Day 5 – Hangzhou to Jiaxing

It was the usual early breakfast again in order to beat the crowd so we could brush up and rest a little before leaving the hotel. After a few days, the buffet breakfast became more or less about the same in these local 5-star hotels. There was nothing special to report about the breakfast other than the poor translation for some of the dishes into English that turned into some offensive joke.

So after using the toilet and rested a little more, it was time to head to the lobby to get ready to start the day tour in Hangzhou. This hotel has a mini convenience store at the corner of the lobby which is quite handy. The location of this hotel was not so ideal but since we arrived late at night, there was no point venturing out on a cold winter night to explore.

Outside the hotel was a huge carpark with several tour buses parked there. This hotel is more suitable for tour groups for convenience of parking tour buses as parking charges in Hangzhou are insanely expensive. When the luggage from our group had been loaded up the bus, we set off for our first destination, the famous Westlake in Hangzhou.

We didn’t notice any local guide coming on board with us this morning. Jackie mentioned that the local guide had called to report that he was unwell so we won’t have a local guide this morning. It wasn’t a problem at all as Jackie could act as our local guide being a local of this city.

It was a little misty early this morning as we travelled towards Westlake which wasn’t very far away. Due to the heavy traffic, it took us about 25 minutes to arrive. Our driver Mr. Zhang was driving into Westlake and was looking for a suitable place for us to alight. While driving in the vicinity of Westlake, he took a wrong turn into a no entry side road. We were surprised as the no entry sign was clearly seen. Perhaps he had missed it which didn’t surprise us as he had been reckless at times during these past few days.

There was a lot of shouting from people on the road pointing at him as there were also road works on this side road. He didn’t go very far up this road and he stopped the bus quickly. We were told to alight quickly as well. By now, many people on the road were staring at him and people were talking about him getting into trouble for this traffic offence. An officer was walking up to him while we were walking away from the bus.

We were already inside Westlake so we crossed the road and walked towards the entrance while our driver reversed the bus slowly and then drove off along the road. Having been to Westlake for several tours, this was the first time we encountered such trouble. Anyway, we soon forgot about our driver and we moved on to enjoy the beautiful park in Westlake which was getting crowded so early barely 9 am in the morning.

The park by the lake was indeed beautiful, so serene and calm exuding an air of peace and joy. This was no doubt a happy place to be and not a sad face to be found. The ground at the entrance was decorated with pretty flowers and the park was very well kept. The lake was peaceful with the occasional boat man steering and rowing their small fishing boat on the lake with the unmistakable Lei Feng Pagoda on the lake. The willows along the lake provided graceful adornment to this famous Westlake of Hangzhou City.

We walked along the lake and took pictures and enjoy the sight as we strolled along. Jackie went to the ticket booth to secure tickets for our boat rides on the lake. There were shops at the park by the lake selling souvenirs and such and visitors were taking pictures excitedly waiting for their boat rides. Although this was a winter morning, the temperature wasn’t too low and made for a pleasant stroll in the park.

Soon we boarded our boat and were on our way to another side of the lake. This boat was fully enclosed and was air-conditioned. The windows could not be opened. Life vests were on board. The standards of these boats had improved since we visited two years ago. Those who wished to enjoyed unobstructed view could head to the back of the boat outdoor to enjoy the cool wind on the lake.

The view of Westlake on water was pleasant. The park with pretty trees and plants as well as the view of the pagoda were quite enchanting. With occasional passing tour boats like ours as well as small fishing boats on the lake made this outing a perfect venture not to be missed. The weather this morning was simply perfect, no hot piercing sun to burn our skin and no chilling cold wind to dampen our sight-seeing on the lake.

Not long after, we reached the other side of the lake. All the passengers on board alighted. Initially, we thought we would be exploring this side of Westlake. A couple of minutes later, Jackie told us to board another boat for a cruise back to where we embarked. The boat was about the same but this time, the windows on the boat could be opened so we had cool wind blowing in while sitting inside to enjoy another round of boat ride on the lake. Taking beautiful pictures of the lake on the boat was not hampered this time.

So we had another round to enjoy the sights on Westlake soaking in the the beauty of this famous lake and enjoying the fresh air at this touristy site. It was a nice outing on the lake this pleasant winter morning. Though Westlake could not be compared to some gorgeous lakes in New Zealand or Switzerland, it has its charm of its own in this relaxing city where this lake is more like part of a garden in a huge park. It was time to disembark back on land and the rides back and forth took about an hour.

Next was a proper stroll at the park enjoying the attractions of Westlake. The park was indeed beautiful but very touristy. There were many tour groups at the park led by local tour guides blaring loud announcement on their megaphones. This some what spoilt the serenity of the park. Our guide Jackie did not use a loudhailer so we were quite glad as we followed him to show us around the park.

The park was very clean and well kept and we didn’t see people spitting all over the place. In fact we haven’t come across a lot of spitting while visiting the different cities the past few days. It was a far cry years ago where we had to be careful where we stepped on whether on the streets or at the park. China has become a lot cleaner now. Just a month back when we visited Yunnan, there were still places where locals still spit openly on the streets.

After strolling along the lake and viewed some famous landmarks, we crossed the road to walk to the carpark to find our tour bus. The bus was already there and before we went up the bus, Jackie’s friend was there to deliver the the souvenir perfumes where we ordered the night before. We collected our perfumes sets, paid the guy directly and then boarded the bus. Back on the bus, it was the nauseous left over cigarettes smell lingering in the bus. This was getting annoying and none of us from this tour group smoked. It was really inconsiderate of the driver to smoke in the bus while we were away.

We then left Westlake and headed towards the tea hills for our next attraction. The journey took about 20 minutes and by the time we arrived at the famous Meijiawu Tea Village, it was already close to 11 am. We were here to taste Longjing tea and experience the Chinese tea culture. We had been here several times so we knew what to expect. This place is surrounded by tea hills which is very pleasant and another nice and peaceful place to hang out. This was however a busy place with many tour buses bringing in tourists to visit and shop for green tea products.

After entering into the premise, we used the toilet first before following one of the staff into a huge room for tea sampling and presentation. We took our seats and soon we were served hot Longjing tea, a type of green tea which would be good for our health. The representative was a pleasant young lady who was also the same person who served us during our previous trip two years ago.

She has a cheerful personality, very professional and proficient in Mandarin and even some English. She explained the intricacies of this famous Longjing tea, which was named by one of the previous emperor from the Qing Dynasty. She demonstrated how this tea contained high amount of anti-oxidant by pouring this tea into a glass of rice with water already mixed with iodine and the mixture had turned black. After pouring in this green tea, the water turned clear again after some stirring which proved that the anti-oxidant from the tea worked. The rice at the bottom of the glass however remained blackened.

Next she introduced this green tea extracts in capsule form. She broke one of the capsules and poured the content into this glass and soon the rice turned white again. This lady was a persuasive talker and this experiment was educational. So came sales time. The green tea wasn’t cheap. We bought some during our first trip many years back but due to our busy lifestyle, we did not drink this tea regularly, so some of the tea went bad. This tea can’t be kept too long in our humid environment. My sister-in-law bought quite a lot of green tea extracts during her trip and she passed some to my wife and she found them to be good.

After some bargaining, several members from our group bought some tea leaves and tea capsules. The sales presentation here wasn’t aggressive and offensive at all compared to the jade factory we visited in Nanjing the day before. This lady presenter no doubt did a good job and with her cheerful and non-offensive mannerism, this shopping trip here was rather enjoyable. Even though the products were quite costly, yet sales were sealed and everyone was happy. Though we didn’t have a local guide following us, Jackie had some sales turnover to show this time.

With shopping done, we went back to the entrance of this tea facility to enjoy the pleasant surrounding of the tea hills. The hills were still green during winter and the air was very fresh here outside the city. It was time to take pictures again after taking many splendid pictures at Westlake. This place has its own charm and beauty, a place so peaceful and quiet other than the noise inside the tea facility where presentations and sales were being carried out.

Near to 1 pm, we left the place and went to a restaurant nearby for lunch. It was just less than 10 minutes away and we were really glad because we were all hungry by now. So far, the morning was rather well spent and no one had anything to complain about.

After alighting from the bus, we went straight into the restaurant and found the restaurant quite lively. A company was holding a function in the restaurant so it was noisy, especially at the front stage. Apart from the noisy environment, quite a number of people were smoking in the restaurant.

We took our seats with the same arrangement and soon our dishes arrived one after another. We wasted no time to tuck into various dishes as we were hungry. The beggar’s chicken dish was so good that my wife requested for another set where we paid for this extra dish to share with everyone because the portion of this dish wasn’t very big. This was a good meal and of course we enjoyed the other famous dongpo pork dish as well even though the meat had quite a lot of fats.

Our lunch was rather quick and it was over in less than half an hour. So we were on the road again to our next destination. We were going to visit the Southern Song Dynasty Official Kiln Museum. This museum was built over the remains of Jiaotanxia Official Kiln. In about 15 minutes, we arrived at the museum.

This place was rather quiet. It seemed like we were the only visitors. Perhaps it was winter time so we had the whole place to ourselves. Since we had no local guide, Jackie led us into the museum. He took some brochures at the entrance and explained some of the exhibits to us as we walked along viewing the all the items on display inside the museum. Soon we were out of the museum and entered another one with the same quick browse through and we ended our museum visit. It wasn’t a bad thing though as we were not serious historians and such visits didn’t really appeal to us.

We then roamed and explored the surrounding garden which was more enjoyable with the cool winter climate in Hangzhou. It was picture taking opportunity again and so we took some time to soak in the sights of this beautiful peaceful park where we were the only visitors during the afternoon.

Near 2.30 pm, we set off again. This time, we were leaving Hangzhou heading to another city, Jiaxing. So it was time to slumber again and listen to music enjoying the bus ride to the next city which was not very far away. There wasn’t any toilet break and slightly after 4 pm, we arrived at the city of Jiaxing. Our driver was finding his way around and we eventually alighted by the side of a main road.

