The morning after 3 days in Shanghai, we headed to Shanghai Hongqiao station for a high speed train (Gaotie 高鐵) to Hangzhou. I have never seen a crowd as much as in Shanghai train station elsewhere, especially from a bird’s eye view on the second floor food court. With a quick train ride less than 50 minutes, we arrived at Hangzhou train station.
West Lake (Xihu, 西湖)
“The West Lake” was what drew me to Hangzhou. Growing up memorizing poems from Tang and Sung dynasties praising the beauty of the lake, I came to search for the shadows and souls left by my favorite poets. We did not have the driest weather, but the lake showed its elegance with additional romance from the rain.
There are a few ways to explore the lake, and we chose to walk the lake for the whole time. After 3 hours and sun going down, we still only reached 3 quarters of the whole loop, with some photo stops and hiding from the rain. Biking is possible, but bikes are forbidden on the main trails and have to be locked at each stop outside the lake.
Ten Scenes of West Lake (西湖十景)
Originally from a book in the 13th century, there are ten iconic scenes of West Lake. They are spots along the lake, each with a poetic name and distinct view of the lake. We loosely followed these ten scenes, my personal favorites are the Su Causeway (蘇堤) and the lotus pond.
This is a famous show on the West Lake, choreographed by Yimou Zhang who directed the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics. Normal ticket price is about 50 USD. However, it was raining quite consistently toward the end of the day and we did not get a chance to see the show.
Pan fried buns (生煎包)
Xiao Yang from Shanghai is still my favorite chain for pan fried buns, and fortunately we still got to get them in Hangzhou. On our last morning, we tried a local chain “Yao Bu De” (咬不得). The pan fried buns here were cheaper and smaller than Xiao Yang’s, and I enjoyed their congee with thousand year eggs.
Dinner at Grandma’s
A chain restaurant originated from Hangzhou, we took a DiDi here from the West Lake after the sun went down. The interior was pretty modern (not quite the “grandma” vibe I was expecting), but we got to taste the heavier yet flavorful casual dishes. After an afternoon walking the lake, it was relaxing to sit down and enjoy the meal.
Sights on deck
We thought about visiting these places, but did not due to limited time and rainy weather.
- Long Jing Village (龍井村): a tea village and tea shops.
- Hefang Street (河坊街): a lively street with vendors, for food and souvenirs.
- Lingyin Temple (靈隱寺): as its Chinese name “hidden soul” suggests, this Buddhist temple is hidden in the mountain for almost 1700 years.
For one night, we stayed at Huachen hotel within walking distance to both the subway and the West Lake. On the second morning before our train ride to Shenzhen, we walked to the West Lake again as a farewell in drizzly weather.
Hangzhou is a perfect day trip destination in Shanghai metro area, just 50 minute Gaotie ride from Shanghai station. The major attraction of the city, West Lake, combines nature, culture and history throughout dynasties. Below is our itinerary in Shanghai and Hangzhou, and here are some lists of places. If you are planning on visiting China for the first time, this post might be helpful.