September 7, 2015 | talktraveltome | Leave a comment After spending time exploring some of China’s biggest cites (Hong Kong and Shanghai), we wanted to ease our way into the countries natural beauty which lead us to Hangzhou. Any place that earns a nickname like “Paradise on Earth” is on our short list of places to check out, and Hangzhou did not disappoint. Located right on the picturesque West Lake, Hangzhou is a relatively large city with incredible natural landscapes, and was the perfect stop for us as we were making our way from Shanghai to the Yellow Mountains. We spent three days exploring Hangzhou, and had a great time getting to know this cultural center. West Lake A recently named UNESCO World Heritage Site (2011), West Lake is one of the most famous places in Hangzhou. It is an incredible combination of both nature and modern living as it literally sits on the edge of a city. The lake itself is about 2.5 square miles, and you can easily spend an entire day walking around and experiencing the local culture. The lake is surrounded by temples, fountains, beautiful flowers and so much more. We started our day out by the Music Fountain located near the northeast corner of West Lake. It get’s its name because several times each day (10:00 am, 3:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm, and 9:00 pm) the 125+ meter fountain burst to life and puts on a 10-15 minute performance to a Chinese soundtrack. After spending some time near the fountain, we started walking south towards Leifeng Pagoda. The Pagoda is about an hour+ walk from the fountain, but completely worth the time and energy. We walked along the water, through weeping willow trees and over some small bridges, all the while taking in incredible views and stopping for a coffee a long the way. Once we arrived at Leifeng Pagoda we purchased our tickets and climbed the five story building. Leifeng Pagoda was originally built over 1000 years ago, but since collapsed and was just rebuilt in 2002. While inside the Pagoda you can see the remnants of the original building and even throw down some coins for good luck. From the top floor of Leifeng Pagoda you can take in astonishing views of West Lake and the city of Hangzhou. It’s a great place for a picture and to get a feel for just how cool Hangzhou really is. After walking around all morning and climbing up the five stories of Leifeng, we were getting pretty tired but still wanted to see more of the attractions along the edge of the lake. Luckily for us, there are tons of electric cars taxiing people around. For just a few Yuan you can take one of these shared electric cars (they’re like oversized golf carts) pretty much anywhere along the waters edge. We took the cart back north along the west side of the lake and over to check out some beautiful lotus flowers. After smelling the flowers we walked a little further east and wound back up at the Music Fountain where we started. All in all we spent about 4 hours exploring West Lake but could have easily spent another 4. Unfortunately, we had a limited amount of time and wanted to see what else the city had to offer. Hefang Street One of the other things we wanted to see was Hefang Street. It’s a well-preserved part of the ancient city and full of local shops. It’s also only a short walk from West Lake, making it an easy stop along the way. While exploring the many shops we also did a Longjing Tea tasting at one of the many tea shops. Longjing Tea is a type of tea in China that has become renowned for being some of the best green tea in the world. With a reputation like that we had to try it for ourselves. Also referred to as “Dragon Well Tea”, it is the preferred tea of Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones (we cannot confirm that last part, but just assume it’s true). The tea tasting itself was free, but you are expected to purchase at least one canister from the shop. We ended up purchasing their middle grade tea which we both thought was great! We would have gone with the high end tea if it wasn’t for the $350+ price tag stuck on the side of their 100 gram bag of tea… We’re not sure what’s in that tea but it must be good for that price! If you’re a tea connoisseur and want to channel your inner Brit, then you can take a day trip to the surrounding areas for a spot of tea. There are plantations that grow and harvest the Longjing Tea. Tea harvest season is in early spring from March-May, and would be the best time to go get freshest tea. Eating in Hangzhou After working up an appetite we went to Green Tea Restaurant (different from the green tea we were drinking) to sample the local cuisine. We almost didn’t eat here because there seemed to be a never ending line outside of the restaurant, but we asked how long the wait was and tables were moving fast. After a few minute wait we took the elevator upstairs and were seated on the top floor. The restaurant layout is part of the experience itself. It’s a five story restaurant with a lot going on. If you are the kind of person that wants a quiet dinner this might not be the place for you, but if you don’t mind a crowded room and want to experience the busy part of Hangzhou then this is your kind of restaurant. To order we just checked off what foods we wanted from a paper menu (which was good because not many people there spoke english) and our waiter was quick to start bringing our food out. We ordered the Green Tea chicken and pork, grilled corn, stir fried vegetables, edamame, and for desert devoured a delicious Napoleon. We definitely over ordered, but everything was bursting with flavor and we ate it all. Accommodation While we were in Hangzhou we stayed on an outlying area of the city at Shama Heda Serviced Apartments. We had been traveling for quite some time, and Shama Heda provided us with a much needed taste of home. We were able to cook a homemade meal with the use of our in-room kitchenette, bounce around from living to bedroom in our spacious apartment, and have a place to relax and take a break from our always busy travel schedule. To see more about our amazing stay with Shama Heda Serviced Apartments check out our Hotel Review here. Thank you Shama Heda for hosting us during our stay in Hangzhou! As always, our opinions are our own as we Talk Travel.