Monday, August 07, 2006
Despite its inauspicious beginnings, the weekend actually turned out pretty well. Saturday was poker night - playing for jiao (half pence) coins, I cleaned up and made enough for my bus fare to Hangzhou and back. Which is how I found myself walking very, very slowly around West Lake, one of the top five tourist attractions in the entire country, yesterday afternoon.
Unfortunately the lake's popularity ensures that it suffers from all the gawdy excesses of modern Chinese tourism. Restored pagodas reached by escalators cut into the hillsides; twelve seater golf buggies laden with sightseers bump up and down over three hundred year old stone bridges; mass parades led by flag waving guides; boat trips and musical fountains. With a bit of patience, though, you can still find some peace and quiet: wander through the willow trees lining the main path and you'll find families dipping their feet into the cool water. And at the botanical gardens I had a bamboo forest all to myself for the best part of an hour.
Next weekend, weather permitting, I want to hike through the hills to Hangzhou's tea plantations. Only five more days to grind through till then.