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This past weekend I decided to go to the city of Hangzhou. Hangzhou is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang province in eastern China. It is considered one of the seven ancient capitals of China. Although I took the two-hour bullet train, Hangzhou proved to be one of the most difficult places for me to get around. No one spoke English at the station and taking a taxi was also eventful. Luckily, I found someone who spoke English to save the day. When I arrived at the hotel, I thought my communication nightmare was over, but I was sadly mistaken. With only one English-speaking employee, even asking for a towel was a challenge. I persevered and rented a bicycle and ventured out to explore this great city, with my translation app, of course.
Hangzhou is situated on the Quiantang riverbank, with a population of about 9 million. This city was an important port and the capital from the Song Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty. In 1127, the capital of the Song Dynasty moved from Kaifeng (Henan province) to Hangzhou, which then became a political and economic center. Continuous attacks by Japanese pirates caused Hangzhou to lose its port city status. Later, between 1555 and 1861, the city suffered many lootings and would not recover until 1863, thanks to the imperial troops. Hangzhou’s economy emerged in 1992 and developed rapidly. The main industry is silk. Also, many people will say that Hangzhou’s tea is of the highest quality throughout China.
Between leisurely pedaling and some falls, I arrived at the famous West Lake, which was made a World Heritage Site in 2011 by UNESCO. This inspirational attraction is, by far, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I was inspired and at peace with the natural beauty of the gardens, surrounded by temples, pagodas, mountains, hills and roads. In the middle of this freshwater lake lies the island of Yingzhou. In the evenings, three lit stone pagodas reflect on the water resembling three moons. The lake has several paths with street vendors, shops, restaurants, museums and pagodas filled with hundreds of people walking in all directions, but you’ll remember from my previous blog post, I'm an expert at dodging them. I concur with Marco Polo when he said that Hangzhou was "the most sumptuous and elegant city in the world". The scenery is breathtakingly spectacular and the lake located in the center of this city provides a unique, and somewhat romantic, break to this amazing country.