In Hangzhou you can experience the beauty of the classical Chinese landscape. The West Lake with its small bridges, lotus blossoms and temples and pagodas between the soft hills makes a wonderful day trip from Shanghai.
Geting around: It takes about one hour on the high-speed train to get to Hangzhou. They depart regularly during the day from the huge Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station. In Hangzhou you can take the Metro line 1 form the futuristic rain station to get to the West Lake. If you have a Chinese SIM card and bank account you can rent one of the many public bicycles and explore the West Lake area but otherwise you should take a taxi because the distances are too far to walk. We went to the Hyatt Hotel in order to find a driver who spoke English and negotiated a tour and a price with a lovely taxi driver for a half day trip.
Do: Around the scenic West Lake you find many magical spots, for example the Lingyin temple. The halls and statues in this buddhist temple are extremely beautiful, take your time to stroll through the different buildings and burn the incense sticks that are given to you at the entrance pay booth. Also, apart from the main halls don’t miss out the building with the five hundred arhat bronze statues. On the way to the temple you walk along the so called Peak Flying From Afar a long rock formation with many Buddhist carvings and reliefs in the stone and several caves. Look out for the Laughing Buddha carving and enjoy a walk along the small stream close to the rock. One of the landmarks around the lake is the Leifeng Pagoda but is was completely rebuilt and is very touristy. The Liuhe Pagoda, also called Pagoda of Six Harmonies, is much older, calmer and more mystical. Walk up all seven stories, enjoy the beautiful wall and ceiling paintings and the views on the Qiantang river and the Hangzhou skyline. Drive into the soft green hills not far from the lake to see the fields of tea bushes and the National Tea Museum. Taking some kind of cruise around the lake is a must, especially in the afternoon when the whole lake glows in golden light. From big bright decorated boats to tiny rowing boats you find everything here. The wooden West Lake Pleasure boats shuttle you to several points on the lake, for example to Xiaoying Island in the middle of it. You can go back or to another dock with the same ticket.
Eat: For amazing sunset views sit in one of the cafes on the east shore and take in the magical scenery. You can also see groups of older people singing and dancing together around here. You find many restaurants right at the eastern side of the lake near Hubin Road. Grandma’s Home is a popular, crowded but good money for value restaurant in a nice setting. At the entrance you get a paper ticket and menu, so while you wait for a table you can already choose your dishes. Or wait till you’re seated and they’ll give you a more revealing picture menu.
Shop: Hangzhou is famous for its longjing tea that you find in many stores. Around Hubin and Yan’an Road you find all the big brands and malls.