The city itself is home to many attractions.  The central attraction is the “West Lake.” Walking the banks, dikes and causeways and seeing the sights is a wonderful way to spend a day.

TomTom  Tweedel is a good friend with significant experience in China and has self-published several interesting volumes of his travels in China complete with many great images and informative narrative.  Last year he visited Thailand for the first time and I had a great time showing him around the area.  Somehow he found time to put together a like 340 page book of his travels around Thailand and you can get your copy here!  I've got a copy of this book and I can tell you it's well worth it, especially for first time travelers or if you haven't seen more of Thailand than downtown Bangkok.  Tweedel is a good friend with significant experience in China and has self-published several interesting volumes of his travels in China complete with many great images and informative narrative.  Last year he visited Thailand for the first time and I had a great time showing him around the area.  Somehow he found time to put together a like 340 page book of his travels around Thailand and you can get your copy here!  I've got a copy of this book and I can tell you it's well worth it, especially for first time travelers or if you haven't seen more of Thailand than downtown Bangkok.

When Tom agreed to become part of our small select product review team I was both excited and grateful.  I hope you enjoy this and future reviews by Tom.  For those whose plans include extended travel in Thailand and China I’d recommend contacting Tom and inquiring into obtaining copies of his books.  Tom Tweedel is an Austin, TX based photographer and can be reached at: tomsds@austin.rr.com

Hangzhou is a very nice city in East Central China (Shanghai area).  For more than a millennia it has been on the top of the “go to” list for well-heeled Chinese to go visit.  It has traditionally been a place of learning, culture and beauty.  It is often mentioned in the same sentence as another city, Suzhou and usually in the context of “Heaven on Earth”.  That set some pretty high expectations.

While not a divine experience it is a very nice city.  If someone said “Tom, your moving to China next week, where do you want to live” Hangzhou would be on my short list to consider.  It has a good blend of both manicured and natural beauty, isn’t as frenetic as the big economic engine cities and is surrounded by very pleasing countryside.

The city itself is home to many attractions.  The central attraction is the “West Lake.” Walking the banks, dikes and causeways and seeing the sights is a wonderful way to spend a day.

Hangzhou is also home to a number of museums, a famous temple or two and some cool pagodas sticking up from the forested hills.  I photographed my visit there with an early generation “prosumer” Nikon CoolPix 990 which was state of the art at that time.

Part 2 – West Lake and Beyond

West Lake is the central tourist attraction in Hangzhou.  It’s a large lake 1-2 miles across whose history stretches back much further.  It has been the subject of countless poems, paintings, probably more than a few songs and much artistic contemplation.

 

West Lake has many different views.  This one of the city core across its banks.  In that respect it is like a giant Chinese garden, what you see is really a matter of perspective and the same elements can be used several times to give different scenes depending on what direction you look at them.

 

West Lake has many different views.  This one of the city core across its banks.  In that respect it is like a giant Chinese garden, what you see is really a matter of perspective and the same elements can be used several times to give different scenes depending on what direction you look at them.

 

Looking out to another side you can see some of the islands in the lake as well as the low mountains in the distance.  There are three manmade islands in the lake.

 

Looking out to another side you can see some of the islands in the lake as well as the low mountains in the distance.  There are three manmade islands in the lake.

 

In addition to the islands the lake is bisected by 3 causeways.  They vary in size but serve to divide the lake into several sub-lakes.  Each of these creates its own unique scene.  The causeways are quite nice, planted with trees and flowers

 

In addition to the islands the lake is bisected by 3 causeways.  They vary in size but serve to divide the lake into several sub-lakes.  Each of these creates its own unique scene.  The causeways are quite nice, planted with trees and flowers.

 

Strolling down the tree lined causeway in a cool afternoon breeze is a very refreshing experience.  It would have been nice to come back at other times (night, different seasons etc) to see what a different look this place would have.

 

Strolling down the tree lined causeway in a cool afternoon breeze is a very refreshing experience.  It would have been nice to come back at other times (night, different seasons etc) to see what a different look this place would have.

 

At some points along the causeways there are several bridges.  Each of these is ornately decorated and has its own story and significance.  West Lake is one of those places you should read a book about prior to visiting to really appreciate.

 

At some points along the causeways there are several bridges.  Each of these is ornately decorated and has its own story and significance.  West Lake is one of those places you should read a book about prior to visiting to really appreciate.

 

The area around the lake is home to several towers, pagoda’s and monuments. These scene framed the Baochu Pagoda, an ancient looking tower who’s origins date back to 963.  The water plants that dominate the foreground are very common in Chinese lakes.  I’m sure much time is spent keeping their numbers in check lest they take over the entire lake.

 

The area around the lake is home to several towers, pagoda’s and monuments. These scene framed the Baochu Pagoda, an ancient looking tower who’s origins date back to 963.  The water plants that dominate the foreground are very common in Chinese lakes.  I’m sure much time is spent keeping their numbers in check lest they take over the entire lake.

 

The Leifeng Pagoda is one of the more prominent structures on the lake.  Originally built in 975 to celebrate the birth of a Kings son.  It is steeped in both history and legend as it was the prison of the mythical white snake, a supernatural temptress. In reality it did house a mausoleum in which many treasures were found.

 

The Leifeng Pagoda is one of the more prominent structures on the lake.  Originally built in 975 to celebrate the birth of a Kings son.  It is steeped in both history and legend as it was the prison of the mythical white snake, a supernatural temptress. In reality it did house a mausoleum in which many treasures were found.

 

There were many small pagoda’s and other structures along the side of the lake.  Some of the views were just breathtaking, scenes that could have defined Chinese beauty in a dictionary.

 

There were many small pagoda’s and other structures along the side of the lake.  Some of the views were just breathtaking, scenes that could have defined Chinese beauty in a dictionary.

 

As the afternoon wore on and the sun shifted so did the views and the beauty of the lake.  The shadowy mountains in the background gave it a surreal feel.

 

As the afternoon wore on and the sun shifted so did the views and the beauty of the lake.  The shadowy mountains in the background gave it a surreal feel.

 

In addition to the stuff along the shore there were several parks adjacent to the lake.  Some charged and admission fee but it was well worth it to walk through this grove of tall pine trees without the bustling crowds.

 

In addition to the stuff along the shore there were several parks adjacent to the lake.  Some charged and admission fee but it was well worth it to walk through this grove of tall pine trees without the bustling crowds.

 

As I mentioned before there are several islands in the lake, one large one and two little ones. There is regular tour boat service to all of them.  The big island has a ferry while the small islands are serviced by single operator type craft.  The average depth of the lake is less than 3 feet.

 

As I mentioned before there are several islands in the lake, one large one and two little ones. There is regular tour boat service to all of them.  The big island has a ferry while the small islands are serviced by single operator type craft.  The average depth of the lake is less than 3 feet.

 

The views from the island are not to be missed.  The large island actually has a small pond in the middle so that you get a lake within a lake view.

 

The views from the island are not to be missed.  The large island actually has a small pond in the middle so that you get a lake within a lake view.

 

One of the more memorable shots from the trip was in the island looking across the bridge with the Leifeng pagoda in the background.

 

One of the more memorable shots from the trip was in the island looking across the bridge with the Leifeng pagoda in the background.

 

We arrived back at the ferry dock and found both and interesting sculpture and a vibrant field of flowers.

We arrived back at the ferry dock and found both and interesting sculpture and a vibrant field of flowers.

 

We arrived back at the ferry dock and found both and interesting sculpture and a vibrant field of flowers.

 

After enjoying West Lake we saw a few of the other sites before it was time to go. One was a visit to a Silk Museum.  This area had quite a vibrant silk industry in the past and Hangzhou has a strong silk market today. At the museum they had a number of artifacts.  This one dated from the last dynasty (about 200 years ago).

 

After enjoying West Lake we saw a few of the other sites before it was time to go. One was a visit to a Silk Museum.  This area had quite a vibrant silk industry in the past and Hangzhou has a strong silk market today. At the museum they had a number of artifacts.  This one dated from the last dynasty (about 200 years ago).

