11 Days Free and Easy China Tour – Day 2 Hangzhou Westlake

Breakfast at Huachen International Hotel

After just a few hours sleep, we got up to head for breakfast. There was much to do this day, especially to purchase all our high speed train tickets for the train rides for this China tour. Breakfast was held at the restaurant on the 19th floor. The views of the surrounding area of downtown Hangzhou was awesome. Westlake could be seen in the distance but the morning was a little hazy and the lake views were somewhat hindered.

Christmas decorations were visible at the restaurant this time of the year. The restaurant was a warm welcome for us to start our day here. Buffet breakfast spread was huge with both Chinese and Western items. After the sumptuous breakfast, we returned to our rooms to get ready to begin our day in Hangzhou.

Heading to Hangzhou Railway Station

Once we got ourselves ready to prepare for quite a bit of walking, we left Huachen International Hotel. We turned left and walked along Ping Hai Road towards Westlake. The area was pretty busy this morning. We didn’t have to walk very far towards the lake when we spotted the entrance into Longxiangqiao MRT Station. So we descended into the station and bought our train tickets to head to Chengzhan MRT Station where Hangzhou Railway Station is located.

The MRT station here is pretty much the same like those in Singapore. Having entered the station, we proceeded to the platform to wait for the train to our destination. The train came shortly and we entered the train which wasn’t very crowded during that time of the morning. Very quickly we arrived Chengzhan Station just two stations away.

Once we got out of the station, we walked towards the railway station which is very clearly signposted. Having emerged from the MRT Station, we were in the midst of tall buildings. The railway station is just on our left. When we finally entered the railway station, the hall was quite crowded with commuters queuing at different counters and above these counters, a giant electronic board on the wall displaying information of train services for this station.

Purchase High Speed Train Tickets

We joined one of the queues and waited patiently for our turn to make our train ticket purchases. The customer service officer didn’t seem to be very friendly and the look of unhappiness on her face was pretty obvious. Some commuters were just rude and uncouth and definitely not a joy to deal with particularly, the old man in front of me was giving her some trouble.

By the time I made enquiries about train tickets, her attitude changed. Being armed with a full lists of train numbers with departing and arriving destinations well organized, she didn’t show me the annoyed look that was so obvious when she dealt with those commuters before my turn.

I simply gave her the information on the tickets I wished to purchase and she took all our passports to key in the details for the train tickets. She had to key in every passenger’s details for each ticket. It was really a lot of work for our trains from Huangshan to Wuyishan, from Wuyishan to Xiamen, from Xiamen to Shenzhen and from Shenzhen to Guangzhou for the whole family. The final bill was a couple of thousands of Chinese dollars.

Those commuters behind us were definitely impatient and unhappy. Some went to other queues while others tried to cut queues. That’s why these customer service staff were quite unhappy with some of the commuters who waste their time asking ridiculous questions and making unreasonable demands.

If you wish to purchase a lot of tickets, you should do your research well in advance. Don’t waste the time of these customer service staff who have to deal with hundreds if not thousands of travellers everyday. It would be hard to keep sane when the day is over and queuing is an alien concept to some Chinese.

You could print out those train numbers with departing and arriving stations and timings as well as travel dates to hand the customer service staff to make train tickets purchases if you can’t speak much Chinese. This would eliminate some communication problem at the railway station ticketing office, especially when you can’t pronounce the names of the stations correctly.

Head To Westlake

With our train tickets purchased, we were now free to explore Hangzhou City. These train tickets were our major source of concern with all our hotels already booked. It could throw a spanner into our planned itinerary should we fail to get our train tickets between the cities we were visiting. Anyway, we already had alternative train timings ready should our preferred train tickets get sold out.

So now we had the option of either walking all the way back to Westlake or take the MRT train towards Westlake one station away. Being surrounded by high rise buildings, it would be difficult to get our bearings right so we decided to get back into the MRT Station to take a short train ride nearer to Westlake. It was the same way to purchase our train tickets and then got down to the platform to wait for the train. Soon we boarded the train and not long after, we exited Dingan Road MRT Station.

