Location: Hangzhou, China
Nicole and I had breakfast at Guanghua’s lobby. The breakfast spread would end at 9:30am so we didn’t have the luxury of sleeping in until late. Unfortunately, the buffet had a terrible selection of food that I suppose even a local would find lacking.
The porridge was watery and the side dishes looked like it had been picked clean by crows before being served. Still, I stuffed myself with eggs so that I wouldn’t be hungry too easily.
After breakfast, we pottered around the hotel room a while before heading out to catch a cab to Hangzhou city where we would spend a night at Ibis Hotel.
Our cabbie was a chatty Hangzhou-born guy. He told us about which surrounding sight was interesting (Wuzhen is apparently better than Xitang which is very commercialized) and how many rich people in China are from Hangzhou (for example, Pony Ma from Alibaba and the folks from Wahaha).
The cabbie seemed like a nice guy but he dropped us off 4 blocks away from our real hotel. It made me wonder if he was really a good person who made a wrong mistake or a swindler out to get us. Fortunately, the weather was breezy and cloudy so Nicole and I didn’t feel too tired walking to our hotel.
When we got into our room, we found a few sexually suggestive namecards which promised sexual favors for money. Argh!
Detour to Jiuxi
After checking in the hotel, we decided to head out for lunch. While we were debating which was the correct road to the famous Grandma’s Place restaurant, a woman interrupted us and told us that the restaurant isn’t that amazing.
She then suggested that we head to Jiuxi 九溪 to look at the waterfall there and the paved road which Emperor Qianlong had walked on before. So we took her advice and boarded a bus to Jiuxi. When we got there, we walked down the road to look for somewhere to eat.
We ended up at a midsized restaurant. We ordered about 2 dishes and a bowl of tomato and egg soup. The soup came out in a bowl that reminded us of a basin which people used to wash their faces in. Of course, we ended the meal with gigantic tummies.
Next, we took a taxi to Jiuxi waterfalls. The driver gave us a detailed explanation of the surrounding area and even gave us suggestions of which trail to take.
The view at Jiuxi wasn’t as fantastic as what the passerby told us to be. There was a nice waterfall with a small lake. Loads of groom and brides-to-be were taking their pre-wedding photographs.
Trusting strangers in a land of mistrust
When we were walking on the path, heading for the exit to take the bus. A woman pushing a bicycle started chatting to us, telling us which were tea bushes and even plucked a few tea leaves for us.
She even invited us to have tea at her place. Although I’ve read about tea scams in China [LINK], she looked like a nice person so I didn’t object to going with them.
She brought us to her house which was a little cement place behind a fancy house. She brought out two bags of tea leaves and made glasses of tea for us.
We chatted about random things. She mentioned that her child’s teachers have sent mobile phone messages to remind them about the holidays and the kids’ homework. She also told us that it was sale season for black freshwater pearls.
When we had enough of tea (about 5 glasses), we told her that we were leaving. Nicole bought some tea from her.
The woman brought us out and told us that we could take a cab back to West Lake. So we walked up the hill. There, a man was waiting beside his car. He told us that the charge was only 20 yuan to West Lake.
We took the cabbie’s offer to head back. While we were driving down the hill, he kept asking if we wanted to buy pearls or silk products. Fortunately we didn’t.
Soon, we reached West Lake’s area. But the map told me that we weren’t very near where we wanted to go. Then, the cabbie said he could drop us off somewhere further in front after he picked up his kid.
A girl was waiting by the road. She got into the back seat with us. We chit chat with the kid while her dad drove us further down the road.
Then it suddenly hit me. (Nothing solid actually hit me, just a thought.) Could this man be related to the tea-woman? Could she be sending him phone messages about us?
I asked the kid which level she was in in primary school. She replied, “Third grade,” which was the same as tea-woman’s tea.
The thing about travelling is that you are never sure which stranger you can trust and which you cannot. It’s easy to reject everyone that comes along but you would never know if that person meant you harm or not.
I still wonder if it is better to trust or to mistrust.
Cycling around the West Lake
After the could-be swindler cabbie dropped us off by West Lake, I suggested that Nicole and I rent bicycles to cycle around the lake.
Hangzhou has an official bicycle rental program where you can rent the bike for an hour free of charge. The next hours are charged but if you return the bike within the hour and get a new rental cycle, then it’s free forever. It’s similar to the one in Paris which I’ve rode before.
The first bike rental place didn’t accept new applications so we walked 5 minutes to the counter opposite Yue Fei Temple.
We had to pay 300 yuan deposit for a rental deposit card. However, there was no bike around for rental so we walked back to the first rental place.
There were quite a few bikes there. We then realized why there were so many bikes there–Half of them were broken. One bike’s back tire broke when I sat on it. Another bike’s chains were gone.
So Nicole drove the only bike we could find to the other bike station. Still, no one returned the bikes. Well, some did but they took it away immediately so it didn’t count.
We then went further down the road, trying to find a bike station with functional bikes. Nicole and I took turns on the bike, trying to find a bike station.
We didn’t find a station with free bikes until 40 minutes after we got the first bike. At one point, I took the bike to find a bike station. I was supposed to cycle back to Nicole and report to her about my findings. I did cycle back when I found a station and thought that I would start looking for her after passing one of the bridges.
Luckily I stopped. Turns out, Nicole already reached the junction and was looking for me. If I didn’t stop, I would have to cycle to the meeting point and then back to look for her.
After we both reached the vacant bike station, we hopped on our bikes and pedaled down the dangerous road on which we rode alongside moving vehicles.
We rode our bikes for what felt like a long time before we were ready for dinner. We parked our bikes and went to a branch of “Green Tea” which we accidentally found.
We took a queue number and was about 20 numbers away. We went to find a public toilet at a shopping mall opposite. The sign at the mall was weird. It kept pointing upstairs and downstairs. We found it in a totally different place in the end.
Dinner was great. Green Tea was packed with customers. They have 5 floor and yet each table was occupied.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel, passing by a Carrefour. I could not resist Carrefour. We bought some interesting skin care products.
Too tired at the end of the day, we stayed in. I watched some anime before retiring for the night.
Follow my (2 weeks late) adventures in China:
Day 1 Misadventures at Hangzhou Airport [YQasia Day 1 Sep 26]
Day 2 Swindlers and bicycle misadventures at West Lake
Day 3 Bike returning at West Lake/ Staying with a cute baby [YQasia Day 3 Sep 28]
Day 4 To Thousand-Island Lake by bus [YQasia Day 4 Sep 28]
Day 5 Tour of Qiandao Hu (Thousand-Island Lake) [YQasia Day 5 Sep 30]
Day 6 Buying tix to Shanghai/ Eating on a floating platform in middle of nowhere [YQasia Day 6 Oct 1]
Day 7 A very Chinese wedding [YQasia Day 7 Oct 2]
Day 8 A very Chinese hotel/ 7-hour buses to Shanghai [YQasia Day 8 Oct 3]
Day 9 Exploring Shanghai: Buffet, the Bund and Nanjing East Rd [YQasia Day 9 Oct 4]
Day 10 A day of food and coffee in Shanghai [YQasia Day 10 Oct 5]