing else.
Hangzhou is a city with a rich history and
culture, spanning back over 2000 years. The city first
made a name for itself in the sixth century, when the
Grand Canal opened up and linked the area to other centers
of trade such as Suzhou. The Song dynasty helped to
make Hangzhou famous when they moved the imperial family
here in the 12th Century. With its inviting views and
outstanding scenery, the West Lake soon became popular
with numerous artists, poets and painters seeking inspiration
in this little bit of "paradise".
Today, Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang
province has a population of 6.11 million. The "West
Lake" provides the idyllic image of Hangzhou that
most people leave with. This huge circular fresh water
lake, covering 3km from north to south and 3kms from
east to west, is surrounded by hills on three sides
and the city on the fourth. Two picture- postcard causeways
cross the lake and three islands float in the middle.
There are numerous historical relics and sights scattered
about the Lake, including the famous Buddhist temple,
Lingyin Si. You can see many of Hangzhou's sights in
a couple of days. However, this is a nice place to relax
and do some good walking and eating so if possible,
plan to spend at least a few days here.
Most visitors to Hangzhou come from Shanghai,
and the stark contrast between the two cities is incredible.
Hangzhou can get very busy but the sheer size of the
area around the West Lake, means that it is always possible
to find a bit of peace and quiet. The air and the water
feel refreshingly clean here too, and a day or two spent
walking around the lake, the tea plantations and the
surrounding hills should blow away any cobwebs, leaving
you feeling refreshed and recharged.
Wuzhen Water Town
China Silk Museum