Hangzhou is one of the Ancient Capitals of China. It capitalises on this aspect to promote its tourist industry but does not rely on the past alone; Hangzhou has a very forward-thinking attitude towards development and is also promoting itself as a centre for hi-tech industries. There is a strong drive to attract call centres so it could well end up as the Chinese equivalent of Bangalore.
One of the most distinctive features of the city is the gorgeous West Lake. This is a popular attraction, and is covered as such below. The lake originated as a lagoon about two thousand years ago, having been separated from the main Qiantang River by a sand-bank. It wasn't until the Tang Dynasty that a proper dam was built to ensure that the water didn't drain away and other attractive features began to appear making the scenic spot that we know today.
Hangzhou's location and natural resources have earned it the epithet:
Land of Fish and Rice,
Home of Silk and Tea
There is paradise above and Suzhou and Hangzhou below
Hangzhou (Airport code: HGH) has flight connections with most major cities in China and a few with those of South-east Asia and Japan.
For those arriving from other cities the excellent train connections are a real boon. Fast, reliable and comfortable services ensure that a visit to Hangzhou is easily combined with the 'must-see' Shanghai.
West Lake: Much has been said and written about the West Lake of Hangzhou, too much to summarize briefly here. Let us just say it is a very attractive body of water with many scenic spots and activities to fill your spare time.
Soul's Retreat Temple (Lingyin Si): This Buddhist temple is well known for its splendid Hall of the Heavenly King as well as for the grottoes of Feilai Feng - the Peak That Flew Here. The complex seems a world apart from the busy downtown and has the added advantage of offering some respite from the heat in summer.
Qing He Fang Street: This pedestrianised street is one of Hangzhou's better attempts to preserve something of its past. The street is now largely lined by curio shops and eateries aimed at tourists but is still an enjoyable place to wander. One particular attraction to look out for is the Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum, housed in a building that was once a factory for drying and processing the raw ingredients.
Excursions further afield can take you to:
Longjing: The tea from Longjing (Dragon Well) is famous across China. If you choose to visit the village that gives this district its name you will pass a museum dedicated to Tea - the plant and beverage. This makes a worthwhile stop, putting the plantations into some sort of context.
The Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies: The route between Longjing and the Qiantang River has become known by this artificial count. Given that it is mostly downhill through pleasant woodlands it does make for a nice walk or bike ride. There are scenic spots at the lower end that can be visited by vehicle.
Xixi National Wetland Park: This is China's only wetland to receive this special status. The park has 6 main water-courses as well as various ponds and pools. Although some scenic spots can be reached on foot, many require a boat trip.
Six Harmonies Pagoda: This pagoda was first built over one thousand years ago, an attempt to control the tidal bore described below. Although the pagoda looks as if it is made of wood it is mostly brick. It is possible to climb up inside the pagoda for views out over the Qiantang River.
Qiantang River Tidal Bore: On the 18th day of the 8th lunar month each year (3 days after the) the Qiantang River sees an amazing natural phenomenon - a tidal bore that can be 4 metres high (some sources say 9 metres) and 3 kilometres wide; travelling at speeds of up to 20 kilometres per hour (some sources say twice that) this is an event that attracts thousands of spectators. If you do go, please be careful - some people have misjudged the speed and height of the wave (just as the sources seem to) and have been washed away and drowned.
The following China Journeys include a stay in Hangzhou: