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:
- Xi Shi sinks fish
- Wang Zhaojun drops birds
- Diaochan closes the moon (I think they mean “sets the moon”)
- 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…
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)”.
- You can probably walk around the lake if you have the time and energy
- 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.
- Sightseeing bus will cost about RMB 5. Look for the bus numbered Y9 (“Y” signifies a tourist bus which stops at tourist spots).
- 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):
- Dawn on the Su Causeway in Spring (蘇堤春曉)
- Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer (曲院風荷)
- Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn (平湖秋月)
- Remnant Snow on the Bridge in Winter (斷橋殘雪)
- Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset (雷峰夕照)
- Two Peaks Piercing the Clouds (雙峰插雲)
- Orioles Singing in the Willows (柳浪聞鶯)
- Fish Viewing at the Flower Pond (花港觀魚)
- Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)
- Evening Bell Ringing at the Nanping Hill (南屏晚鐘)
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!
- West Lake is a “Must Do” if you visit Hang Zhou, China.
- Be at West Lake at either sunrise or sunset.
- Take the walk across Baidi Causeway
- 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!)
- 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!)
- We didn’t talk about this in the article but Hangzhou is well known for silk & Dragon Well tea!
- March – May (Spring) is probably the best time to visit Hang Zhou.
What are your favorite travel destinations? Do share your stories and recommendations!