Cheng Chin Yuen

Saturday, September 23, 2006

9th Sept – Tong Li to Hang Zhou

It is a drizzly morning. I hop out of bed, take a couple of hundred photos of a relatively quiet, peaceful, wet and empty Tong Li and wake Karen up to catch the noon bus to Hang Zhou.

Our host is the local doctor so he gets a little jumpy when I put my guitar on my bed. Our room is spot-less and he advises us to run hot water down the tub to kill all the worms that live somewhere below or they will come crawling up when you bathe. Amazingly he has had one guy from Singapore at his place.

‘SINGAPORE! A VERY GOOD COUNTRY!’ he bellows (he only bellows).

I heard that a zillion times before.

Hang Zhou was cold and windy. We called the youth hostel, reserved two beds and found out how to get there.

‘Simple, take 155, drop at Wulin Square, take 12.’

The problem started when there was no 155. We got onto a bus that was headed for the train station east of the city centre, saw a number 12 go past, got off, caught the next one and found ourselves at the youth hostel 1 hour later. No problem. Hang Zhou is prosperous. It looks and feels more prosperous than Beijing or any other Chinese city we have been to.

The hostel here is the best we’ve been in. You enter your room by scanning a card and the lockers here are big enough for my guitar. Thoughtfully, there is a little shelf, reading light and power socket by each bed. The toilet doesn’t smell of the kitchen and vice-versa and the shower’s excellent. Two wonderful young collies and a white cat with three kittens seals the top spot. Of course there’s free WiFi, a small climbing wall and the West Lake or Xi(1) Hu(2) is just next door!

It was too dark to see Xi Hu but not windy enough to stop us from walking five or six blocks to Kui Yuan Restaurant to try two of their 43 noodle varieties. The 25 yuan fried eel and shrimp noodles I had was excellent! Karen’s shrimp noodles was only half as good.

On the way back, Karen went to buy a brush from Watsons while I waited over a cup of McDonald’s hot chocolate. One signboard here reads ‘Ni gou niu ma?’ or ‘Are you beef enough?’

I spent the night uploading the rest of the Beijing photographs.

10th Sept - Hang Zhou to Huang Shan

I wake up much earlier than usual and spend a long time watching the kittens and collies play in the courtyard. Mummy cat has eyes and kittens of different colours and the collies are chasing, biting and wrestling.

Xi Hu is a great place to be on a Sunday morning to watch old folks doing their stretches, practising tai-chi, playing chess, taking toddlers for a walk or catching up with friends. At one shelter were four musicians playing old Chinese hits to live crooning by a line-up of eager aunties. They take their singing very seriously and pump in a good dose of emotion and expression, oblivious to the gathering crowd. There never seems to be a shortage of singers waiting in line as the musicians flip their scores and tune their instruments. Each one, except for the percussionist has a small but effective amplifier attached to the belt. The show is real draw for the old and they sing along while the young try to understand what is being sung as it is often in dialect.

At 2 kilometres wide and a bit longer in length, the enormous lake is Hang Zhou’s main attraction. Lawns are kept immaculate by uniformed guards and a low rope barrier. Willow trees line the windy pavements here but there are few joggers. However, cycling is not permitted here given the human traffic. Soothing Chinese classical music is channelled throughout the park and we try to find the grey box amplifiers in the bushes. Little cosy enclaves of eateries and cafés have sprung up around the lake and Crystal Jade has a huge outlet here together with Starbucks and Hagen Das. It would be nice to spend the whole day here but we have one more mountain to climb.


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