I had to wait a week to pick up my passport from the Russians, and with little to do in Shanghai and a weirdo room-mate I thought it would be better to see some of the famous places nearby.
My first stop was to Hangzhou and West Lake, China’s most famous tourist attraction (at least as far as the Chinese are concerned). My first impressions were not great. After arriving I stood in the drizzle trying to hail a taxi for half an hour. At least a few hundred empty ones sailed by before somebody told me you were only allowed to get one 200m down an unsignposted underground tunnel.
West Lake itself was fairly nice, though it seemed a good portion of the Chinese population were visiting at the same time and at points you couldn’t move for people. I dread to think what the high season is like. There was more drizzle and light fog too, so all in all I probably didn’t get the best out of it. After two days I spent another half hour hailing a taxi, took it to the station and boarded a train to Suzhou.
Suzhou is the “Venice Of The East” because it has lots of canals. Then again, so does Birmingham. To be fair though, Suzhou was very nice indeed. There were no hoards of people, just gardens, temples and pagodas. The gardens in particular were worth visiting – a very welcome change from the pace of Shanghai. My favorite was the “Master Of Nets Garden” – I could’ve spent a whole day just sitting there. To end the day I climbed up the “tallest pagoda south of the Yangtze.” The view from the top wasn’t bad.
Hangzhou – everywhere was at least this crowded.
Three men and a bench.
Suzhou – Master Of Nets Garden