After a short 1h 30 min ride on the high speed rail, I arrived at Hangzhou from Shanghai Railway Station. I opted for the first class cabin and the ride was very comfortable, though not as good as Gran Class on the Shinkansen. For Hangzhou I did not attempt public transport at all and went from the station to my hotel by taxi, and everywhere else by foot.
Hangzhou is a naturally beautiful place and this was praised by Marco Polo when he visited in the 13th century. In Hangzhou, the most iconic sight is the West Lake. This is one of the most famous natural scenic spots in China and many historial stories are linked to this lake. Some other areas like Xi Xi Wet Land has gained increasing popularity too and some high end resorts exists around that region (Banyan Tree and Angsana), but my choice for this trip was still to stay around West Lake.
Like Shanghai, you can get a luxurious international hotel for a price you’ll not find in Singapore or any big cities, so don’t scrimp and get tempted by the local hotels which has really attractive prices. Four Seasons was known to be the most luxurious hotel and important people like Jack Ma would stay in Four Seasons if he visits this area. In recent years the new Aman resort was added to the scene and is now the most luxurious resort open to public. There are also private villas around west lake only available to certain people like the Queen of England.
The other 5 star hotels/ resorts I could choose from close to west lake includes Wyndham Grand Plaza, Hyatt Regency, Shangri La Hotel and Sofitel. They also have nice hotels in the city area like The Azure and Intercontinental. After much consideration, I narrowed my selection down to Hyatt Regency (which has restaurant Hubin 28 I wanted to try) and Wyndham Grand Plaza. I decided on the latter because the reviews were too good to not give this hotel a chance. I quote from Trip Advisor: “If you find better service anywhere else in the world, you’re lying.”. I am glad to say that this bold statement was somewhat true – I experienced overwhelmingly good service when this hotel cost me only S$180 a night.
Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale Hangzhou
No 555 Fengqi Road, Hangzhou, China 310006
The location of this hotel was good too, located walking distance to west lake and near shops. In fact, my first meal here was located in a mall linked directly to the hotel.
Hangzhou is famous for tea, Long Jing green tea in particular, so tea culture here is strong. I made it a point to check out tea houses and it was a pleasant coincidence that one of the shortlisted tea houses happened to be near my chosen hotel. This is Qingteng Tea House. The ambiance of the place looks like a spa – zen and relaxing.
So this is how it works – you order one tea and you get free flow of food, served ala carte buffet style. As I came around noon, a lunch main course is provided.
I ordered 桂花龙井.
My lunch of 杭州卤鸭 which comes with some side dishes and soup.
Additional noodles can be ordered if the main course isn’t filling enough.
The food here isn’t fantastic but decent enough. The whole experience isn’t really about the food, but to simply enjoy sipping tea for hours in a relaxing place. You’ll have your tea session in private rooms too. I probably spent 3 hours here.
30 West Ring Road, Xiacheng, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, 310006
After my lunch and tea session, I strolled out to West Lake. It was so beautiful.
Walking around West Lake and everywhere is a scenic spot.
I was headed to catch the Impression West Lake performance at the other end.
Impression West Lake (印象西湖) is a performance on the lake directed by Zhang Yimou and music by Kitaro. Tickets can be obtained from various agents and I got mine from the hotel’s concierge. It was freezing to watch this outdoor performance at night with temperature around 5 degs C so it’s better to come during the warmer months. From Jan – Mar the show will be closed.
Impression West Lake
82 Beishan Road, Hangzhou (opposite to Yuefei Temple and Shangri-la Hotel)
Room service in my hotel.
For the next day, I hired a tour guide and I wasn’t 100% satisfied with their service so I won’t recommend it. She was knowledgeable indeed but she did try to hustle me into things I wasn’t keen on. This is China after all, and they all do that.
I have little interest in houses but this former residence of Hu Xueyan (a very rich man during the Qing dynasty) has architectural value as it is one of the few houses from that era which remains preserved till now. Those interested in history and architecture would benefit from this attraction. Admission fee of 20RMB applies.
Former Residence of Hu Xueyan
18, Yuanbao Street, Shangcheng District, West Lake Scenic Area, Hangzhou
A traditional Chinese medicine hall.
Long Jing tea, 2 grades. Hangzhou is famous for Long Jing green tea.
Since Hangzhou is the source of the best long jing tea, it is also home to this really good museum called the China National Tea Museum. I am not a museum person at all but I absolutely loved this one. Admission is free.
There are a lot of information about tea provided in this museum. The English translation is quite accurate too. Accurate translations aren’t common in China even in official places like the train stations.
Majority of tea production is for green tea. Minority would be white tea, yellow tea and others.
My other favourite Chinese tea would be the Big Red Robe from Wuyi, Fujian.
The biggest tea biscuit ever!
They have many exhibits of teaware from ancient history and they are all so beautiful. This is one of them.
China National Tea Museum
88 Longjing Rd, Xihu, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Lunch was at Green Tea restaurant nearby. I insist in coming here after seeing the good reviews. This is a popular restaurant in Hangzhou because the ambiance is nice, food is good and prices are low.
I love this!
Green Tea 绿茶餐厅
83 Longjing Rd, Xihu, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Statue of 陆羽, a respected Sage of Tea for his contribution to Chinese tea culture.
This is Long Jing village.
And here are the 18 imperial bushes. The quality isn’t superior to non-imperial bushes, but due to the prestige, leaves from this bushes can fetch a really high price.
Longjing Imperial Tea Garden 老龙井御茶园
148 Longjing Lu, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
I can’t say I’ve been to Hangzhou without trying their local specialties. Even though Chinese food has never been my top favourite, I was confident that the best restaurant would impress me. And indeed, it did. 28 Hubin Road of Hyatt Regency is listed as no.33 in Asia by the Asia’s Top 50 Best Restaurants 2014 list.
Braised traditional style dongpo pork served with chestnut pancakes – RMB348
This is their signature dish and an innovative take on Hangzhou’s famous iconic dish. The meat was thinly sliced and shaped like a pagoda.
It was so good.
Hot and Sour Soup
28 Hubin Road
Hyatt Regency Hangzhou, 28 Hu Bin Road, Hangzhou 310006, Zhejiang Province
And that’s the last of my China trip. My first time into China (Zhuhai) last year was unpleasant but getting to plan and choose my own trip this time, my 5 days in Shanghai and Hangzhou was nicer than I imagined. It is important to select wisely because not everything has similar standards.