Friday, October 29, 2010

Oct 29 2010 | Road trip to Hangzhou!

urinal in Jiaxin
Today a friend of a friend met us near the office - we checked out of the hotel and stopped by the office to wrap up a few last odds and ends - and his driver took us to the town of Hangzhou. It's a small city about 3 hours south of Shanghai. When my friend had to back out of the trip at the last minute and offered his business partner to drive us and provide a tour guide to visit Hangzhou, initially I felt like I was becoming a huge imposition. Now that we have seen some of the town and what it offers, I realize that he and his girlfriend (the acting tour guide) probably jumped at the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Hangzhou.

piloting the boat to island in West Lake
About halfway to our destination, we stopped at a roadside shop in the town of Jiaxin (sounds like Jason). we feasted on various kinds of dim sum, including a particularly good soup dumpling with the soup inside the dumpling - and the local specialty sticky rice in a palm leaf. we've had different versions of these things before, but perhaps never quite as locally authentic. for me, it was amazing to finally be in a Chinese town besides Shanghai. in the past 3 years, i have made 4 trips to China, but never left the city I call home away from home. finally getting a little bit out of Shanghai, and being guided by lifelong locals to some perhaps touristy places -- but designed for local tourists -- is a truly special experience.

beautiful Pagoda view from island in West Lake
the highlight for me was the bathroom. for years, i'd been warned to be prepared for odd bathrooms. i finally got my first taste of an unusual one. for the urinal, men stand on a raised grate, then pee into a waterfall with a glass wall behind it. there is an enclosed terrarium behind the wall. (PHOTO 1) i was absolutely thrilled to find something this interesting. hopefully as we venture out of the protection of mother Shanghai, we'll find more and more curiosities. even more hopefully, i'll eventually regret that last statement.

dragon restaurant boat coming to pick up hungry tourists
Hangzhou is a beautiful town centered about Xi (West) Lake. The serenity of this location has, ironically, been involved in many famous wars throughout history. for example, when the Mongols (KHAAAAAN!!!) were continuously invading China for generations (think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), the last Han hold out was in Hangzhou. There is a famous story of a General who was brilliantly defending the territory (and even making progress invading Mongol territory), a well-placed Han politician who sold out the General to the Mongols, and an emperor who trusted the politician and was too busy enjoying the serenity of the lake to be bothered with trifles such as the invading Mongols and whether to trust or assassinate the General (he chose the latter). The fast forward a couple thousand years, soon-to-be-Chairman Mao spent time on the islands in the lake while he planned the revolution that would usher in Communism, and later retired to West Lake, drinking Long Jin tea and writing poetry.

night market!!
As with any great R & R spot, the food here is unique and tasty. We were treated to a fried sweet flower crepe named after the traitorous politician who sold about the General and the Han people, Ringing Bells (crispy fried tofu skin dipped in tomato sauce), longjin prawns (shrimp in the local tea), ashen chicken, dongpo pork, fried tofu skin in tomato sauce, fried ice cream, and other local treats. Afterwards, we walked about the lake -- which is lit beautifully during the night -- went shopping for a coat for Olga (no matter what size we picked none of them would fit quite right until we tried men's styles) -- and explored the night market, which is sort of a cross between a flea market, crafts market, knock-off market, street food fair -- and all on tables in the street throughout the night.


Lisa said...

Pee into a waterfall with a terrarium? I've never heard of anything like that. Ingenious! And I suppose it good be good for the plants, too.;)

Lisa said...

Why can't I ever spell correctly when I leave comments? Anyway, great post! I love the photos.

Anonymous said...

Scenery is lovely. Olga's looking sexy in her coat (supposedly) made for a Chinese man! ~ O