Six Signs Hangzhou May (or May Not) Be Heaven on Earth

August 23, 2011

I had high hopes for my summer.

Like so high it’s possible I was on drugs.

I was going to get tons of writing done. I was going to go running everyday and get in shape. I was going to blow you all away with a series of top ten blog posts like you’d never seen before.

Well, I can’t say much of that has happened.

What have I done?

To be honest, aside from my quick trip to Xi’an, I’m not entirely sure. I vaguely remember watching lots of reality TV. I broke in my new toaster oven by using it to bake lots of cookies. And, judging from the butt-shaped dent in my couch cushion, it’s possible I slipped into a coma at some point and just sat there for about ten days straight. Sadly, none of these things were goals I’d actually set out to achieve this summer. (Especially the couch dent. I mean, how does one go about undenting one’s sofa?)

The other week I was feeling a bit down about my lack of success this summer, so I thought I would perk myself up with one last summer trip.

And what better way to cheer myself up then to go to the happiest place in China – Hangzhou! Yep, that’s right, according to a recent survey, Hangzhou, which is about three hours away from Wuxi by fast train, is the happiest place in all of the Middle Kingdom.

Of course, I had heard about Hangzhou long before the survey. You see, people have been gushing about that place for years. Poets have written poems about it. Artists have painted paintings of it. In the Thirteenth Century, Marco Polo described Hangzhou as “the most beautiful and magnificent city in the world.” (And this was coming from a man who’d seen a few places in his day, you know.)  Pick up any map or tourist brochure for the city, and you’re sure to see Hangzhou described as everything from an “Earthly Paradise” to “Heaven on Earth.” Even Lonely Planet, which is none too effusive with its praise, dubs Hangzhou’s West Lake “a true beauty in the midst of a concrete jungle.” (Meanwhile, Lonely Planet calls my home of Wuxi “smoggy and characterless.” Well, gee, shucks, Lonely Planet, way to make a city feel special.)

Frankly, I was a little bit dubious of all the claims made about Hangzhou. The same survey that had ranked Hangzhou as the happiest place in China had also ranked Shanghai as the most miserable metropolis in the country.

Now, I’ve been to Shanghai quite a bit, and I’ve really enjoyed my time there — mostly because my visits usually include drinking lots of cocktails and eating nacho platters. (Both of which I’m pretty sure are local customs in that city so stop looking at me like that.)

I’m not really religious or anything, but if I was going to come up with a definition of heaven on Earth, it would have to include cocktails and nacho platters.

Plus, I don’t think the people who took that survey have seen my couch.

As far as I’m concerned, my couch is the happiest place in China. It’s located conveniently under an air conditioner, is within walking distance from my fridge and is completely pants-optional!

I don’t really know how Hangzhou can beat that, do you?

But I figured I’d give it a try anyway — even if it meant leaving my beloved sofa for a few days.

So was Hangzhou everything it’s cracked up to be?

How about if I let you decide?

1.    My hotel

I booked my hotel kind of at the last minute as I decided to take my trip kind of at the last minute. Seeing as Hangzhou is a popular tourist destination, especially during the summer, there weren’t a lot of options still available to me.

Okay, so, sure, I could have booked a bed in one of the many hostels with shared dormitories, but I don’t usually equate “heaven on Earth” with “sleeping in a room full of thirteen strangers – half of whom are in a state of inappropriate drunkenness or half-nakedness.”

And, really, for any place to qualify as an “Earthly paradise” in my book, it has to come with its own en suite bathroom. That’s just how things are in my version of heaven.

The only place that I could find that was reasonably priced and had a single room still available was something called an “Artistic Inn.” The pictures on the booking site where I reserved the room made it look rather quaint and charming – kind of like a bed and breakfast without the breakfast. (Oh, Asia, I love you. But unless all your hotels realize how important it is for me to have coffee and pancakes in the morning, I really don’t know how much longer our relationship can last.)

