Tuesday, June 24, 2014

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

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.


Scattered around West Lake were scenery spots, some taking your breath away while others leaving you a feeling of 'meh'. Of course some of these required an entrance fee, but there were enough spots affording a breathless view of the lake that we wandered without entering any of these charged areas.

Flock of ships 船队

Temples and pagodas were undeniably part of the landscape, with Leifeng Pagoda being the most famous. Standing a top of the hill which granted its name, Leifeng Hill, this was the spot where most poets famously mentioned the scene of the setting sun of the west (夕阳西照). It was unfortunately not the original, which although withstood the ravages of time for centuries, could not weather past the 20th century.

Lone admirer 独乐乐

Colours of the Lake 湖色

It could never get boring by admiring at the scenery of West Lake with its dominating verdant and patches of pink scattered here and there.

It was difficult not to bump into people while admiring West Lake, especially at certain scenic spots. The sheer amount of people on the move in China was staggering and even my time in Singapore could not cure me of my mild agoraphobia in such times. Being bombarded by cacophony of different languages and tones could overwhelm me, forcing me to evade and try to look for a place to sooth my breath. The cool breeze and beauty of the scenery did help to calm my mind.

Sea of humans 人海

One thing about China on weekends which surprised me despite the few times I visited it is the sheer amount of human traffic. I don't think I could get used to living in such a condition.

An interlude between people 人群空隙

Leifeng Pagoda 雷峰塔

We did not visited this famed pagoda which weathered the elements for centuries only to collapse in the early 20th century. This is the spot where the famed Chinese phrase of 'sunset to the west' (夕阳西照) can best be experienced. 

At the end of the day, we decided to bid our farewell to the magnificent lake, having enough with the crowds and choosing not to stay to admire the setting sun. After all, we have another back breaking journey back to our hotel, so leaving early to get some rest did sound like an appealing notion. Our random choice of route did bring us across a final sight before the lake release us from its beauty.

The Temple of Soul's Retreat, transliterated from 灵隐寺, was one of the famous Buddhist temples of China. However by the time we passed by, we were well past its final admitting hour, leaving us only the sight of its gate, a typical Chinese arch with upturned eaves, and of visitors leaving its premises. The square to its front however afforded us some photographic opportunities.

Small girl under big signs 巨标下的女孩

This sign was displayed near the entrance of the temple, filling up a wall the size of a billboard. The little girl was a good comparison against its size. Literally translated as 'mere feet from heaven' (咫尺西天), its words were a reflection of the Buddhist thinking.

Plaque of the Dragon Tortoise 龙龟背碑

Temple gate 佛门

Between heaven and lake 山水之间

Temple gate 2 佛门2

The family of White Fun 白乐一家

Don't ask me whose family is that...

A last photo before leaving West Lake...

My impression of West Lake was favourable. It was not hard to imagine how poets and artists of the past came to be enamoured to this scenic spot where the Taoist philosophy of emphasizing harmony of the elements could be experienced here. It would have been a serene area for soothing the turmoil of a hectic life if not for the throng. Still, with the high number of population in China, I believe what I encountered was only the tip of the iceberg, so I would consider myself lucky for not experiencing China during the lunar new year.








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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