Day 8 (23 Dec 2009): Crazy Guys On Bikes [Hangzhou]

For your convenience, please refer to The Journey for the itinerary and the latest updates.

Weather: Great for cycling:)

The day was spent cycling around Hangzhou. First up was of course the West Lake.

West Lake in the morning

Leifeng Pagoda , the restored version, priced us out out. I didn’t think 40 RMB would be worth while. So just photos from the outside.

Pagoda obscured by the trees

A better angle (with zoom of course)

Pavilions - aren't they everywhere?

秀毓照夕 - What does it mean?

We then cycled further west to the southern end of the Su Causeway (苏堤). It was a series of bridges across West Lake and named after Su Dongpo, a famous poet/former governor of Hangzhou during the Song dynasty.

River cruise seen from Su Causeway


Mandarin ducks (Best show we could muster)

Entrance to a garden

Profile pic worthy

We saw many tourists on the Su Causeway. I could easily tell one group of them are Malaysians from their accents.

花港观鱼 - Fish-viewing at flower harbor (Literal translation)


Bridge over troubled water

Another panorama

We headed away from the city and into the mountains towards Longjing. Legend has it that Qianlong was so enamored with this place and visited it several times during his reign. Before the steep climb up, we visited the tea museum. Part of the museum was under renovation and no photography was allowed within the exhibition halls.

Welcome to the Tea Museum

'Tea is the national drink and Hangzhou is the capital of tea (production)'

Tea plantation besides the museum

Tea master Lu Yu 陆羽


Tea-grinding machine and us

The climb up to Longjing was tough but we were rewarded with fantastic views.

Into the hills

My eyes were open

Cycling into the hills

Longjing finally!

过溪亭 - Yet another pavilion

The story behind the name

Alan resting

Downhill's easy

Looking at the map, we decided that we could cycle to Lingyin Temple. We had to cycle through several tunnels along the way. Imagine the amount of pollution that we inhaled inside.

The real tunnel view

Lingyin Temple was another place that we decided to skip upon learning about the entrance fees. Oh well I wasn’t feeling particularly religious that day. We cycled in the general direction of the city and found a restaurant in one of the alleys. We had a plate of fried rice each, river fish and a vegetable dish. Total damage was less than 30 RMB (~6 SGD) for both of us and we couldn’t even finish the food. While eating, Alan mused about why fried rice taste the same around the world, be it in Singapore, Guilin or Hangzhou. Anyone can help us with this?

We decided that we should get back our deposits for the bike rental cards that day as our train to Shanghai was rather early the following day. As the kiosk for refunding would be closed before dark, we sorta had to race against time. It wasn’t quite easy navigating the roads with the map but we did make it in time.

Fate - we stopped near this tourist attraction for toilet break



Going back to the main street

Upon returning our bikes, we got back the 200 RMB deposit plus whatever value that was left after the usage. As there were kiosks located near the various tourist attractions, we hardly exceeded the first hour of complimentary ride. I think that our two day bicycle rental cost us less than 10 RMB per person, an amount so insignificant that I forgot to record it down in my expenses.

We escaped indoors to the West Lake Museum after getting our refunds.

Worth a visit

We thought that the museum might be closed already considering that the sun was setting. It actually stayed open till 7pm. The exhibits was pretty informative but I was kind of suffering from information overload. The exhibits that stood out was the opera (recorded) which told the two famous Chinese legends: Butterfly Lovers and Legend of the White Snake.

Inside the museum:

Map showing the location of Hangzhou within China

Drinking tea

Mama Yue could have given Kat Von D a run for her money

It was still early for dinner so we headed to Starbucks to chill and relax. The Starbucks is located in Xihu Tiandi, an gentrified area along the lake with plenty of cafes and fancy restaurants which wouldn’t look out of place in Orchard Road at all. It was definitely modeled after Shanghai’s Xintiandi.

Xihu Tiandi

Alan and I then made a purposeful visit to the pharmacy where I got my lip balm and him his moisturizer. I was quite convinced that the salesperson took a liking to Alan and gave him her name and phone number (of course on the pretext of “just in care if you have any more queries on the product”). Alan didn’t seem to get the hint and I was quite bemused.

We realized that we had new roommates when we got back to our dorm room after dinner. It turned out that one of new roommates was a Turkish guy on business in China. I’m sorry to say that I forgot his name but it was really interesting chatting with him. He was born in Erzurum and his family was from Gumuşhane (I passed by both places during my travel in Turkey) and they had since relocated to Istanbul. They were in the automotive business and he was in China for some car expo.

More interestingly, he was the first AKP supporter whom I spoke to. Knowing that I spent some time in Turkey, he started to ask me what I thought about Turkey. Of course, I said all the niceties but I also told him about how I could not reconcile with the demigod status accorded to Ataturk. To my surprise he agreed with me and shared with me his opinion. Ataturk was a hero which kept Turkey free from foreign invaders but his method of top-down westernization was wrong.

I don’t know what’s the typical profile of an AKP supporter but he was definitely more cosmopolitan than most of them. He did his masters in the UK and was exposed to the different type of democracy there. He thought that AKP was doing a good job in trying to create a pluralistic society no longer dominated by the secular nationalists.

He disagreed with the nationalists (I know friends who are nationalists and despise the AKP government) over issue such as headscarf ban in universities and civil service. If Turkey were to become a true democracy like the west, the nationalists should allow citizens to exercise their freedom of choice and express differing views. He got more excited as he went on and his passion was contagious.

Honestly I could not disagree with him. The headscarf ban was ridiculous to me. Women are denied education because of a piece of garment which they wear. The reverse was happening in Iran. Women could not go outside of their homes without covering their heads. Where is the freedom of choice? However, being an outsider, I would probably not be able to grasp fully the actual reality behind the politics.

I could recall a story told by my International Marketing professor in Sabanci University. Although he’s a Turk, he has spent most of his adult life in the United States. Over a family dinner, he and his sister got into argument over the headscarf issue. He felt that everyone is entitled to choose his or her attire and that is none of the state’s business. She thought that allowing headscarves in state apparatus would be a slippery slope to a takeover by the Islamists and Turkey would be like Iran in no time. It appears that these two views are almost impossible to reconcile.

Sorry I should stop ranting. Mr Turkey excused himself because he needed to pack for his trip to Ningbo next morning. The other roommate was also a nameless Caucasian who came back only to sleep. The night was ended the same as the previous; Alan beat me in Chinese chess again.


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