We followed Jackie and crossed this main road and walked towards a town which turned out to be an old town. This time, we were visiting the Rice Dumplings Museum in Yuehe Ancient Town. It took about 5 minutes to reach the museum which was quite near the main entrance of this ancient town. As we didn’t have a toilet break on the way to Jiaxing, the staff at the museum showed us the way to the toilet just a side street away from the museum.

When everyone was back, we entered the museum. The staff showed us around the museum with exhibits showing the history of this company making and selling rice dumplings. There were different types of rice dumplings with different ingredients and fillings. After the quick introduction to the museum, we assembled at a hall for the rice dumpling making demonstration. A lady staff showed how rice dumplings were made and everyone had a chance to try out this rice dumpling making process. It may look easy from the demonstration but it took a while before we could make a rice dumpling using those leaves and rice to form the shape of a tetrahedron.

After this rice dumplings making activity, we were each given a small piece of rice dumpling to sample. Then it occurred to us that those rice dumplings we bought during our rest stops on the highway were made by this company. The dumplings tasted good during this cold late afternoon. Those who wish to have more could make their own purchase from the shop at the museum. There were other products sold there as well and there were also ready made dumplings in vacuum packed where we could buy to bring home to steam hot on our own. So we stayed around for a while and explored this ancient town near the museum. There were pet shops nearby and those little animals were certainly cute and adorable.

It was 5 pm and getting dark in Jiaxing. We went back across the road to wait for our bus to come back to pick us up. It was also getting cold with strong winds blowing here. Soon our bus came and we boarded quickly because this was the main road and the bus could not stop for long. So we were on our way to the hotel for the night. Jackie told us the hotel we were going to stay in this city was one of the best here. The name of this hotel is Sunshine Hotel.

We arrived Sunshine Hotel in about 10 minutes as the traffic in Jiaxing City wasn’t heavy at all. The hotel looked rather grand. There is a shopping mall connected with this hotel. There are some restaurants in this hotel as well. Not long after, we received our room keys from Jackie and we went to our room.

The room was fine, clean and spacious as well but nothing to shout about even when this was a local 5-star hotel. Bed was clean and comfortable. TV as usual mostly Chinese programs and wifi worked. Bathroom came with shower stall and everything was in order. So no complaints about our room.

We decided to head out to look for dinner. We went to front desk to enquire and didn’t find the staff very helpful. We walked into the shopping mall connected with the hotel next door but didn’t find anything we might consider buying. We then exited the hotel front door to walk down the street but when we reached the traffic junction, we decided to return to the hotel. It was getting dark and very cold as well. The wind in Jiaxing was rather strong. It seemed like there would be quite a lot of walking to find dinner from restaurants or food outlets nearby.

Back in the Sunshine Hote, we went upstairs to a Chinese Restaurant on the third floor. We were quickly and politely ushered to an empty table. There were diners having dinner already at this hour. The waitresses were friendly and helpful. We made our order and settled in comfortably to wait for our dishes to arrive.

Soon our food came and we had a good time enjoying this nice dinner. The food was delicious and the quality of the food was good, so was the service. We even had a lucky draw from a box and got a discount for our meal as well. It was a great dinner and the waitresses showed us out of the restaurant after dinner. They remarked that we were very polite probably because we thanked them each time they served us and so they asked about our nationality. We noticed service staff in China were not treated with much respect. Sometimes they face abusive customers and as such some service staff may seem unfriendly because they have been on the receiving ends from unreasonable customers.

After this wonderful dinner, we went back to the hotel lobby. We were waiting to purchase cakes and pastries at the café with a 50% discount after 7.30 pm. The lobby was big and grand, quite a nice place to hang out. Soon a few members from our tour group also showed up at the lobby. We chatted a while and then went over to the café and bought some cakes. The price for the cakes was really good after 50% discount. So we returned to our room happily to settle in for the night.

Since we didn’t go anywhere this evening, we had plenty of time to relax and enjoy this spacious room. Of course we caught up with the children back home and had some long exchanges through the evening. There were a few English channels on TV so we were occupied with some movies too. As the evening drew on, it was time to make tea and coffee to enjoy the cakes and pastries we bought earlier. They were really good and we enjoyed our supper.

This day was quite fruitful with the visit to Westlake and we enjoyed the boat rides. Shopping at Meijiawu Tea Village was quite pleasant as well. The lunch at Hangzhou was great and we paid an extra CNY78 for another set of beggar’s chicken to share with everyone. The visit to the Southern Song Dynasty Official Kiln Museum was fine. Finally, the visit to the Rice Dumplings Museum  was educational and some hands on experience making rice dumpling was interesting.

To top it up, we had a great dinner with great service plus this wonderful supper with discounted cakes brought our fifth day of Jiangnan Tour to a close. The next day would be back to dynamic Shanghai for two nights before ending our tour in China. So we look forward to more action in Shanghai while we hit the sack for the night.

Continue to Day 6

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