Electric Turnstiles and Prada Handbags …Hangzhou

Imagine a Chinese painting, all rocky hills, pagodas and wibbly trees and there you have it…We could see why the city slickers wanted to escape here. It had a peaceful feeling which had alluded us in the big city; staring out over the misty water, just able to pick out the hills on the other side you could almost believe you were in one of those paintings…

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A few hours by fast train from Shanghai, lies the playground to Shanghai’s rich and famous… Hangzhou. A modern and bustling city built around a picturesque lake, it is the place that provides the calming ying to match the busy yang of modern Shanghai life, and makes for a perfect weekend getaway. How did we know it is a favourite haunt of the wealthy I hear you ask? Well the rows upon rows of shops selling Chanel and Prada products was a kind of giveaway. We did consider having a browse in these shops wearing our walking boots and fake dirty Northface jackets, but this time, decided against it.

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The city was once the nation’s capital and has a long history of poetry, writing and painting going on in its tea houses, and as such has left some beautiful pagodas, temples and other assorted buildings all protected by electronic turnstiles. Hangzhou was the town where we learnt the power of the electric ticket turnstile for the Chinese tourist. The message we took away was if you have to buy a ticket before being helped through a turnstile by a member of staff the number of visitors doubles, regardless of what or how good the attraction was (its often crap). Another mystery is why the very expensive ticket scanning system is installed at all when the attraction still employs people to help you scan your ticket…begging the question why don’t the humans just check them. Hey but its China! Things don’t always make sense here…

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As regular readers will know by now, one of the main attractions to any new place for us is the local food, and we couldn’t leave Hangzhou without trying one of its most famous exports, Beggars Chicken. Once a dish of the poorest of the poor, a whole chicken (head, feet.. the whole works) is encased in mud and leaves and placed into the embers of a fire. The mud casing on the chicken ensures all the juices stay in the bird, leaving a succulent, extremely tasty and very hard to eat dish… especially with your hands, whilst standing in the street…

Beggars Chicken...

Beggars Chicken…

Hangzhou is also famous for its tea growing, tea drinking and its tea houses. The Longjing tea that is grown here is often considered the best in China, and can sell for hundreds of dollars a kilo. Being the sophisticated people we are, we of course had to try some, and to our well-trained pallets it tasted of… well… green tea, just like all the other green tea in China… I guess we wont be blowing our budget on obscure tea…

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We only had a day in Hangzhou before we had to get on yet another overnight train south to Guangzhou…spoiler we made it!

R&E

 

 

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