with F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8
After living in China for a while, I kind of got used to everything being one of three things: very old, very beautiful, or very famous.
“You must go to the Forbidden City. It is very old.”
“You must go to Yunnan. It is very beautiful.”
“You must go to Shenzen. It is very… famous. In China.”
The last one always seemed a bit of a cop out.
Hangzhou is about an hour from Shanghai on the bullet train – “You must go on the bullet train. It is very fast.” – and actually does fall into the second category.
It really is very beautiful.
A garden city really, with an abnormal amount of green. Everywhere. Even the football team is called Hangzhou Greentown. They were named after a local property developer, granted, but we don’t have to dwell on that.
It did make it easy to develop a common theme for my pictures from the short trip I took there though.
West Lake photography
The West Lake is probably what most people who know anything about Hangzhou would think of first, and with good reason, as it’s what they promote most as a reason to visit the city.
Centuries old, Hangzhou’s West Lake is that rare tourist spot in China; as special as is claimed, and with enough space to easily get away from the crowds.
Boat trips, pagodas, temples, causeways, willows, huge leaved water plants, parks, and cycle-friendly paths around most of the perimeter make it a superb place to spend a couple of days, and of course take some photos with your manual focus lenses.
Temple at the lake
On the south end of West Lake sits one of Hangzhou’s main temples, Jingci Si. Although there has been a temple on the site since AD 954, a lot of what stands now was built in the 1980s.
Regardless, it’s a spot that made a good subject for a change of direction in my set of photographs from Hangzhou. Not overcrowded yet partly overgrown, it also offered enough greenery to continue that particular theme just a little longer.
Hangzhou walking street
Away from the West Lake, Hangzhou has a really nice pedestrianised area, featuring the usual collection of tourist souvenirs and snacks for sale. Most cities in China do seem to have these walking streets, but Hangzhou’s just felt more pleasant than most others I’ve been to.
Even the children seemed to more polite in their impoliteness than anywhere else.
The street food at the night market was pretty good too; who doesn’t like potato smiley faces? Not sure about the scorpions though, I have to say.
Free bicycle rent in Hangzhou
What I liked most though was probably the free bicycle hire in Hangzhou.
Dotted all over the city are automated stations where you can use a swipe card to get a bike and return it when you’re done.
It’s free for the first two hours, with prices rising incrementally to a maximum of 3 RMB (about 30 pence) for anything over three hours.
If you want to be like the locals though, and why wouldn’t you, you’ll return the bike before two hours and immediately rent it again, repeating the process all day to never pay anything.
Despite not all of the bicycles being in the best condition, you can’t really complain when they are being provided for nothing.
It’s a scheme more cities should look into, in my opinion. Not just in China either, but worldwide. Get your population fitter and cut down on vehicle emissions. What’s not to like?
Enjoyed this post on renting a bicycle in Hangzhou? Think others will too?
Share or pin it!