Friday, May 16, 2014

2013 Kunshan Trip - Excursion to West Lake, Hangzhou (西湖游记) Part 2

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.

West Lake of Hangzhou is, of course, known for the lakeside scenery. With most of China's famous scenic areas exacting an entry fee, be it a park or an old town, it was refreshing to know that no gates barred our entry to the lakeside. The whole area was a huge park, allowing anyone to enjoy the scenery while taking a stroll.

When I took a stroll around West Lake, I enjoyed not only the scenic lakeside but also mesmerizing Chinese architectures of the nearby buildings.

Not all structures or areas around the lake were as ancient as the famed lake itself, but they certainly did their best to fit in. Starbucks and KFC could be found around the corner, with signs pointing you toward them as if they were worried they went unnoticed. These imported franchises sought to mingle with their surroundings by incorporating subtle Chinese elements into their architectures, giving a taste of Western lattes under a Chinese roof. 

Looking for a place to satisfy your addiction for a cup of Starbucks? Look no further than any corner in West Lake. Their helpful mermaid, while busy mingling into the surrounding, would point you to the nearest shop.

Even though West Lake itself was opened to the public free of charge, that does not mean that the Chinese government did not try to earn from the tourism. Certain spots still required a fee to enter, but enough of the areas were without charge that you would spend most of your time dwelling within and exploring the various gardens.

This is the water lilies garden. Although I only passed by and did not enter, I could imagine how beautiful it was when the lilies bloomed in spring.

Surprise surprise! A giant 'ding' (鼎)! This is a cup used by the ancient Chinese nobles for important occasions.

With gardens scattered across the vicinity of West Lake, it took great constrain for me not to enter and explore each one of them. The lake itself, as I learnt later, was rather huge. It took nearly half a day to go across and through some of its gardens, showing how wide an area the body of water covered. Still, my curiosity overcame me in certain gardens, and I couldn't resist the temptation to peek around at least at the entrance area.

A bamboo garden, and a peek at the entrance. Nature could be the best decoration in the world if you know how to make use of it. Bamboos and bonsai greeted me at the entrance, but I had to resist the temptation to keep to my schedule. Otherwise I would have spent days wandering the area.


All right, enough detour here. Next stop, the lake proper to marvel at what West Lake truly has to offer!

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

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