9 April 2017

Hangzhou: The First 24 Hours!

With the second semester of my second year teaching English underway the Spring Festival break seemed much longer than February, with the arrival of April signified another national holiday to enjoy. Hangzhou, a city located in the east of China had secured itself as my 22nd city visited in China since arriving in June 2015. Tomb Sweeping Festival flew past like a dream!

As I awaited the boarding call of my 15th flight within Mainland China I sat amused as the gate was suddenly changed, for me that wasn't an issue. I had to explain to one guy on the Beijing flight where he had to go, I felt sorry for the ground crew for that foolishness was unnecessary! Touching down into Hangzhou's Xiaoshan International Airport was so orderly, I jumped into a taxi for the city in under ten minutes after disembarking that China Southern Airlines flight from Wuhan. Dropping my bag and checking into my hotel should of been so easy, but I was quizzed by the hotel staff because they couldn't understand my visa. It was mental because even the passport control at the many airports I have been to in China haven't batted an eyelid, they just stamp my boarding card and let me through. Leaving that negativity behind I was in hot pursuit of Hangzhou's Lingyin Temple, I had a plan! Yes, I was OK!

Taking the number 7 bus overlooking the famous West Lake I was bound for a temple that caught my eye, that bus may have been packed to the rafters but I made it to the temple in one piece. Grabbing my incense sticks I lit them accordingly and made my way around taking photos, no temple is the same in China and I proclaim that with conviction. Grabbing my snaps wasn't so difficult as the outside the Hall of the Medicine Buddha had bright yellow hall that were wide enough to allow for a orderly photo. I saw the monks pray during their daily service, remembering to be respectful at that time I refrained from taking any photos, well at least I kept that vow of restraint. The weather felt like a mild spring day, the Tomb Sweeping festivities were in full swing as people brought gifts to leave for their departed loved ones. The bright colours and lush surrounding of Hangzhou's Lingyin Temple helped me zone out from all those tourists! With some zen restored I carried on.

So, before I reached Lingyin Temple I had to buy my ticket for the Feilai Peak Scenic Area that featured a series of enchanted looking grotto's, I chose to view the grotto's from the other side of the brook because I didn't fancy my chances walking alongside the large  numbers of tourists, being patience and keeping it together I was able to take a lovely photo of the statues that sat overlooking the brook, set amongst a stony exterior the trees and greenery set the scene perfectly. Legend has it that the stone statues hail from an Indian influence as the Lingyin Temple was crafted by an Indian monk. The main cave was dedicated to Bodhisattva Guanyin, known as the 'Goddess of Mercy'. As I made my way past that area, at the foot of Feilai Feng I spotted a grand pagoda that held the ashes of Huili, the Indian Buddhist monk and pilgrim that constructed the Lingyin Temple after arriving in Hangzhou in 326 AD. Go!

One thing I was loving about my first day in Hangzhou was I hadn't really planned to see anything apart from the temple, catching a glimpse of the stone statues at Feilai Peak was amazing and something that boosted my Spring outing. A lifeline had been given to Hangzhou's Linyin and Feilai Peak Scenic Areas as much of the historic features were not harmed during the Cultural Revolution, the less said about that period the better. Behind the stone statues lay an entrance to a beautiful park, lush and peaceful compared to the busy thoroughfare between the temple and the exit. Hangzhou itself was showing itself to be a scenic city compared to other more concrete places that I've already been to in China. I was almost taken back to my 2016 trip to Guilin during the May Day holiday, upon those similarities I could tell I was going to love Hangzhou for its beauty and history. Above everything else I was glad the area including the statues and temple didn't close until 6:30 p.m.!

Braving the bus until it got so busy I was left with no choice to get off a stop earlier than I had planned to, the roads were jammed packed but I kept on walking at my own pace. I had my sights set on Wulin Square, unfortunately my phone was running out of battery so I had to trust my sense of direction and reading ability of the road signs in Chinese. Thankfully the months of reading street signs in Chinese had paid off that evening, making my way to Wulin Square without a hitch I was pleasantly surprised. I may not be able to hold a conversation in Chinese but the knowledge I do have came in handy that April evening Hangzhou. Bright colours could be seen as I stood on the other side of Wulin Square, it was a water show that seemed to have built a strong crowd of Chinese people who were armed with their phones. I didn't find the water feature hypnotic but it was great photo opportunity. Alright?!

The night was still young but I had been on the go since 6 a.m. that morning, flying to Hangzhou from Wuhan at an early hour gave me the opportunity to see a respectable amount of the city during my first day. I'm not sure what I had expected from Wulin Square but it impressed me much. Wulin Square had a really chilled feel to it, unlikely many of the other centre squares that I been to in China it had some chill about. I didn't need to return to Wulin Square, not for a negative reason I express that but I only had a short time in Hangzhou. I wanted to see as much as possible. Admitting to my hunger and tiredness I grabbed a pizza as that seemed like an easy option, taking a takeaway box back to my hotel meant that breakfast was taken care of. From being questioned about my last entry into China by the confused hotel staff to finding some chill within the mayhem I adored my first day in Hangzhou, China! Returning to my Jinjiang Inn, I wanted to be fresh for my tour!

Hangzhou Ready!

Joseph Harrison 

No comments: