Halfway through our holiday the four of use decided to head to Hangzhou (pronounced hung-jo) for a couple of days. It took about one hour on the fast train from Ningbo and thankfully our first choice of hotel had space when we turned up. Right in the centre of busy Hangzhou is West Lake – a man made lake that is considered one of the most beautiful sights of China. It encompasses islands and is surrounded by temples, pagodas, gardens and arched bridges.
The two days we were there it was very cloudy and grey, which was unfortunate – the mountains were just hazy shadows, the visibility was poor and we did have a heavy patch of rain. We did however, manage to walk around a large portion of it and experience Chinese culture at its best.
Hangzhou is an incredibly busy city and it felt strange to stumble across a charming lake amongst all the madness and beeping of horns.
Dancing in the street has to be my favourite discovery on our trip – Chinese people love to dance and there is something beautiful and unifying about it. Women dance in the street each night, large groups form a circle and passers-by take it in turns to lead, people do Tai Chi alone or in groups, huge amounts of couples dancing and even people dancing along to a radio by themselves or to the voice of a friend singing. No awkwardness, no looks of feeling self conscious and no people laughing at them. They move so differently to us and it’s rather enchanting.
Personally, I would love to have a little dance when I pop to my local market, but I can’t see it catching on in England.
We didn’t completely understand what was going with the Chinese symbols, but groups of people appeared to be playing a game similar to hangman – guessing what symbol was coming next as the man drew with oil.
The path surrounding the lake was packed with Chinese tourists, so we decided to go for a boat ride to get some peace! Sometimes it got a little claustrophobic being around so many people, all of the time.
The temple we discovered one our way around the lake was deserted, which was really fantastic. The boys got to run around and climb about and we got to relax a little bit.
After catching the train back to Ningbo we decided to have a look around the museum – we’d spotted the building a few times from taxis and it looked so unusual. We couldn’t understand much inside (!) but there were beautifully rebuilt streets, shops and homes from centuries ago that I thoroughly enjoyed looking at. Ceramic pots, woven baskets and everything (absolutely everything) you can imagine carved out a jade.
We decided to stop for a snack outside the museum and what you can’t tell from this photo is that there are four people stood right in front of us just talking and staring at us. It was awkward, and really quite amazing – socially and culturally, we are so different.
I thought I was buying fruit pouches, but it turns out I was buying fruit ice-cream in a pouch – clearly Ru was trying to down it before I realised!
One night in Ningbo we were invited by a group we met at church to go out for an Indian meal and karaoke. Karaoke is the main form of entertainment in China, so I was excited to experience it – we were not disappointed! Black painted walls, lit candles, skulls, feathers and diamanté microphones, it had a seedy feel to it and the rooms were huge. It was impossible to take a decent photograph.
There were about twenty people in our group and it was such good fun. Winston sat there completely unmoved and wide eyed, in shock I think. We stayed for about an hour – I was dancing, singing and rapping along to the likes of Justin Bieber, Pitbull, Michael Jackson and Queen with lots of other girls. Amongst our group was a large Hungarian man who was such a character – watching him singing and dancing had me in utter hysterics!
Takeaway, Chinese style – except it’s chargrilled chicken with salad and houmous. I think it was my favourite meal of the whole holiday.