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Tom's day out in China

Hangzhou - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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No politics today. Your blogger is working in Shanghai at present and took the opportunity to explore some of China, taking a 380km round trip to Hangzhou. I knew of the Chinese saying...

Above is Heaven, Below are Suzhou and Hangzhou

...so I was expecting some kind of rural idyll. Instead I found a city of six million souls; two-thirds the size of London and half the size of Moscow. Ms Chen, our guide, considered that small. By comparison with Shanghai's twenty-one million, so it is.

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For three hours I wondered if I had made a mistake. The route from Shanghai, a toll motorway, was surrounded by electricity pylons and road construction works. Communist countries used, in the old days, to be havens from advertising, but huge concrete pillars supported enormous billboards every few yards. Rural China rather resembled rural Poland, in the early 1990s. Even the buildings lacked oriental detailing.

Nor was I much impressed when we arrived at the fabled West Lake. It's a large shallow body of water with three artificial islands on it; divided by causeways into five sections. We took a boat ride. I decided not to worry about the elderly boat, when I learned that the lake is 1.8 metres deep. I could have actually stood up in it with my head clear.
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But when when we landed on the other side and managed to escape the enormous crowds, we found charming scenes. We watched families feeding the rather spoiled-looking Koi carp that the Chinese (who think nothing of chickens' feet and pigs' faces) would never dream of eating. The waters teemed with them; solidly orange. A large beautiful courtyard house (though the courtyard was part of the lake) proved to have been built only in 1940 as a private residence in classical style. It is now part of the park.
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After a pleasant lunch we moved on to the Ying Lin Temple, which is 1,700 years old and the largest in the city. There were Buddhists in our party and it was interesting to watch them at their devotions as we explored. It was embarrassing to watch a large, noisy group of Italians ignoring the restrictions on photography inside the buildings. The gentle monks did not protest, despite the distracting flashes. It's a shame they were not from Shaolin. The largest indoor Buddha in China was there (pictured). Seated, he is more than 18 metres tall.
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The detail here is from the temple wall. 

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Finally we sampled "Dragon Well" green tea at the plantation where it is grown. This is also known as the Emperor's tea, as the producers used to send the choice first growths to their rulers as their "tax." As there is no Emperor to claim the best of the crop, I was able to buy two kilos for myself and Mrs P. Pictured is Lu Yu, the "father of tea". He's the man who wrote the book (literally) that taught the Chinese how to appreciate their cure-for-all-ills. The lady at the plantation had us bathing our eyes in the steam to relieve soreness, recommended smearing it on with egg white and honey as a sun cream and more. I also bought green tea candy and green tea marshmallows, as consumed by the local children, as well as dried fruits added to the tea by the locals to ward off diabetes and heart disease. Worth a try; and they tasted good anyway. So does the tea itself, by the way. We were told that the Chinese say "eat tea", rather than "drink tea" and, if it's high quality stuff like Dragon Well, it's not only tasty but healthy.

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I confess I had some political discussion with my companions today; roundly denouncing Prime Minister Brown and President Obama for the undoubted scoundrels they are. Eventually though, the tranquillity of the day got even to me. I contented myself with giving them my blogging "business card," so they could read my views at leisure.

I hope the photos give some impression of what beautiful places these were. Your humble blogger is feeling very relaxed, despite the 3 hour return journey into a rush hour of returning weekenders.

Normal ranting service will now be resumed.

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