The weekend before finals I always try to take a trip somewhere in China because I have no planning or grading to do. (And there are still so many places in China that I want to see).
Last week my destination was Hangzhou. Hangzhou was an important economic hub and the capital of China under the Song Dynasty (960-1270) and it is an important place for tea cultivation so there is quite a bit of culture going on. Marco Polo also noted that it was one of the most beautiful places in China.
I took the fast train from Jinan (a little South of Beijing) to Hangzhou--a 4 hour trip and met a friend I met in Shenzhen who now lives in Shanghai. We got in late so we checked out the bar scene:
There is an entire bar street and a big social scene in Hangzhou (much bigger than in Jinan).
After that we went to a hostel near the main tourist destinations. The room we stayed in was a shared dorm with 4 beds...the bathroom was at the end of the hall and all the sinks were outside (it was freezing there). It was one of the most uncomfortable hostel stays I've had. Own room, bathroom connected from here on out.
The next day we got up early to see the biggest and most beautiful tourist spot...West Lake.
We walked around the lake--which was GORGEOUS. I would love to see it again when the trees and flowers are in full bloom.
The best part of walking around the lake was people watching.
Some woman demanded that I take some of these treats. They tasted gross...it was like eating a stick of flour that was stuck together by water.
I saw my first squirrel in China. This man was feeding it corn--the Chinese were very amused
Next..this man was painting calligraphy with water
he had a huge crowd
Some ballroom dancing
Taking a break at Starbucks (it was so cold out!)
this man is fishing with a homemade fishing pole from a soda can
I saw so many runners in Hangzhou! It was nice--you never see runners in big cities (or in China in general--its pretty rare unless you are at the gym--maybe pollution is to blame)
this is a famous pagoda that borders the lake
the lake was beautiful at night!
After walking around the lake, we checked out a popular "shopping street"
There was a chinese medicine shop on the pedestrian shopping street--it was really neat to see
most chinese medicines you put into hot water and drink as a tea
there was a store with dried meats and fish...
Any ideas what kind of leg that is?
A man sniffing the fish (kinda gross if someone plans to buy this and eat it)
chicken or ducks?
Sweets--they had a lot of peanut, sesame and ginger candies
This man is making a crepe and has a huge crowd
this is called "beggars chicken" it is a chicken wrapped in lotus leaves then in foil and baked. At first I thought it was a burrito (doesn't it look like Chipotle?)
The Chinese love Kenny Chesney...
"Professional mobile phone beauty"
I asked the vendor what made it "professional" she didn't get the joke
At the end was a food market...
Pigs--no idea what part is above
I think those are pig hearts...
And finally...pig heads (reminds me of Lord of the Flies)
After that we went into the main part of the city. Hangzhou just got an Apple store (it opened the weekend before) and it was PACKED.
There was a line in the front to go in.
After that we went out for a fancy meal
I got dongpo pork (it was very fatty--a Chinese delicacy, but not really my style)
And my friend got lobster
The next day we walked around a bit then went to the Tea Museum, which was located in the middle of a bunch of tea plantations.
For many dynasties, tea was only accessible to the upper class--drinking tea was a sign of sophistication and was prepared in a long step-by-step process
During the early dynasties, tea was rolled into a "tea cake"
But to simplify the process, the Ming dynasty established that tea would be made from loose leaves
From left to right you can see white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea and pu'er tea
Each type of tea has a special brewing method and type of pot you should use
The main difference in the production and preparation of leaves is the fermentation
This is a tea competition--it was in the Tang Dynasty maybe? The competitions were judged on how well the tea was brewed
A tool to make tea leaves
The health benefits of tea
Various products that are green tea flavored or scented (China loves green tea flavor/scent)
A tea set in Tibet
A tea set in Yunnan (Southern China)
A tea set in Chengdu? (central China)
There were so many stray dogs
The sidewalk was the character for tea in different fonts 茶 (pronounced "cha")
Lu Wu, a famous Tang poet who wrote about tea
After the Tea Museum we walked around a bit then went to a tea shop for some green tea
After that it was time to head to the train station. I had some time to kill while waiting for my train so I went to McDonalds--this is the seasonal flavor for Chinese New Years.
It is probably the two most common dessert flavors in China--red bean and green tea. Yummm
Chinese New Year's McDonald decoration
I also got this blob--no idea what it is (still) but it was everywhere in Hangzhou. It was among the dessert items (and it was indulging and sweet). The people there called it "ma zi" but my coworkers had no idea what I was talking about when I told them.
It was covered in a peanut or sesame powder which smelled really good and nutty.
The inside was a glutinous, sticky rice (which was a bit flavorless and felt really unhealthy) and a black sesame paste (which was good)
I ate my dessert with a Chinese staple--hot soy milk
Back to Jinan for an 8 day work week...blah.
Counting down the days until AMERICA!