Lunch at Sofitel Westlake Hotel

Following very clear signage towards Westlake, we were back on ground level walking along Xihu Road. Hangzhou City was pretty pleasant in December. We saw quite a bit of small red maple leaves as we made our way towards the lake. It wasn’t really cold this day though a little hazy in the city. A couple of minutes into our journey, we arrived at Sofitel Hangzhou Hotel. This was where we planned to have a nice lunch in Hangzhou. As Accor members, we enjoy dining discounts and this hotel was along the way of our planned itinerary to visit Westlake.

We entered Sofitel Hotel and first thing was to visit the washroom to freshen up. The hotel lobby was rather grand with many art pieces adorning this five star international hotel. The staff were very pleasant and friendly. Having checked the menu of the restaurants here, we decided to have lunch at a Chinese Restaurant.

We were ushered to a table and then the wait staff recommended some dishes for us to try out in Hangzhou. So we placed our order and our food soon arrived. The quality of the food was really good. This was definitely a great lunch especially with great discounts as Accor members. Needless to say, we were very happy to have this meal here in Hangzhou.

Explore Westlake Park

Having fully charged our belly, it was time to head down to Westlake for our free and easy tour. Along the way, we were approached by people who offered us tour packages of Westlake and its surrounding areas. We politely declined and walked on. We usually came with a tour group that included a boat ride on the lake and a quick walk around at some parts of the lake. This time we had all the time in the world for us to explore this famous lake.

Soon we were by the lake enjoying the relaxing atmosphere here. It was really nice and very pleasing with gentle winter climate here at the lake area. The lake was a little misty even during noon time. Visitors were here and there enjoying the park and taking pictures everywhere. We likewise joined in the fun and had a leisure time exploring this part of Westlake.

We then followed the crowd to walk out to the lake where a small stone bridge linked up from one side of the lakeside to another part of the park. It was a nice walk just a short distance out to the lake. A golden calf decoration piece was in the lake not far from shore. The surrounding park looked really pretty while we were slightly offshore on the walking path to the stone bridge. Wedding couples were also taking pictures around this vicinity. So this must be a very lovely place.

We continued walking and reached a café area with hotels by the lake. This was another very pleasing and lovely area along Westlake. There is a small canal as well with nice landscaped park with seats along the way. Visitors were hanging out here enjoying a great day by Westlake. This winter day was really accommodating with visitors everywhere on such a lovely day.

Free Entertainment at Westlake Park

Boats were out on the lake ferrying passengers between different parts of Westlake. We soon reached another part of the park with more spacious area where many people were gathered at different spots enjoying cultural activities by the lake. There were story telling, singing and dancing. These different events attracted crowds too. Some were elderly people singing and dancing. Younger people in the audience were giggling and laughing along. We were not sure whether they were amused or embarrassed by these elderly performers trying to act young. However, everyone was having a great time at this part of the park by the lake, another very relaxing part of the lake to spend the day.

As we walked on, we came to the shore where small boats were berthed for visitors to take a quick ride out on the lake. They were pretty looking little boats perhaps to rival those gondolas in Venice. But this place was no Venice full of little interesting canals as well as gregarious boatmen singing their hearts out to entertain their clients. Nevertheless, this was still an interesting sight where we didn’t notice during our past visits. One thing for sure is that these boat rides won’t cost an arm or a leg compare to the cost of those gondola rides in Venice.

Soon, we reached the wide open pavement of the park near the ring road with nearly bald trees during winter season adorning both sides of the walkway. Electric shuttle shared this path and not long after, we reached the junction of the park with Ping Hai Road. From here, we could walk back to Huachen International Hotel. It was still before mid afternoon so we decided to walk on along the perimeter of the Westlake Park.

Buy Bus Tickets for Huangshan at West Bus Station

Now we walked past hotels, malls, cafes and monuments and then roamed the quieter part of Westlake Park. Visitors were considerably less over here where we soon were walking along Huangcheng West Road. We were hoping to walk further up to the junction where we would turn left into Tianmushan Road to look for the West Bus Station. We had already bought our train tickets earlier in the morning. What we needed to do was to purchase bus tickets to leave first thing the following morning to head to Tangkou, Huangshan for the next destination on our itinerary.

