January 15, 2009

Hangzhou, China

Ask any traveler that has been through China what their destinations were and you will almost always hear “Hangzhou”. Famed for it’s West Lake and surrounding gardens that have inspired poets and artists for centuries, Hangzhou’s beauty seems to be a blend of a timeless esthetic and a tourist manufactured “must-do”.
Just a short train ride from Shanghai, I arrived in Hangzhou in the thick of winter. After dropping my bags at the hostel, I took a walk under grey skies drizzling rain, among trees that were bare until Spring and braved temperatures which had me carefully choosing pictures so that I wouldn’t have to take my hands out of my gloves too often. But even with all of this, I agree…Hangzhou is beautiful.
Chancing upon bonsai tree forests while watching Koi fish chase raindrops as little boats carry young lovers around the lake can start to feel pretty romantic. Unfortunately for this solo traveler, I had no one to hold gloves with or gaze at the weeping trees by the waters’ edge, so in my self-imposed solitude, I released some romantic frustration by learning about how larvae turn into moths at the silk museum.
The pro to visiting this relaxed city alone in the wintertime is that you can have sprawling gardens all to yourself whereby peacefully wandering through the landscape can make you feel like a frozen line of poetry or a human stroke in a calligraphy drawing. The con to visiting this relaxed city alone in the wintertime is that the concept of indoor heating hasn’t really made it to these parts of China, and without a warm person to snuggle up with, the cold nights can produce an American inspired hissy fit.
Even though the common area of the hostel felt like the inside of butcher’s freezer, the small heater in my room gave off the illusion that it would provide some warmth. But when cold air continued to blow from the vents I felt myself uncontrollably becoming “that demanding Westerner”. In frosty desperation I took the “heater” control to the front desk and calmly tried to explain that it wasn’t working, but when the maintenance guy gave the temperature a “thumbs-up”, I nearly burst out with a tearful complaint of “Hey, I am paying a good twelve bucks for this room!”
I am happy the better half of me stopped this from being said, and when I finally accepted that this is just the way it is in China, I put on my all my winter clothes, burrowed a cave under the blankets and gave myself a nice, warm hug.


Cowgirl said...

Oh lady I just love love love your writing. And your photos. And your thoughts. And YOU. I'm so happy to be enjoying this evening of Indian food, antibiotics, and warm January LA weather while reading about YOU. xxxxx

jess said...

looks like the okura or our ryoken could have come in handy..long live the japanese onsen!


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