The company that I work for is currently setting up a production in China so I was lucky enough to be able to fly there at their cost. Obviously most of the time is spent working but by taking all the chances offered I still managed to see some of the countryside.
I was in Shanghai on business and had the Saturday free. During a visit to Europe earlier this year a business partner had promised to show me Hangzhou when I was in China and so it was that her driver and a guide (actually the structural Engineer - Xu Long Jiang) picked me up at seven on the Saturday morning.
The drive to Hangzhou was along the motorway. It can only be described as frightening. At speeds of up to 160 kmh we wove around other cars and trucks often using the hard shoulder to get past. The decision to pass on the left or right was often taken at the last minute and even then could be changed. It says a lot for the drivers skill that we got there and back without damage to vehicle or passengers.
On reaching Hangzhou we drove through the city to reach the more scenic areas near the West Lake. Hangzhou is often called a paradise on earth and here you can see why. Rolling hills, forest covered slopes and traditional Chinese architecture. The West Lake (Xi Hu) is a large shallow lake bordered on three sides by wooded hills crowned by pagodas.
After a stop for lunch in the village of Long Jing (Dragon Well - famous for its tea) we visited the Pagoda of the Six Harmonies (Liu He Ta) next to the Quantang River. Originally built as a navigation tower this 60 meter high pagoda has seven stories inside and offers spectacular views from the top. Next to it is a huge, deep sounding bell which we were allowed to ring and a garden containing models of many pagodas from the whole of china.
Next we visited the Lei Feng Pagoda (Lei Feng Ta). The original pagoda was built in 975 but was burnt by Japanese invaders and then plundered for "lucky" bricks by the locals. In 1924 it eventually collapsed. The city of Hangzhou rebuilt the Pagoda in 2003. It is amazing. Firstly they built a concrete and steel structure to cover the remains of the original Pagoda and then on top of that a five story brick pagoda with lifts in the centre and stunning wood carvings telling the legend of the Pagoda. The views across the West lake are stunning particularly as we were there towards sunset.
A long causeway crosses the west Lake (the Sudi) so while the driver drove round to the other side of the Lake Xu Long Jiang and I walked across. As we did it was dusk and the city on the east shore began to light up offering ever changing and more spectacular views.
We finished the day with a meal in the famous Lou Wai Lou Restaurant which was also hosting two weddings at the same time. We sat outside and could look across the lake to the lit up Lei Feng Pagoda.
November 2005: On the previous day I had been to Hangzhou which is meant to be Chinas most beautiful city. On this day I was at Suzhou which is meant to be nearly as beautiful. We spent the night in a hotel in the city but the next day drove out to the site of the firm that we are building.
The picture below is near the huge Jinji Hu (Golden Cock Lake). We had lunch at a hotel there and afterwards looked at the beautiful presidential suite
Next year I will be going back to Suzhou and look forward to seeing the rest of the area.
A truly amazing city. Particularly on the East side of the river nothing but a forest of skyscrapers including some of the tallest buildings in the world.
I had a morning to spend in the city so I started by visiting the extremely old Jujuan Gardens in the heart of the old city. They would have been very peaceful and worth seeing if they weren''t full of swarms of tourists from all over the world.
After the gardens I did some shopping and then walked north to the Metro (Underground) line where I caught a train to Zhongshen Park. You wouldn''t believe how difficult it is to buy a train ticket when the map is in Chinese and the ticket seller only talks Chinese.
It was a Sundy morning so there were lots of locals all enjoying the (rare for them) sight of grass and trees. I was very interesting to all of the children and most of the adults.
After a long walk in the park I caught a taxi back to my hotel for a ridiculously cheap price.
One weekend we took a train from Suzhou to Bejing. It was a hectic two days which included the forbidden city and a trip to the Great Wall but it was well woth it.
From Bejing we took a day trip to look at this truly amazing wall.