We walked on for another half an hour and turned into Tianmushan Road on the left. After walking further along Tianmushan Road, the West Bus Station was no where to be found. I went into a convenience store to enquire and was told the bus station was very far away further up the road. I was advised to cross the road to take a bus there. So we took his advice and boarded a bus to head to the West Bus Station.

He was so right. It took us more than 30 minutes of bus ride before we reached the bus station. Sometimes, Google maps are as useful as a scuba diving suit on a basketball court when locating places in China. You could be confused and misjudge the distance between places and their locations. We alighted and then crossed the very wide Tianmushan Road and walked over to the West Bus Station.

This station was pretty big. We went over to the ticket counters and bought the tickets for the first bus that would depart for Tangkou at 8 am. We also noticed there is a McDonalds at the bus station as well as some small eateries and stalls there. So getting food before boarding the bus won’t be a problem.

Return to Huachen International Hotel for Dinner

Having gotten our tickets, we walked back towards Tianmushan Road to the bus stop. However, before we reached the road junction, we came to the bus terminal where we could take bus 49 to head back to Huachen International Hotel. So we happily entered the bus terminal and boarded a departing bus to head back to town.

The cost for bus tickets was so affordable at only CNY 2 each. We then sat back to enjoy our ride back to the city. The journey took nearly an hour passing places we visited earlier along Westlake. Eventually, we arrived near Ping Hai Road. We alighted and then walked back to Huachen International Hotel.

It was already dark when we reached Huachen International Hotel. We went over to the restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was having a set dinner promotion that cost only CNY 188 with quite a number of dishes that came with a big jug of grape juice. This dinner set included vegetables, meats and fish as well as soup. Original cost for this dinner was supposed to be CNY 308.

The dinner was fine with more than sufficient food on the table but our lunch over at Sofitel Hangzhou Hotel was much better in quality and taste. Anyway, we were not complaining for the amount of food and the price we paid for this dinner.

Explore Wuhan Night Market and Surrounding

After dinner, we left Huachen International Hotel again to visit Wuhan Night Market just behind the hotel. We could see this market from one of our rooms. This time we exited the side entrance and walked to the night market.

It was just a three minutes walk and we entered the street with stalls selling all and sundry. It was like those night markets in Taiwan but no where near the scale nor the excitement the Taiwanese night markets offer. There were restaurants and eateries at the night market as well. After a quick round of checking out the stalls, we left and walked back to Huachen International Hotel.

Instead of returning to our rooms, we decided to explore the surrounding a little bit so we walked to Ping Hai Road. We turned left to walk in the direction of Westlake but less than a block away, we found a lovely bakery. Without hesitation, we went in to check out what this bakery had and not long after, we emerged happily with cakes, pastries and bread. We didn’t feel like going further down the road anymore. Actually, we were pretty tired by now.

Supper at Huachen International Hotel

Armed with our bakery purchases, we looked forward to tea and coffee time back in our rooms. So we walked back to Huachen International Hotel and soon were back in our rooms. It was so good to be back in our very nice and comfortable rooms. We showered and made ourselves comfortable to settle down for the night.

An hour later, our room was punctuated with the fragrant aroma of coffee we brought here. Together with our children, we had another indulgence over coffee and tea with those nice pastries and cakes we bought earlier. It was so good to have these desserts after dinner watching TV and chatting away.

Huachen International Hotel is a good hotel to base ourselves for the purpose of getting to other destinations. Its proximity to Westlake and also Longxiangqiao MRT Station is particularly useful. Moreover, we could simply take a shuttle bus from the airport to the nearby Grand Metropark Hotel which is under five minutes’ walk away from the hotel.

The staff were friendly and the rooms were clean and comfortable. It looked like these rooms were newly renovated too. Breakfast on the 19th floor was great with great views of the surrounding. Set dinner was very reasonably priced as well.

Soon it was time to go to bed. We needed to wake up very early to head back to West Bus Station to catch our first bus to Tangkou, Huangshan. So that was how we spent the second day of our China tour enjoying the beautiful and lively Westlake. We were also glad to get all our transportation matters settled for this tour. After packing up to get ready to depart next morning, we slumbered into bed very pleased with the events for the day. Much more excitement would follow as we got ready to move on with our itinerary for the third day.

Continue to Day 3

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