Hanging out in Hangzhou

When:  September 2015                                  Weather: Warm, 26C

Leica M240/21 super elmar, 35 summilux,    Nikon P900

In Hangzhou for a few days and having previously visited it only for a few hours and not having been impressed by the famous Westlake or XiHu, I resolved to spend a little more time checking out why Westlake was such an iconic lake in chinese literature such that there have been numerous poems, paintings and writings about it over the last 1500 years or so.

Located in the west of Hangzhou City, hence West Lake, it’s a very big lake surrounded on three sides by mountain and on the northwestside by Hangzhou City…

View of Xihu towards hagnzhou City

View of Xihu towards hagnzhou City

View of mountains to the east in the afternoon sun

View of mountains to the east in the afternoon sun

Paths and walkways like this ring the whole lake and if you want to walk around it, it's about 15km

Paths and walkways like this ring the whole lake and if you want to walk around it, it’s about 15km

The flora around the lake lotuses etc

The flora around the lake lotuses etc

A boat ride around Xihu is not a bad way to see the lake and its surrounding beauty spots...

A boat ride around Xihu is not a bad way to see the lake and its surrounding beauty spots…

famous posts in the water

famous posts in the water..symbolic of Hangzhou’s West lake

beautiful buildings on the shore

beautiful buildings on the shore

The must-see Lei Feng Pagoda stands majestically overlooking xihu

The must-see Lei Feng Pagoda stands majestically overlooking xihu

Getting on shore to visit Lei Feng Pagoda

Getting on shore to visit Lei Feng Pagoda

Lei Feng area

Lei Feng area

Roof detail of Lei Feng Pagoda

Roof detail of Lei Feng Pagoda

The ethereal mountain ranges fringing Xihu

The ethereal mountain ranges fringing Xihu from the top of Lei Feng

There was also a good view of a temple which was the inspiration for the song Nan Ping Wan Zhong..evening bells at Nanping Hill

There was also a good view of a temple which was the inspiration for the song Nan Ping Wan Zhong..evening bells at Nanping Hill

close up of teh Nanping Wan Zhong temple

close up of the Nanping Wan Zhong temple

An evening walk along the 'Broken Bridge' or duan chiao...willows gently wafting in the wind.

An evening walk along the ‘Broken Bridge’ or duan chiao…willows gently wafting in the wind.

Where the children played...

Where the children played…

and had interesting headgear..

and had interesting headgear..

and lovers huddled as the sun set on xihu

and lovers huddled as the sun set on xihu

the kite flyers were also out

the kite flyers were also out

sunset on xihu

sunset on xihu

sunset

sunset on the water

Night view of the Broken Bridge

Night view of the Broken Bridge

And then we watched a performance of ‘Impressions of Westlake’, a sound and visual show directed by China’s most famous film director, Zhang Yi Mou.  These multimedia presentations can often be hit or miss affairs and I wasn’t really sure what we were going to see and whether it would be tacky or touristy….but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the visit to West Lake.  So an area of the lake is cordoned off and open air seating on terraces is created on the bank; we were seated on the upper level in a fixed boat moored to the bank which gave excellent views of the show….

Impressions of WestLake

Impressions of WestLake

730pm in the evening, before the show started...the place was serene

730pm in the evening, before the show started…the place was serene

and as the light faded, a giant round screen appeared introducing the show

and as the light faded, a giant round screen appeared introducing the show

the beautiful lights came on

the beautiful lights came on and a solitary figure appeared on the water

performers danced on the water

performers danced on the water

in an explosion of colour..

in an explosion of colour..

accompanied by the most haunting musical score....

accompanied by the most haunting musical score….

as a classical love story unfolded

as a classical love story unfolded

and then this amazing houseboat drifted into view...

and then this amazing houseboat drifted into view…

And this impressive edifice appeared from the water...

while this impressive edifice appeared from the water…

with the lovers running onto it

with the lovers running onto it

and the houseboat beckons

and the houseboat beckons

the starstruck lovers die tragically and are turned into birds...

the starstruck lovers die tragically and are turned into birds…

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and the show ends with the theme song Impressions of West Lake Rain beautifully sung by Jane Zhang

and the show ends with the theme song Impressions of West Lake Rain beautifully sung by Jane Zhang

The show lasted an hour but it went by quickly! Highly recommended!

The show lasted an hour but it went by quickly! Highly recommended!

Going back to our hotel, we passed this temple which was the tomb of one of the great generals in Chinese military history, Yue Fei…who was killed when he was not yet 40…

General Yue Fei's tomb

General Yue Fei’s tomb

We had time to visit the famous tea plantations of Long Qing which is the source of the top grade Long Qing green tea…

only the freshest youngest leaves are used...

only the freshest youngest leaves are used…

flowers of the tea plant

flowers of the tea plant

street scene from He Fang Street to end our night

street scene from He Fang Street to end our night

So on this, my second and slightly longer visit to Hangzhou, I managed to get a better idea of why Xihu is as renowned as it is…it’s not just the lake..there are many prettier lakes in the world…eg the Lake District in England, or Tegensee in Bavaria, or Lake Geneva…..and Xihu’s surrounding traffic is bad….but still, there is a certain charm to it…a combination of history, art, mountains, lakes, boats, fascinating bridges, buildings and pagodas that dot the lake shore and all these make West Lake a place that’s indeed worthy of a visit.  But it can’t be done in a hurry…

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