Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Yesterday I went to Hangzhou with Rocky. It’s a picturesque town outside of Shanghai about an hour and a half by bullet train. Usually people spend a leisurely 2-3 days enjoying the sights, but we were going to squeeze in the best sights in one day. First of all we went to a temple on a small mountain called “Linyin Temple.” I’ll include a small sampling of the 5000 pictures that I took.

The mountain temple was a very earthy place, and I think the most impressive part was the feeling of being there. The atmosphere was not the same as Shanghai at all. Smooth wet stones paved the way and the unevenness in the ground came naturally, rather than from a sewer repair project. Cicadas blasted their music into the hazy summer day with the murmur of Chinese chitchat as the backup vocals. It was hard to distinguish the smoky incense from the haze in the air, and the sweet smell of incense mixed with a just-rained smell.

We walked over a meandering path built into West Lake that took us around to see the beautiful lotus gardens. They were full of healthy giant floating leaves and giant bright pink flowers. No wonder the Buddha is always sitting on a lotus—I’d never realized how big and comfortable looking they were before.

After this, we stopped at a restaurant to eat some famous food of the area and to power up. I think I had an out of body experience while I was eating the “not very fishy-tasting-fish soup.” It was a dark brown color and had slightly thick consistency due to the cornstarch. Julienned bamboo shoots, mushrooms and ginger pieces were suspended in the soup. As I was eating it, I felt my solar plexus getting hotter and hotter as if a fire were building behind my heart. It was quite an amazing and powerful sensation and it really seemed as if I were observing my body from a distance. Then I realized it was just the ginger. Whew!

On the menu, we had Xi Hu Cu Yu, or West Lake with Acid Sauce Fish-- which I think “acid” really means vinaigrette. We split a piece of Dong Po pork, which was named after a famous poet. The pork piece included layers of skin, fat, and meat. I don’t know what cut of pork it came from, but it was probably slow cooked for a long time, which made it really rich and tender. It had to be cut with rice.

Our next stop was Hu Pao Quan, or Dreaming of Tigers Spring. You should have heard me mangle the names of these places when I tried to explain to my classmates where I went. This is where the water from the mountain spring constantly refreshed the air as we followed its small stream up to a teahouse. We drank some famous Long Jing Tea with the Hu Pao spring water.

What makes Hu Pao water so special, you may ask? Well, the density of the water apparently is greater than that of regular water, so it forms a higher than usual meniscus. We tested this theory on our tea several times. We filled our glasses to the top and then drop-by-drop saw how high we could get it before it ran over. We made some pretty impressive menisci and before I left the springs, I never knew I could pee for soooooo long.

Our final stop was the East Shore of West Lake (Xi Hu). Since it was “smoky” outside the sunset was cancelled for the evening, but we took many many pictures anyway. On the banks were weeping willows that said, “Hold hands with your love and stroll slowly. Come on, share an ice cream in this heat!” Weeping willows have a lot to say, it seems. Anyway, we stopped at Mickey D’s for some sodium and my favorite: mango pie. We power walked to the station, and hopped on the train!

The sights were beautiful and I think Rocky did a good job of orchestrating a plan. Everything went off without a hitch and before I knew it, the day was over. I can see why you’d want to spend a few days in Hongzhou. It’s a beautiful place and it begs for you to slow down and wander.

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