Shanghai, like two days before, was grey and miserable, so, like two days before, we got out of the city – this time to Hangzhou, a place famous for its natural beauty and historical and cultural heritage. Two days ago, we went to Suzhou from Shanghai South station – so we tried our luck there for our departure point. It was the wrong one, so we had to get across to Shanghai Huaxiang instead. Miles away. Shanghai’s massive.
We got the 2pm train to the World UNESCO Heritage site Hangzhou. It took 49 mins to get there. Then, a taxi from the station to West Lake. A beautiful spot, arguably the most scenic of all the scenic spots in Hangzhou. We wandered the circumference a little, and came across an area of rowing boats. We tried to get a private rowing boat to the islands (of which there are countless), but the people in charge were incompetent and were trying to rip us off, so we got a public boat instead to other picturesque islands. Other boats were on the water too carrying Chinese tourists, and behind them loomed a ghostly pagoda, which, just like the lake and the sky, seemed to have had all the colour washed out of it. We visited some of the islands. It was quiet. Colourless. Naked spindly tree branches hung over the grey water casting colourless reflections. The lack of colour seemed to suit the place, somehow. It didn’t need colour impress. It impressed in other, deeper ways. We wandered around more of the lake, and then found a Costa coffee for a warming drink over-looking the tranquility maintained for 100s of years despite the behemoth of a city advancing less than an hour away.
A last evening in Shanghai, much quieter than the last one. We found a posh bar overlooking the Bund….it offered spectacular views and was the perfect nightcap to an incredible 8 days in this huge, complex, frustrating, amazing country that we had barely scratched the surface of.