Hangzhou and Shanghai

From Yangshou we left the countryside behind and headed to Hangzhou, and then onto Shanghai.

We only had about 24 hours in Hangzhou, but I think that was enough. In the evening, we went for a walk along the lakeside, but as it was very built up, it certainly wasn’t a stroll in the country. That said, we timed it for sunset and it was pretty as the setting sun was reflected on the lake water. There were plenty of locals also out and about, enjoying the evening, and seeing friends, and there was a number of street performers also out, including a man who was doing Chinese calligraphy in water with a big brush on the ground. There is also plenty to do on the water, and we saw lots of people out on boats of various sizes. For dinner we went to another good restaurant and had more lovely food.

The next day, we went to the Lingyin Temple, which is a Buddhist temple. When you first arrive you walk through a park, with trees, streams and lots and lots of Buddhas carved into the stone work and rockface. I imagine that some days it is lovely and peaceful there, as it had a calm feel to it, but that particular day was the day before the 70th anniversary of the founding of The People’s Republic, ie a big holiday, so lots of people were out having a day off work, so it was very busy.

After we’d walked through the park, we arrived at the temple complex and spent some time wandering around the temples, admiring the architecture and the details on the buildings. It is actually still a working temple and at times we saw the monks going about their daily life, including praying.

After that it was time to go to Shanghai. The plan was to travel by bullet train, so we headed to the train station. However, I think due to traffic we nearly missed our train, and also the train station was massive. If you happened to be at Hangzhou train station that day in early October and saw a group of about 12 British people, with suitcases, running though the station crowds, that was us! To say it was a mad dash is an understatement lol. But, fortunately we made it.

That was my first time on a bullet train, and I was impressed. It was a very smooth ride, fairly quiet, and as we went very fast it was quite a quick journey to Shanghai, just over an hour.

When we arrived in Shanghai, we went straight to the hotel, and then after dinner in a nearby restaurant we headed out into the city.

Our destination was the Bund, with its incredible views of the Shanghai skyline, all lit up at night. When we got there, it was heaving! The national holiday the next day meant lots of people were out and about enjoying the evening. It was so busy, there was a one-way system to the viewing area, and even when we got there we were at times struggling to see over people’s head. But, the view was lovely, if you love city skylines, which I do. Some of the buildings were so tall they were obscured by the clouds – more on the weather later. Our tour leader also took us round a few of the other buildings, and told us the history of the area, before we returned to the hotel for bed – it was late by this point.

The next day the weather was awful! The clouds I mentioned in the last paragraph were the beginning of the weather. There was a typhoon near Korea, and although officially we weren’t affected by it, it’s hard to believe that the day’s weather wasn’t due to this. It poured with rain all day, literally all day, at times so hard it was bouncing off the pavement. Fortunately it wasn’t cold, so it could have been worse, but we were soaked; my sandals never recovered!

The weather definitely affected our activity that day, and instead of seeing lots of Shanghai we chose indoor activities, starting with the Shanghai Museum, which to fair we were meant to go to anyway. It was a nice place to spend an hour or two, full of artefacts from Chinese history, lots of examples of pottery, ceramics and statues, and a room full of Chinese art including lots of calligraphy. In the museum shop we saw on tv that Beijing was having lovely weather – today was the national holiday, and the parades were being broadcast live from Beijing.

From there we went to the Shanghai Bazaar. It’s meant to be a traditional bazaar, but it definitely felt quite tidied up and clean. It was nice though, but mostly outside, in the rain. We were given some free time there, to have lunch, or do some shopping. I went with some of the others in the group to one of the restaurants, and without our guide’s help we managed to order some more lovely food! Of course, it helped that one of the staff spoke English, but still we were proud of ourselves lol.

After lunch we went to the temple in the bazaar, but I think by this point we were all templed out, and with the relentless rain we think we were ready to return to the hotel earlier than perhaps we might have done another day.

After a quiet couple of hours at the hotel, resting or packing, we met in the evening for dinner – our last meal together, and then we went to an acrobatic display in a local theatre. Of all the shows we saw all holiday, this was probably my favourite. It was awesome! It was a series of lots of short performances, each lasting about 10 minutes. The performers generally were incredibly flexible, bending into all sorts of shapes, or incredibly brave, such as climbing chairs stacked on top of other to over 10 meters high in the air. If you ever get the chance to see a Chinese acrobatic show I definitely recommend you do. After that it was back to the hotel – in the still pouring rain – for our last evening together. We had drinks in the hotel bar, enjoying our last hour or two together. As some of the group was leaving very early in the morning it was the last time we saw some of them.

The next morning, those of us on the group flight were taken to the airport by our tour guide, and with that our Chinese adventure was over. It had been another amazing holiday, in a beautiful country.

China seems to have a mixed reputation for holidays, some people love it, others hate it. I definitely loved it, and recommend it. I do wonder if covid has changed people’s perception of China, and I hope it hasn’t. The food is so delicious and fresh, some of the countryside is beautiful, and it was so clean and tidy – cleaner than I expected. It isn’t the easiest country to visit – just getting a visa is a challenge, and lots of western websites, including all google related sites and Facebook aren’t available – so you need to find other ways of searching the internet and staying in touch with friends and family, but if you can overcome all of that, it is definitely worth a visit.

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