Saturday, March 9, 2013

Shanghai to Hangzhou

Arriving at the Hong Qiao Train Station, attached to the Hong Qiao airport, we were reminded of the incredible developments China continues to make to its mass transportation system, especially its railways. Katie was able to locate another Starbuck's, providing David, Ellis, and she with western comfort before boarding. This sense of familiarity is quite easily found in Shanghai.

We were herded out onto the (three year old?) Bullet Train, scrambling with our passports, uncertain as to whether they would be needed to board. Our experience riding the train and subway has made us aware of the importance of appearance and seeming formalities that are not really enforced.

We were on the train for mere minutes before we were being shuttled off to the smaller HangZhou (population 4 million) through 100 miles of urban sprawl. Though efficient and comfortable, our hopes of escaping the smog were unfounded.

While awaiting a cab in a cue of thousands we were conflicted of whether to give to the barrage of disabled beggars who approached us. It is known that such beggars may be part of an underground business. After 30 minutes of trying to hold our ground in line we split ourselves into two cabs and were whisked off to the Holiday Inn.

Xi Hu (West Lake) is the main attraction on Hang Zhou. We would negotiate a price on five rental bikes that would allow us to explore the perimeter of the lake, at varying paces, through varying levels of congestion. David would test where exactly we were and were not permitted to ride, in an incident where he would be whistled down and redirected by park security.

We all enjoyed the 5-7 miles of biking, with periodic stops along the way for refreshments and leisurely exploration of the park grounds. Hunan cuisine topped off our first evening in Hangzhou, while also testing the groups thresholds for spice.

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