Sunday, May 11, 2014

2013 Kunshan Trip - Excursion to West Lake, Hangzhou (西湖游记) Part 1

Location: Hangzhou (杭州), Zhejiang Province (浙江省), China

Full experience of my visit to West Lake can be accessed through the list below.

I had been putting off from preparing a post on my trip to China in 2013's first quarter, but I couldn't get past myself for leaving such a nice experience from being shared, especially when the scene of Hangzhou's famous West Lake is still vividly imprinted in my mind.

It was a gruelling 2 hours plus drive from Kunshan to West Lake, passing various landscapes and countrysides of China, uneventful to its max. This in turn made the arrival much more exciting, both from the relief I felt from being able to stretch my legs and from the anticipation of visiting one of the most famous lake in China, one which inspired generations of poets and painters.

Lavender? Maybe not. But these purple flowers does make a nice scenery on the way to West lake.

To reach West Lake from Kunshan, one needs to cross the border of Jiangsu Province (江苏省) and Zhejiang Province (浙江省), and then enter the latter's provincial capital, Hangzhou (杭州), a city rife with cultural and historical sites. Most of these are not immediately obvious as they barely aged apart from not exhibiting modern architectures.

This is West Lake's location as well as its relative distance from Kunshan city center.

Hangzhou, crowned as one of China' Seven Ancient Capitals, had served as a capital city way before its selection as Zhejiang's provincial capital. The city itself was ancient, its origin dating back to 589 AD when its city wall was erected and it was renamed thus from its previous incarnation as "Yuhang" (馀杭), a name first appeared in written records during the Qin Dynasty in 220 BC.

As if being the capital for two different dynasties was not impressive enough, the capital was also noted for landmark of numerous historical sites as well as hosting historically famous people and events. Hangzhou was the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, one which linked numerous rivers in China from north to south, as well as being famous for the place to view the world's largest tidal bore at Qiantang River. Its beauty though lies with the scenic West Lake, one which captivated medieval Chinese poets Bai Juyi (白居易) and Su Shi (苏轼, more famously known as Su Dongpo 苏东坡), whom both acted as governors of the city as well.

The small park where we passed through was teeming with life, giving us a taste of what lies ahead in the lake. The atmosphere of a Chinese park was far different from the dense Malaysian jungle. Tall trees dotted the area, with low bushes filling in the gap

I was surprised to learn from the driver that there was a unique traffic control system in the areas surrounding West Lake, one which was devised to limit the number of vehicles within the scenic areas. Private cars and vans were limited from entering the area according to the last digit of their license plates during public holidays and weekends, alternating between odd and even numbers between weekends, and coaches, buses and taxis exempted from the rule. It was successful in reducing the amount of traffic within the scenic areas, but the traffic outside of the zone was terrible. The rule was only implemented during peak travel seasons, running through spring and autumn and implemented from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

We had to walk a distance from our transport to the lake because of a traffic rule enforced to allow vehicles with only odd or even number license plates to enter on alternate weekends. This is how Hangzhou officials have to handle the traffic arriving on every weekend, and a testimony to the frightening amount of vehicles running in China.

The walk was in itself quite a relaxing 30 minutes journey. It was serene, and with pinkish blossom scattered among the scenery, it was a beauty beyond comparison.

A walk around the lake, as I found out later, was a rather long journey. Renting a bicycle to travel around would definitely help.

The van I took had an even number on the license plate's last digit, thus I had to walk from the zone outer limit towards the lake, a walk which I enjoyed to the fullest. Spring was on dawning on Hangzhou in March, the air still chilly with the leftovers of winter. Taking a stroll along the pathways and marvelling at the slowly blooming floras was a refreshing experience that sitting in a van could never beat. After a walk lasting a dozen minutes, I finally faced the legendary West Lake, the target of my visit.

Environment:       A picturesque lakeside
Suitable for:          For a stroll around the lake and to admire one of China's beautiful lake that had inspired ages of poets and painters
Visit worthiness:   9.5/10 (take your time, immerse yourself in the scenery)
Historical value:        5.0/5.0 
Architectural value:  4.0/5.0
Photographic value:  5.0/5.0
Landmark value:       5.0/5.0

Entrance Fee:                 the lake itself and the general surrounding area is free, but certain sites and areas may require an entrance fee
Opening Hours:             essentially open at all hours
Best Moment to Visit:  Avoid weekends and Public Holidays, you would not want to experience the crowd and the traffic
Length of Visit:              6 - 8 hours or more

No comments:

Post a Comment

You Might Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...