Hanging Out in Hangzhou

Hangzhou is a Chinese city of about three million people (more than twice the size of San Antonio) and is on the Eastern coast. Its most famous feature is the beautiful West Lake. A lovely expanse of water surrounded by rolling hills which are ordained by the occasional pagoda and encased by a nicely landscaped foot and bike path along the water’s edge. We didn’t get much time to hang out by the lake, but we scoped out the boat cruises and the bike rentals so our group can get to experience the lake a little more next summer on the tour.
Our main purpose this morning was meeting with the folks at the Hangzhou High School. They are interested to see if there was some potential for our students to visit the school next June. We met with the school principal, Mr. Zhou, the school music teacher and the school English teacher. Mr. Zhou and the school music teacher speak very limited English so we relied heavily on our guide and the school English teacher to translate – which tends to make meetings last twice as long! We have some more details to figure out, but there is certainly an opportunity for our students to have a very meaningful interaction with some Chinese students of similar age. They will also send a good delegation of supporters to our concert in Hangzhou which will help ensure we have a good audience.

Our next stop was to see the Hangzhou’s Zhejiang Concert Hall. It has 557 seats with a nice acoustic. While it is not the most modern concert hall I have seen, it will serve us well for our performance next summer.

One of the great things about having the opportunity to do a site inspection trip is to make sure all the basic elements of the tour are good. There is nothing more frustrating than having to put up with a bad hotel and this is what we initially found in Hangzhou. We had been put up in a hotel which was looking very outdated and the lingering smell in the rooms seem to prove it. I went straight back downstairs to request an alternative room and bumped into our tour manager, Rick, doing exactly the same thing! So a quick word with our host, Daniel Xu and he had arranged for us to inspect an alternative hotel. And I am pleased to report that the Hangzhou Sunny Huansha Hotel was a vast improvement. We will stay there for one night but as the group leader, I would have been dreading the groups’ reaction to staying in the old hotel. One thing I can’t do much about though is the rather firmer beds the Chinese seem to like. We’ll request some additional duvet covers which people can sleep on if they are particularly sensitive to a firm mattress.

From the hotel we had time to spend about 20 minutes at Qinghefang, a delightful shopping street full of trinkets and other traditional Chinese goods. Unlike much of these stores in Shanghai, this street was a real delight to walk through. One of the highlights was a traditional Chinese medicine pharmacy. It was a little like walk back in time 50 years as there was a high counter with an amazing array of roots, leaves and herbs ready to be ground in the right mixture for you. There were also some interesting food vendors again, but here there were hoards of Chinese people gathering around devouring the most unlikely looking foods. Crab on a stick, fried fish heads and a few other indescribable things!

We didn’t have much time for lunch so just planned to eat at Hangzhou airport before our flight into Hong Kong. That was a mistake, we paid over $50 for a super basic meal, but it was the only place to get anything to eat – note to self – avoid having to eat in the airport again. And then to top it all off we didn’t realize that Asian airline companies have not cut back like the U.S. ones have so we still had a meal served to us on our two hour flight. It is also ironic that Dragon Air, who primary customers are the Chinese people who tend to be shorter in height than Americans, actually gives you more leg room. One of life’s mysteries.

Steven Payne

Young lady enjoying crab on a stick

Young lady enjoying crab on a stick

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One Response to “Hanging Out in Hangzhou”

  1. Sharron Duplessy Says:

    I learned from the news on, The Shanghai World Expo will be very busy, May 20 I’m going to. China tourism will definitely very hot, there is traveling to China friend?

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