I come to you writing this entry from under my IKEA covers with a 4 liter bottle of water next to me, a pile of kleenex on the other side and half a dozen riccola cough drops tossed around on my bed. Yes, I am sick. I can’t remember the last time I was this sick! I am not a sickly person but this horrendous cough, congestion, fatigue and fever has really done me in these past few days!
These past few days were also spent in Hangzhou because it’s Golden Week and most of the country has the week off and are spending time visiting family or on vacation. I planned a trip to Hangzhou which is a 45 minute high-speed train ride away from Shanghai to visit my friend Alex and see the city that has been referred to as “heaven on earth.” Well it turns out that heaven is very crowded on a holiday! Unknown to me, Hangzhou is one of the most popular places to go during Golden Week and I was there with about a million of my closest friends and their selfie sticks. Jokes aside, I had a really wonderful time and packed a lot a two night stay trip. I met Alex in Costa Rica some 8-10 years ago when we were both studying Spanish in the mountains of Monteverde. We are both adopted from China and have stayed in touch ever since with a quick reunion in Colorado 4-5 years ago. She is also adventurous soul and has done some incredible things including a gap year in Africa before college. I would like to think we are kindred spirits. Alex graduated college and has enrolled in a Chinese university in Hangzhou to more intensively study Mandarin. Props to her!
On Monday afternoon I took the high-speed train to Hangzhou. As I have mentioned, traveling in China is incredibly easy! I had booked a train ticket the previous week through WeChat and picked it up at the counter before waiting at my gate. It is estimated that during Golden Week, 700 million people across China are traveling. I was exhausted and fell asleep on the train before miraculously waking up a few minutes before the train came to my stop. I took the metro several stops to the center of Hangzhou and met up with Alex! We walked to our hostel which was located right off of the famous Hefang Pedestrian Street which is filled with food, tea, fruit and endless souvenirs. That night we went out to eat and discovered our mutual love for eggplant…sauteed Chinese eggplant is DELICIOUS! Made with mini purple eggplant in a fragrant and sticky sauce that pairs perfectly with a bowl of rice. What doesn’t pair well with rice! We spent the dinner catching up on life and sharing stories from the past few years! We did talk a lot about adoption and our own journey’s with identity and living in China now.
There is nothing better than good conversation and good food!
The next morning we woke up relatively early and took a bus up to the Lingyin Monastery. It was swarmed with people and we ended up just walking outside the grounds in a wooded area. We decided not to go inside the actual monastery because it was so busy! Saving that for another time when all of China isn’t there. We took a different bus to the famous tea fields where we walked around, sat drinking some tea and continuing to have such beautiful talks about life. The one thing that I find really missing in Shanghai is nature and being in the tea fields and hills was really peaceful and good for the soul!
I had read about a book store in Hangzhou that is an optical illusion which we checked out later that afternoon! The whole book store is so visually deceptive with mirrors, reflections and bookcases carefully placed so all is not what it seems. It has won several design awards and I even got a little dizzy looking around.
After taking the metro back and taking a breather at our hostel, we walked to the end of Hefang Pedestrian Street and walked up to see the City of God Pavilion which is twinkling at night and has incredible views of the city. There was almost no one else there! It was a little strange being in such solitude given that our day was packed with people all on vacation. We certainly got our steps in walking up the hill and around the area. The view was beautiful! The next morning we had scallion pancakes and fruit for breakfast before I took the train back to Shanghai.
Hangzhou is famous for West Lake which I actually didn’t even go to because it was so crowded! I passed right by it on the bus, but the sheer crowd of people was a little too much and something I will save for another trip! It’s so nice to be back “home” in my apartment and resting before work picks up again and I get back to the adorable gremlins!