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{China} Picturesque West Lake of Hang Zhou

Rippling water shimmering on sunny day,
Misty mountains shrouded the rain;
Plain or gaily decked out like Xishi;
West Lake is always alluring.

~Su Dong Po (Song Dynasty Poet 960 – 1127)

We were reminiscing some of our favorite travel destinations at dinner today and Hang Zhou came to mind. Not surprising really because Hang Zhou was among the few places where we felt had the best of everything in one place – breathtaking scenery, insanely delicious food, affordable accommodation/transportation/dining and unforgettable experiences when we were there (we were invited by a local tea farmer we met on the bus to have lunch at her home! More on these experiences in future posts)! For now, let’s talk about the mesmerizing imagery of West Lake that greeted us when we visited in December of 2008…

You can’t talk about Hang Zhou without talking about its fresh water lake named West Lake (西湖, pronounced “See-Who” which literally translates to “West Lake”). West Lake is Hangzhou’s most renowned tourist attraction. You will find many Chinese poems speaking of West Lake’s beauty. One such poem is the one quoted above by Su Dong Po. He is basically comparing the beauty of West Lake to the beauty of Xi Shi – one of the Four Beauties in ancient China. Her entrancing beauty was said to be so extreme that if she looks at fish in a pond, the fish will forget how to swim and sink!

What is this “Four Beauties” we speak of? According to legend, they are four ancient Chinese women who were renowned for their beauty. Their beauty can aptly be described as follows:

  1. Xi Shi sinks fish
  2. Wang Zhaojun drops birds
  3. Diaochan closes the moon (I think they mean “sets the moon”)
  4. Yang Guifei shames flowers

Silky fresh water lake, alternate peach & willow trees surrounding the trail, sun setting behind mountains in the horizon and traditional row-boats taking tourists around the lake… West Lake did not disappoint when we visited during winter of 2008…

Image of West Lake

Image of West Lake at sunset

Image of sunset at West Lake Image of Sunset over the mountains

We wanted to go to the lake at sunset, so we planned our day so that we’d get there at just about sunset (Check the site here to find out exactly when the sun will set in Hang Zhou). Little did we know that the temperature would plunge to “piercingly cold” on a december evening at West Lake!


West Lake is about 9.3 miles (15 km) in circumference. It is divided by three causeways called “Sudi Causeway (苏堤)”, “Baidi Causeway (白堤)” and “Yanggongdi Causeway (杨公堤)”.

  1. You can probably walk around the lake if you have the time and energy
  2. A round-the-lake car ride will take about 70 minutes (including stops along the way on must see spots) and costs about RMB 40.
  3. Sightseeing bus will cost about RMB 5. Look for the bus numbered Y9 (“Y” signifies a tourist bus which stops at tourist spots).
  4. There’s also a free tourism bus that departs from “Leifeng Pagoda” at every half hour from 09:00 to 14:30.


“Y” Tourist Bus Line:

Y1 Wulin Square-Lingyin Temple Y2 Hangzhou Railway Station-Lingyin Temple
Y3 Ceramic Market-Yan’an Road Y4 Song City – Yuwang Road
Y5 Future World-Hangzhou East Railway Station Y6 Drum Tower-Huanglong Sports Center
Y7 Hangzhou Zoo-Hangzhou East Railway Station) Y8 Tianyang Palm Bay-Hangzhou Building
Y9 Huanglong Sports Center-Huanglong Sports Center



The most popular way to visit the West Lake however, is to take a stroll across the 1km (~0.6 miles) Baidi Causeway. On almost every “must see” list for West Lake, you’ll be reminded of the 10 spots along the causeway to spot and visit (An example picture of each is located here):

  1. Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (蘇堤春曉)
  2. Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (曲院風荷)
  3. Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月)
  4. Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter (斷橋殘雪)
  5. Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照)
  6. Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (雙峰插雲)
  7. Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯)
  8. Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚)
  9. Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)
  10. Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚鐘)
Image of remnant show on the bridge

Photo copyrights of

Lists are great. However it was so cold that we really did not pay too much attention to what is what and just took in the sights and clicked away on our cameras at every breathtaking scenery that caught our eyes. Some things just can’t be captured through a camera. You have to be there and see for yourself this nature’s masterpiece!


