Travelogue: Playing Misty in Hangzhou

Friday, 16 November 2007

Supposedly the most beautiful city in China, Hangzhou shrouded itself in a glamorous white cloak for the duration of my recent far-too-brief stay this week. It was nonetheless beautiful. There is a saying in Hangzhou that goes something like this...

Clear day in Hangzhou - good.
Rain in Hangzhou - better.
Mist in Hangzhou - best.

This city could look beautiful caked in mud.

Colours of Hangzhou

Although my visit was brief, I managed to enjoy some fabulous shopping along He Feng Lu - Hangzhou is the silk capital of China and even hosts a Silk Museum. Tea is another speciality. Longjing tea is renowned and ridiculously expensive (depending on the grade) though I did manage to snaffle 75g for around RMB150. Hangzhou also hosts the National Tea Museum.

Another highlight was Lingyin Temple - or Soul's Retreat monastery, with surly (yes, you read it right) monks in butter yellow robes. The serene and beautiful monastery featured egg-yolk yellow walls and luscious landscaping, but the highlight was the thousand year old Buddha carvings in the rock faces around the temple. Just very, very special.

Then there is West Lake - which was quite a clouded mystery for the most part, being shrouded in its lovely white cape. It was nonetheless special to see flat dark brown wooden boats materialise through the white, sliding across the shiny water silently.

The leaves were turning – that egg-yolk yellow and that gorgeous luminous red you find on Japanese maples. So despite the muted white of the air, these foreground colours made the white even more pretty, like a muted lens on an aging moviestar wearing red Chanel lipgloss.

The 1000 year old structures around the lake also lent a dreamlike, Oriental air. We visited the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon island in the middle of West Lake – which has lakes on an island in the middle of the lake. Got it? Very special.

Mist or no mist, you must must go.

Read more about my travels under the "Travelogue:" headings.

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