Sunday, April 17, 2005


Before I begin, I want to extend a HUGE thank you to my dear friend and fellow blogger, MrTeacher. He has been taking my emailed entries and pictures and posting them for me, without him there would be no live travelogue. Thanks bro.

I have just spent a wonderful weekend of R&R in the city of Hangzhou.

Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang Province, about 250 kilometers south of Shanghai, and is the southern terminus of the Grand Canal that comes down from Beijing.

It is a gorgeous city located on one of the most famous lakes in China, Xi Hu (West Lake). The city of 3 million is surrounded by hills and small mountains that are beautifully cultivated in neat tiers where the most expensive green tea in China is grown.

The city is one of China’s premier domestic tourist attractions, drawing overheated city dwellers from Shanghai in the summers and tourists from all over China year-round.

Marco Polo came here and called it “heaven on earth. The city is also famous for its silk products.

The city also has a great literary and mythological tradition, especially the story of the White Snake (which I will translate fully and write here in the future).

On Saturday afternoon Hangzhou native, and Lily’s best from childhood, picked us up and took us to West Lake.

It really is a little piece of heaven. The glittering and calm lakes, ancient bridges, lotus gardens, green hills on three sides and towering pagodas make it a transcendent place.

I will not allow myself to idealize it here though. It was unbearably packed with people, cars, tour buses and fumes along the outer shores. Only by taking a boat on the lake and climbing a large hill was I able to fully appreciate its beauty. My suggestion would be to never visit on a weekend.

From the Lake we went to the Lin Yin Zen Buddhist Temple complex. Built into the side of a green and fragrant mountain crisscrossed with streams and ponds, the sprawling and colorful 1100 year old monastery was once home to 3000 monks.

The magnificent and towering buildings ascend the mountain and each contains a larger, more colorful and more imposing Buddha statue than the last.

We were lucky enough to be there during a ceremony of praying and chanting by the monks.

Again, I would suggest not going on the weekend as I estimated there to be 10,000 people in the complex at any one time.

My Saturday was capped with a lovely dinner with Lily’s friend, her friend’s husband and their lovely daughter. I took to the bright, energetic and ever smiling eight year old immediately. She and I spent the entire night playing chase, learning English, talking about Disneyland and taking pictures.

I told here I wanted her to give me a new Chinese name and that I would give her an English name. Well, this really got her energized and occupied for the night.

Finally, just before dinner ended she gave me my new name. Chung Long (loosely translated as the (entering dragon). I decided to call her Mary because I she was perfect.

Only later in the night out on the town on the bar street did I find out that Chung Long is Jackie Chan’s Chinese name.

How did she come up with this? She overheard me telling her parents that I had studied Wushu (martial arts) and she thought this was fitting.

Today, we went with Mr. Fei and Ms. Wang - two managers from Lily’s father’s company - who took us to Wu Zhen. This small town is a really off the beaten track for foreigners but not Chinese day-trippers.

It’s a 600 year old town that has retained all of its original architecture.
It sits on a river and a series of canals. It is part living museum and part working town. People live and work there, but the town is full of museums, exhibits of ancient crafts, and traditional food stands.

It was really charming and it was great to see the layout and buildings of a traditional Chinese town. It’s a rare site in the east of the country.

The food here was distinct and quite good, a lot of lamb, fish and duck. A particular specialty was braised pork. It is served in between two 2 inch think layers of pig fat and is eaten in a small hot piece of folded dough.

Tomorrow I leave for Guangzhou, the capital of Southern China and one of the biggest and most commercial cities in China. I have a long week of work ahead of me there.

I have been to this city four times and it is quite important to my work.