  1. West Lake is a “Must Do” if you visit Hang Zhou, China.
  2. Be at West Lake at either sunrise or sunset.
  3. Take the walk across Baidi Causeway
  4. Leifeng Pagoda and Lingyin Temple are among the few spots around the lake that charge admission fees (RMB40 & RMB30 respectively) but is worth visiting (we didn’t have time to check out each and every one of these but will do the next time we go back to Hang Zhou!)
  5. It can get really cold if you’re visiting at the end of the year so dress warm (don’t forget to wear warm walking shoes!)
  6. We didn’t talk about this in the article but Hangzhou is well known for silk & Dragon Well tea!
  7. March – May (Spring) is probably the best time to visit Hang Zhou.


What are your favorite travel destinations? Do share your stories and recommendations!


  1. Andrew Darwitan
    December 7, 2015 Reply

    Wow, your photos are just amazing! The golden sunset shots remind me of my own trip. We had a pleasant time just lazying around the West Lake, discovering underrated gems like Guo’s Villa and Maojiabu, quiet and far from the usual touristy places. We desperately wanted to do the entire 10 Scenes of West Lake, but too bad they are seasonal and best enjoyed at specific times of the year only. Nonetheless we still visited all 10 of them (except for the Nanping Hill and Autumn Moon Over Calm Lake ’cause the moon only rose at around 11pm), haha! I’d also recommend a day trip to the ancient water town of Wuzhen, which is literally Venice of the East.
    Andrew Darwitan recently posted..8 Spell-Binding Sights That Will Make You Want to Visit Hangzhou NowMy Profile

  2. Peter September 8, 2011 Reply

    Beautiful photos and practical review. Do you have to pay every time you get in and out from the Y9 bus or can you just wait for the next bus if you want to stay longer at one spot?

  3. Lisa
    July 26, 2011 Reply

    This is a well done piece. I loved the photos and the information and maps for travel were excellent. I loved my time in China, I also visited in the “cold” winter.
    Lisa recently posted..ESL and International School Job Scams and How to Avoid ThemMy Profile

  4. Graciel Cecilio May 4, 2011 Reply

    The photos are beautiful Jeremy. Having lunch with a tea farmer sounds divine!

    • Author
      May 4, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Graciel! We’ll post about our experience dining with the tea farmer soon!

  5. Ben Reed May 3, 2011 Reply

    Very comprehensive article. Love the style you used with the call out boxes.

    • Author
      May 3, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Ben! It’s great to know that people are finding our content useful and loving the new layout! Keep the feedback rolling!

  6. Jeremy B
    May 3, 2011 Reply

    Beautiful photos! I love the sunset!

    • Author
      May 3, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Jeremy! Yeah – the sunset over the lake was just breathtaking. Our pictures don’t do it justice!

  7. Ayngelina May 3, 2011 Reply

    Wow such beautiful tones and sparseness in the photos.

    • Author
      May 3, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Ayngelina! It was way more beautiful in person. We wished we had a much better camera to try and capture more of the beauty at that time!

  8. Gorgeous photos! Once again, I like how you list some tips for travelers at the bottom of your article. Great idea!

    • Author
      May 3, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Michael! Because of your feedback, we will now strive to put the tips at the bottom of all our articles moving forward! Thank you for taking time to give us your feedback!

  9. Jade
    May 2, 2011 Reply

    Gorgeous photos and great tips. I always try to visit lakes and the ocean around sunset to watch the reflection grow on the water.

    • Author
      May 3, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Jade! Agree that sunsets are the most beautiful time to visit oceans and lakes!

  10. Debbie Beardsley
    May 2, 2011 Reply

    Absolutely beautiful pictures! Very inspiring.. . I want to go 🙂

    • Author
      May 2, 2011 Reply

      What’s stopping you? 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! Checked out your blog as well! Following you on Twitter!

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