When I first arrived at the hotel, I have to say I was quite charmed. The hotel’s café was sun-filled and full of Chinese families happily eating lunch. The walls were decorated with huge paintings and collections of kitschy knick-knacks.

A Dalmation was lying by the check-in counter soaking up the sun and looking like he’d just popped out of a Disney movie.

I had arrived early so my room wasn’t ready, but the staff was very friendly and told me they had upgraded me to a better, more expensive room for free. I was like, “Okay, sure, I guess that’s just how they roll in the promised land!”

When I eventually did check in to my room a few hours later, I discovered that it was a tiny, dark, windowless affair that reeked of mildew.

The bathroom’s ceiling was so low, that it was physically impossible for me to stand up while looking in the mirror.

The walls of my room were decorated with creepy cartoon bunnies, whose blank stares were a clear indicator to me that they were zombies.


If this was an upgraded room, what had they upgraded me from?

The dungeon cage in the basement?

2.    The Sky

When I was a kid, my brothers and sisters and I would play this game we called “Orphanage.” The premise of the game was simple: we would pretend we were orphans who had just escaped from this horrible, evil orphanage where we’d been kept captive our entire lives.

(Please don’t take this as any reflection on my parents. They are lovely people. Really. It’s just that they wouldn’t let us watch much television when we were kids, and they were always telling us to go outside to play. We had to learn how to entertain ourselves. I guess that’s just what happens when you don’t let your kids watch Dukes of Hazzard like all the other kids at school – they pretend they’re escaped orphan slaves. And then they blog about it twenty-some years later. Let that just be a lesson to all you anti-television parents out there.)

The best part of the game was pretending that we didn’t know what anything was since we’d never been outside of the orphanage. We’d walk around pointing at things like trees and go, “I wonder what that thing is over there. That thing with the green stuff on top.”

As you can imagine this provided us with hours of entertainment. Hours, I tell you.

I was reminded of this game while I was in Hangzhou. I’d be walking along and think, “Wow, what’s that thing up there? You know, that blue thing with the puffy white things in it?”

Oh, that’s the sky.

It took me a while to remember that this is what the sky usually looks like in many parts of the world.

As opposed to what the sky usually looks like in my part of the world, which is this:

Okay, so maybe Lonely Planet has a point.

3.    The place names

Hangzhou is positively packed with beautiful gardens, temples, museums and other attractions, many of them lining the shores of the picturesque West Lake.

The tourist brochure that I picked up lists thirty must-see destinations including the “Top Ten Scenes of West Lake,” the “New Top Ten Scenes of West Lake” and “The Third Appraisal of Top Ten Scenes of West Lake.”

I visited a handful of these places, and they were all very nice.

But, I have to say, my biggest enjoyment in Hangzhou came from reading the names of the attractions in the brochure or on the street signs. Just to give you a few, there were the “Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake,” “Lingering Snow on Broken Bridge,” “Three Pools Mirroring the Moon,” “Twin Peaks Piercing the Cloud,” and “Sweet Osmanthus Rain at Manjuelong Village.”


"Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge"

I can see why the people in Hangzhou would be so happy, can’t you? I mean, if I lived next to some place called “Precious Stone Hill Floating in the Rosy Cloud” I’d be pretty happy, too.

4.    The street food

The brochure that I picked up also listed a number of what they called “delicacy streets.” I didn’t know what a “delicacy street” was, but judging from the pictures in the brochure, that was where you could buy lots of meat-on-a-stick. And, as it just so happens, meat-on-a-stick is one of my key requirements for being happy. It’s like the city planners of Hangzhou thought of everything!

It didn’t take me too long before I was hightailing it to South Zhongshan Road, one of the most popular and largest “delicacy streets” in town. Sure enough, the first thing I was greeted by was the sight of many vendors selling grilled meat-on-a-stick.

I moseyed up to one vendor where I ordered a couple skewers of grilled lamb and a beer (which turned out to be an entire pitcher of beer – because that’s just the way beer is served in paradise, I guess).

As I sat down on the plastic stool behind my stall of choice, one of the guys working at the stall sat down across from me. He launched into an animated conversation in Chinese that I didn’t understand, while I worked on my skewers of meat and pitcher of beer. I would occasionally nod happily and think to myself how wonderfully friendly the people in Hangzhou were.

Then as I was finishing off the last skewer, the man, realizing that I hadn’t understood a word of what he had been saying to me, resorted to sign language. He pointed at me, then pointed at himself, then made the gesture for sleep, then pointed off into the distance. It slowly dawned on me what this man had been going on about this whole time.

He wasn’t making friendly conversation, after all.

He’d been propositioning me.

Because apparently only hookers eat meat-on-a-stick. And drink pitchers of beer.

Well, this was not exactly the kind of treatment I’d been expecting… you know, in heaven.

Figuring I shouldn’t stick around to finish off the rest of of my beer, I hastily paid my bill and scurried off in the direction of more food stalls.

Shortly afterwards, I came across a stall selling what I’m pretty sure are the best dumplings in all of China. These things were amazing.

And they almost made up for the whole being mistaken for a prostitute thing.


5.    This Starbucks

Okay, go ahead and judge me all you want, but sometimes a girl just needs a triple, grande iced soy latte – especially after that girl just hiked five miles around a lake in million-degree heat.

Besides, you have to admit, this place looks totally classy, right? I mean, if there are Starbucks in the afterlife (which I certainly hope there are), I’m pretty sure they look like this.

I discovered this Starbucks nestled next to the “Breeze Ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden.” (Yes, that is it’s official name. I told you that’s how they name stuff in paradise, okay?) I was exhausted and dehydrated and seriously ready to hurt one of the thousands of tourists that were around me. But then I spotted the green and white sign. I thought it might be a mirage. And when I opened the door to the air-conditioned café, I was pretty sure I could hear angels singing. Or maybe that was just the barista. Whatever. It was a heavenly experience.

And while you’re judging me, I’ll just tell you now that I did go into a McDonald’s while I was in Hangzhou and it looked like this:

Yep, this is where you eat your Big Macs in kingdom come, people.

6.    The Lingyin Temple and Peak Flying From Afar

On my third day in Hangzhou, I visited the Lingyin Temple, which is Hangzhou’s most famous temple. It was, of course, very hot out, and the temple, itself, was packed with tons of tourists. But it smelled amazing and very holy-like because everyone was waving around big, thick sticks of incense while they prayed.

I was having a good time walking around, taking lots of pictures and checking out the cool crumbly Buddha statues that dot the side of the nearby mountain, which is poetically called “Peak Flying From Afar.”

Then I made the mistake of climbing up the mountain.

Why did I climb up a muddy mountain in a million degree heat?

Well, wouldn’t you climb up a mountain called “Peak Flying From Afar”?

Besides, a whole bunch of other people were climbing up there, so I was pretty sure there must be some really cool stuff on the top of the mountain which would make the climb totally worth it.

Are you ready for all the cool stuff I saw up there?

Well, there was a vendor selling beverages and prayer beads.

And there was this rock.

Let’s just say I was not the happiest person in Hangzhou at that moment.

After I came down from the mountain, I decided I’d had enough. After three days of tromping through parks, visiting lots of temples, running away from propositioning meat salesmen and hiking up muddy mountains, I was ready to go home. I cut my trip short by a day and left the following morning.

Don’t get me wrong, Hangzhou had been really nice.

But I was ready to return to my couch.

Or, as I am now calling it, “The Precious Lingering at the Pants-optional Loveseat.”


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On August 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm casey bradford said:

    Hangzhou sounds like an interesting place to visit. The heat may not bother me too bad since I live in Louisiana. 🙂 Do you travel alone to these destinations usually? It’s something I’d like to do but I’ve never been one to travel alone. Still working up the courage I guess..

    • On August 24, 2011 at 12:54 am Sally said:

      I should be used to the heat, since I lived in lots of tropical countries & in Japan for 3 years where they have similar summers. But I’m just not a hot weather person, and I really hate having to travel in it. I’d much rather be hanging out on my couch underneath the air conditioner!
      This trip I took on my own. I took the trip to Xi’an with a friend who was visiting China. Personally, I prefer taking long trips on my own as it gives me lots of freedom to do what I want. But I do really enjoy taking short trips with friends. I think this trip to Hangzhou would have been nice to take with a friend as I would have avoided the crappy single room & also probably avoided being propositioned by the meat salesman! Oh well. I can definitely say I seem to have more adventures when I travel on my own. So that’s one good thing about going solo!

  2. On August 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm Robyn said:

    That’s one thing I am NOT looking forward to once I start my travels, is getting hit on by people thinking I’m a prostitute. Or thinking because I may have a visible tattoo it means I want them to touch it. ew.

    • On August 24, 2011 at 12:50 am Sally said:

      I guess I’ve been lucky because I’ve only been mistaken for a prostitute a few times. Either that or I’ve been totally clueless about it. To be honest, it took me like 10 minutes before I realized that this guy was propositioning me. So, for all I know, people have been propositioning me for YEARS I just had no idea. But, really, I haven’t had that many bad experiences in Asia.

  3. On August 23, 2011 at 11:19 pm MaryAnne said:

    Spot on there! We went to Hangzhou once when we first came to China in 2009, for the Grave Sweeping long weekend. Yes, we went for a national holiday! Yes, we were that naive/insane! And it rained. And most of my photos were of other people’s heads. In fact, that trip was the first of many facebook albums titled ‘Other People’s Holiday Photos’. Beijing and Chengdu also have similar head-filled shots.

    Looking forward to meeting up with you again soon! I have a little packet of pretzel m&ms with your name on it (well, not really, but I tell myself that so I don’t eat them)

    • On August 24, 2011 at 12:48 am Sally said:

      Ha, ha. I have a photo album like that from Tokyo.
      I’m SO looking forward to my pretzel M&Ms. If putting my name on them prevents you from eating them then do it!

  4. On August 23, 2011 at 11:47 pm Erik said:

    Another excellent post. I get so excited when I see these pop into my RSS reader. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are other summers to write books.

    • On August 24, 2011 at 12:47 am Sally said:

      Thanks, Erik. I’m actually hoping once the weather cools down & I’m back to a regular schedule, I’ll get more work done on the book. I tend to be more productive when I’m busy doing other stuff. When I have nothing on my schedule, I put things off forever because I’m like, “Meh, I have all summer to do that! Why don’t I just go bake more cookies?”

  5. On August 24, 2011 at 1:00 am James in Phnom Penh said:

    I’m totally with you on the single room / ensuite thing. My tolerance level for dorm rooms is inversely proportional to my age. Plus, I’m a drooler. And have been know to snore. (Although, personally, I’m SURE that’s not true despite various sound recordings floating around.) Wait. One of the food sellers was ready to LEAVE HIS STALL to take you to his own personal version of the Promise Land? That’s a COMPLIMENT. haha. BTW, I’m the ADoS for the Australian Centre for Education in Phnom Penh. I remember reading way back that you were considering coming to Cambodia. What schools were you looking at? Just curious…

    • On August 24, 2011 at 2:38 am Sally said:

      I just wish there were more single rooms available. It seems like most guesthouses or hotels in Asia don’t have them, so I end up having to pay extra on a double room or going the dormitory route (which, so far, I’ve only done once while in Asia and it was SO not a good experience). When I do find a single room, it often ends up being really crappy (like the one I had in Hangzhou — I’m pretty sure my room was the only room in the hotel without a window). I’m ready to start a movement that pushes for hotels to provide better accommodation for us solo travelers. I’ve had enough! Gahhh!
      As for Cambodia, it is still very much on my list of places I must see before I leave Asia (IF I ever leave Asia). I haven’t looked into teaching there, but if you have recommendations for schools I’d love to hear them. Could you email me (unbravegirl at

  6. On August 24, 2011 at 1:32 am Jess said:

    Only prostitutes buy meat on a stick? There are some bad calls that could be made there…

    • On August 24, 2011 at 2:26 am Sally said:

      Well, I, obviously, don’t agree that only prostitutes eat meat-on-a-stick. But, it’s possible that’s the understanding of the locals given the reaction I received from the meat seller. Just wanted all the meat-on-a-stick loving ladies out there to know what they might have to deal with while pursuing their quest for the perfect kebab!

      • On August 24, 2011 at 5:00 am Jess said:

        I’d never thought about the phallic symbolism of meat on a stick and am now seriously concerned that I may or may not have given some men the wrong idea on my brief travels in Asia! I am usually quite oblivious to these sorts of things, like the time I got taken on a date and didn’t realise until half way through that it was a date (sigh)…

        Anyway, thanks for the heads up!

        • On August 24, 2011 at 5:24 am Sally said:

          I KNOW! It turns out I’ve been walking around ordering meat-on-a-stick like a total whore all these years. Who knew?
          And, wow, I think went on one of those wait-this-is-a-date? dates in Brazil, one time. Actually, it happened twice. You think I would have learned after the first time. But no.

  7. On August 24, 2011 at 4:24 am akonrad said:

    Hey Sally, I just recently came across your blog and I’m absolutely loving it! Thanks for the hilarious tour of Hangzhou – and, I’m not ashamed to admit, that I like you EVEN more now that i see you read O Magazine (photographed on the corner your coffee table near the multi-colored couch).

    • On August 24, 2011 at 5:29 am Sally said:

      Thank you! Glad you are enjoying the blog! Sadly that is an old picture of my couch, so that’s an old O magazine & I haven’t gotten my O magazine fix in ages. (I was embarrassed to include a picture of my couch as it is now… given the butt-dent and all. We’ll have to do some reconstructive surgery before my couch can take any more photo shoots.) I do love that magazine — it always makes me feel better about myself after I read it. (Unlike most women’s magazines which always make me feel like I should be exercising more/eating better/learning how to talk to boys.)

  8. On August 24, 2011 at 4:25 am Mike said:

    I spent a few days there and really liked it. Maybe not heaven on earth but it was really pretty. Did you see the squirrel trees? There were two or three trees roped off on the side of the lake with a few squirrels living in them and everyone was going crazy taking pictures of the squirrels. I don’t know why, but I just found that hilarious.

    • On August 24, 2011 at 5:25 am Sally said:

      Oh man, I totally missed the squirrel trees. They were not in my tourist brochure. (And if they were they would totally have an awesome name like “Leaping Squirrel Beautiful Foliage Tree”) Darn it! I guess I’ll just have to go back!

  9. On August 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm Tom said:

    Hahaha I LOVED this! Can’t believe you got mistaken for a prostitute! And your couch looks amazing. I don’t even have a couch! I tell ye, it’s the highlight of when I go to my boyf’s family’s home – their fantastic couch.

    I can totally identify with the playing strange games – I grew up on a farm miles (seven, to be precise) from civilisation. My brother & I also pretended we were escapees, but this time we were animals fleeing to some kind of sanctuary. I think it was a side-effect of this interactive San Diego Zoo CD-rom we had.

    Yet I have to disagree on one thing though – I vote that the bunnies are cute! Also, can’t believe you got mistaken for a prostitute – maybe you were unknowingly working that meat on a stick rather seductively?

    The getting-mistaken-for-a-prostitute stories are always the best. Happened to me once so far.

    p.s. my head hurts from sympathy banging it into that ridiculously low bathroom. Ouch.

    • On August 25, 2011 at 2:42 am Sally said:

      Well, in all honesty, I don’t know if he thought I was a prostitute. I do, for sure, know that he asked me to sleep with him. But he never mentioned money at any point. So it’s possible he thought I’d just sleep with him in exchange for meat kebabs and beer. In that case, he just thought I was a cheap date.
      P.S. The bunnies are NOT cute when they are staring at you in your sleep trying to figure out how to eat your BRAAIIINS!
      P.P.S. Judging from the last comment you made on my blog about evil chickens and this comment about pretending to be escapees, I suspect we had pretty similar childhoods. Did you ever dress up a goat by chance? Because THAT happened to be one of my favorite childhood activities.

  10. On August 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm Matt said:

    Hangzhou was on my short list of small towns in China to visit. I ended up going to tongli instead. It was nice because tongli has the ancient Chinese sex museum. Winning.

    • On August 25, 2011 at 2:39 am Sally said:

      I read about the Chinese Sex Museum in my Rough Guide (errr, no pun intended). Luckily, Tongli is pretty close by Wuxi so I’ll definitely have to check it out!

  11. On August 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm Ken C. said:

    I so enjoyed your tour of Hangzhou, though I would have EXTENDED my stay rather than shortening it. It seemed so beautiful and serene, so much to see and experience…

    Except for your room; that was pathetic. You should have mentioned to the management that you are an internationally read blogger & travel writer. They would certainly have ungraded you from the Munchkin Suite to something human-sized.

    I’m glad you talked about your writing…I’m sure your “writerly” friends mentioned that writing a book of all new material is more a “marathon” than a “sprint.” [I did not invent this analogy] It’s an involved & lengthy process, and your pace will vary, and there will be times when the miles speed by, and times when every step is labored. The key is to keep at it, keep writing [at least, that’s what I’ve heard…I’ve never written anything longer than a term paper].

    But, then neither have I had to deal with misbehaving & misogynistic meat sellers. While your solution was probably the best, I might have considered poking him with those wickedly sharp meat skewers. That would give Mr. Romeo something ELSE to think about.

    • On August 25, 2011 at 2:37 am Sally said:

      Hangzhou was very beautiful, but I wouldn’t exactly say it was serene. It’s a super popular tourist destination, especially during the summer, so pretty much anywhere I went was packed with tourists. And, did I mention, it was a bazillion degrees out? Plus, I have yet to meet a place in China I would call serene (besides, ahem, my couch). China is, certainly, always interesting and often beautiful… but serene it is not!
      The room was a big part of the reason why I left early. Because it was so hectic and exhausting to tour Hangzhou, I just wanted to come back to a nice relaxing hotel room. But my mildewy little closet was not relaxing at all. I will say, though, having a sucky room did make me very productive with my sight-seeing. Mostly because I didn’t want to spend any time in my room! (Whereas if I had a nice hotel room, I would have totally been camped out under the air conditioner eating potato chips and surfing the interwebz.) Plus, the staff at the hotel was pretty much the nicest staff I’ve experienced at any hotel in China. They didn’t speak much English but they were very welcoming and helpful. When I was checking out, I asked the receptionist for bus directions to the train station (which I didn’t even end up using because I found a taxi). After I left, the receptionist called me on my cell phone because he realized the directions he gave me were wrong. Talk about awesome customer service!

  12. On August 24, 2011 at 10:32 pm Alouise said:

    I had some high hopes for summer too, but it turns out that I’m a bit (ok alot) of a procrastinator. Still it looks like you had a pretty interesting time in Hangzhou.

    • On August 25, 2011 at 2:30 am Sally said:

      I’m a total procrastinator too. I tell myself I leave everything to the last minute because I work well under pressure… but, I suspect, it’s because I’m too busy watching reality TV. But I’m certain this fall I’m going to be totally productive because summer is a totally stupid time to be productive.

  13. On August 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm The Travel Chica said:

    I’ve never been to China, but if I make it there, I want to visit your couch.

  14. On August 29, 2011 at 5:38 am choi kum fook said:

    As old Chinese saying: ” Up,it has Heaven; Down, it has Hangzhou.” HangZhou is famous for its scenery. While Suzhou is familiar for its pretty girl.Do you think so? Everybody has its own view.Usually Chinese use to be boasting a bit on it,especially the old poetical description, written by the ancient poems. Anyhow, China is a great country, has a lot of interesting to see and visit. Miss Sally, what is your nest destination? If you still have time in your summer holiday, I propose you plan a trip to the city of Urumqi, by mean of high speedy train. I assure you would have a remarkable journey! And, I am sure you can write a lot of things on it because you are a GREAT WRITER! HA! HA! As the result, I would obtain more enjoy on reading your post! THANK YOU!

    • On August 29, 2011 at 6:48 am Sally said:

      If Suzhou is famous for pretty girls, which place is famous for handsome men? I think I’d like to go there for my next trip! And, thank you for the suggestion of Urumqi. I will have to add it to the list of places I need to visit in China!

  15. On August 29, 2011 at 5:48 am cvaguy said:

    I totally got how you feel about your trip.

    I went there when I was young. My Dad was the private tour guide who recited the stories about all the places we visited. The scenery was beautiful minus the hazy sky part back then. However, most of the places had human touches in addition to associated history stories which made the places more attractive. I did find a place basically a simple cave with sculptures in it. It would be nothing if there is no story behind it 🙂 I can’t comment on the hotel, because yours was far better. (Hunt, sharing room with strangers, Chinese toilet in the hall).

    On the other hand, the parks in US are totally lack of history and human touches. I was in Hawaii and most of the beach parks are pretty similar. You can totally get to one to be done with it 🙂 The mountain reserve in where I live is pretty much nature. I don’t find anything special about it.

    BTW, where is the couch dent ? I can’t see it.

    • On August 29, 2011 at 6:47 am Sally said:

      Wow, I really wish I’d been traveling with my own private tour guide on this trip. Unfortunately, I had to rely on my guidebook & brochure, but I would have loved more explanation of the places I was seeing. But, judging for your description of your hotel room, it sounds like my hotel was actually better… Yikes! I don’t think I could have survived a night where you stayed. Even though I’ve done a lot of budget traveling and volunteering, if I’m paying for a place I like to stay some place comfortable.
      I do agree with you that parks in the US lack the history of a lot of the parks in Asia. U.S. is still very much a young country, so we don’t have the amazing cultural relics like they have here in China.
      As for the couch dent, it is not visible in this photo as the photo was taken some time ago. I would not like to hurt the couch’s feelings by posting an unflattering photo of it online. 🙂

  16. On September 8, 2011 at 9:31 am Ceri said:

    Loved this. 🙂 Hangzhou seems like a lovely place (with the exception of the propositioning meat vendors) and I adore the names of the places there but nothing I saw still impressed me more than your sofa. 😉
    Ceri recently posted..The So-Called ‘Gap Year’

  17. On September 13, 2011 at 10:58 am Jes said:

    omg i nearly choked with laughter when you mentioned playing orphanage! my cousin and i played that ALOT. tho ours was a little different. we also liked to play overboard (leaping off the slide like we were leaping from a sinking ship) and library… um, yea, bored kids play weird games! haha

    and now i really want meat on a stick… >>

    • On September 16, 2011 at 5:11 am Sally said:

      We played overboard too! But only when we were allowed to play inside (the couch was our ship & the couch cushions the life rafts… or crocodiles depending on what version of overboard we were playing).

  18. On December 7, 2015 at 8:50 am Andrew Darwitan said:

    You nailed it with this article! Sure, the place is beautiful, but it’s the names… how they romanticize every single place and level them up to philosopher-slash-poet level. In other places, you soak in the beauty and that’s in. In Hangzhou, your mind starts to wander wild and imagine the stories behind.
    Andrew Darwitan recently posted..8 Spell-Binding Sights That Will Make You Want to Visit Hangzhou Now


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