Hangzhou is a pretty place, cradled in the hills near the touristy West Lake just outside Shanghai. Quaint canals and waterways criss-cross the city, and on the outskirts the famed Wetlands offer an oasis of tranquillity for Hangzhou citizens and visitors. Although the city itself is steeped in history, sprawling satellite towns accommodate the rising suburban population. Sculptured and meticulously manicured parklands are dotted between high-rise flat blocks to afford outdoor spaces for walking, playing and exercise in the absence of domestic gardens. And the scenery, flora and skylines are mirrored in splendour in the many watercourses, pools and ponds as a tribute to the architects of ancient and modern Hangzhou.
Hangzhou is an affluent city, certainly by Chinese standards. Although there are cyclists aplenty, the picture of swarms of blue-uniformed men on bicycles gushing along crowded street is all but history. Cars, big cars, have replaced the humble bicycle and fill the roads at rush hour and e-bikes (electrical scooters) are a much more common sight, less effort involved. Short, tight mini-skirts and skin-squeezing imitation-leather trousers are de rigour, as well as built-in platforms or height-defying stilettos which add gravitas, decorum and obviously stature. At least as it is still winter, legs are covered with tights, but I have been led to believe that when summer arrives the skirts will not be any longer… What a difference with India where I would have been stared at just for daring to bare my shoulders, let alone a bit of leg…
It’s hard to believe that I have been in Hangzhou now exactly one month. Time has flown and it feels as if I have been here forever. Apart from the inevitable language barrier, lack of anything worthwhile on the television and maybe some of the parts of town where typical Chinese architecture has been preserved or imitated, Hangzhou would fit well into any Western corner of the world. It is easy living, apart from the teaching perhaps…..
And the photographs below were taken at the Hangzhou Wetlands, which I visited last Sunday whilst in good company. It looks like I have already found myself another ‘Doctor Anne’ to travel with at weekends… and she is even Indian to boot… Maybe it is not that easy to shake off India after all; I may have grumbled and complained, but I will always have a soft spot for them.
And lunch??? Well, we ordered from the menu and made sure it had some chicken in it, but were not quite expecting to be presented with a whole chicken, head intact….