 

This silk shirt was found in a tomb and was 1000+ years old.  Silk fibers have been found dating back 5000+ years.

 

This silk shirt was found in a tomb and was 1000+ years old.  Silk fibers have been found dating back 5000+ years.

 

While in the silk museum we were just behind a large tourist group of Europeans who got treated to a fashion show of the nice silk products available in the gift shop.

 

While in the silk museum we were just behind a large tourist group of Europeans who got treated to a fashion show of the nice silk products available in the gift shop.

 

When it was time to go we decided to go out in style (and we almost did). We were going to take the overnight boat up the grand canal to Suzhou, our next destination.  We had bought the tickets before and now just needed to get there with our luggage.  The distance between our hotel and the dock was not very far, but it was a maze.  Rather than fork out of a taxi to go what amounted to maybe 10 blocks we figured we’d save a few yaun and hire this nice looking pedicab.

 

When it was time to go we decided to go out in style (and we almost did). We were going to take the overnight boat up the grand canal to Suzhou, our next destination.  We had bought the tickets before and now just needed to get there with our luggage.  The distance between our hotel and the dock was not very far, but it was a maze.  Rather than fork out of a taxi to go what amounted to maybe 10 blocks we figured we’d save a few yaun and hire this nice looking pedicab.

 

That was a big mistake. The driver knew way well enough, but the path he selected would have given a Kamikaze pilot the shakes.  Plowing through a busy streets at right angles at turtle racing speeds.  That vehicle is WAY too close and there was nothing between us and street pizza except some flimsy metal tubing.  Next time I’ll pay the extra for the taxi.

 

That was a big mistake. The driver knew way well enough, but the path he selected would have given a Kamikaze pilot the shakes.  Plowing through a busy streets at right angles at turtle racing speeds.  That vehicle is WAY too close and there was nothing between us and street pizza except some flimsy metal tubing.  Next time I’ll pay the extra for the taxi.

 

The fun wasn’t over when I discovered the thrill of our romantic overnight trip up the grand canal.  The boat was a converted barge and assumed all tourists had sea legs and no baggage. Getting on and off without going in the drink was a challenge and our gear (a rolling duffel) had to be stowed in the engine room.  And this was the “luxury” boat.  The window of our room was just above the waterline. So much for the view..

 

The fun wasn’t over when I discovered the thrill of our romantic overnight trip up the grand canal.  The boat was a converted barge and assumed all tourists had sea legs and no baggage. Getting on and off without going in the drink was a challenge and our gear (a rolling duffel) had to be stowed in the engine room.  And this was the “luxury” boat.  The window of our room was just above the waterline. So much for the view..

 

The bright spot of the tour was the party room, overpriced lousy food.  But it had some character and beat inhaling diesel fumes, until the cranked up the Karoake.  Most of our traveling companions were young lovers.  When you considered a good percentage of these people probably still lived with their parents (common in China even after marriage at the time) this trip would have been a great opportunity..

 

The bright spot of the tour was the party room, overpriced lousy food.  But it had some character and beat inhaling diesel fumes, until the cranked up the Karoake.  Most of our traveling companions were young lovers.  When you considered a good percentage of these people probably still lived with their parents (common in China even after marriage at the time) this trip would have been a great opportunity..

 

After a rather sleepless night (I woke up every time our barge bumped against the tug) we arrived in Suzhou for the next leg of our journey.  Looking out at the structures along the water I saw a lot of house boats and apartments.  Many looked cobbled together.  I wondered about the lives of the people who lived here. What was it like, who were they and how did they see it.  Maybe on another trip..

 

After a rather sleepless night (I woke up every time our barge bumped against the tug) we arrived in Suzhou for the next leg of our journey.  Looking out at the structures along the water I saw a lot of house boats and apartments.  Many looked cobbled together.  I wondered about the lives of the people who lived here. What was it like, who were they and how did they see it.  Maybe on another trip..

For now Hangzhou was done and the tour of the Gardens and shopping strips was to begin.