23 Oct China’s Hangzhou and Suzhou – Another Dose of More …
Saturday 1st September 2018, Day 4 in China; after 4 days in Beijing we boarded the high-speed train for the 6 hour ride from Beijing to Hangzhou (9.40 am to 3.40 pm).
A section of the Beijing railway station from which the high-speed train departs for Hangzhou
Hangzhou is approximately 1292 km south-south-east of Beijing. We covered the distance at an average speed of 215 km/hr (this includes stops at five stations along the way). The top speed of 303 km/hr was sustained for much of the journey.
View inside our carriage
The red wall display at the front of the carriage indicated:
Current Speed – 303 km/hr, Time – 13.25 or 1.25 pm, Carriage number – 11
View from the train at top speed (or close to it)
A country town of one and two storey dwellings, a rare site during our stay in China
We passed small, high-rise cities in the middle of agricultural areas, as well as several partly constructed high-rise cities, all of which seemed to appear out of nowhere.
The Chinese government must be determined to modernise every part of China and in a great hurry.
View of another high-speed train like “ours”
View from our hotel room in Hangzhou
In Beijing we saw very few usable balconies on residential buildings. Most of the residences in the buildings close to our Hangzhou hotel included balconies, as can be seen in the photo above.
Day 5, 2nd September 2018 we departed our hotel for two excursions in Hangzhou, before making the 2 hour bus ride to Suzhou.
Tea House at Meijiawu Tea Village
A section of the small, attractive garden at the Tea House
This tea house is situated in one of the most important Longjing tea production areas in China.
Tea bushes on the terraces and flatter ground, surround the Tea House
The tea leaves are harvested in April, when only the small new growth leaves are picked.
Electrically heated, tea leaf roasting bowls
It was said that China has a Tea Culture, whereas Australia has a Wine Culture (although we have a beer and coffee drinking culture as well). This was given as the reason Australians don’t understand China’s “obsession” with green tea.
Joe, our guide for this section of the tour, sipped green tea all day. He refreshed the tea in his flask up to five times a day using warm water. He claimed that this was the habit of the majority of Chinese people; and the reason for the existence of warm water fountains found in each carriage of the fast train and in other public places. Prior to his explanation we’d concluded that Chinese people don’t like cold water (or cold beer for that matter).
Green Tea making and drinking instructions, delivered by a graduate of the Tea University
Out Tea University graduate presented instructions on every aspect of correctly storing, making and drinking green tea. A long list of the health benefits, gained from drinking green tea, were also carefully explained.
Black tea was considered almost unworthy of a mention (although China does produce a substantial amount of Black Tea).
Chinese people who want a career in the tea industry obtain a university degree, in the same way wine makers in Australia do.
I admire the passion bound up in China’s green tea culture.
West Lake Hangzhou
Lotus plants after flowering beside West Lake
View from the rear of a West Lake cruise boat – our guide, Joe providing commentary
Pleasure craft moored under the willows, on the edge of the lake
The summer residence of a past Chinese official, on the edge of the lake
A more traditional “cruise” on the lake
Day 6, 3rd September 2018, Suzhou
Misty Morning view from our Suzhou Hotel
The Silk Spinning Factory, Suzhou
Silk Spinning Machine
Six silk worm cocoons are placed in each of the bench “tubs” (see photo above). The silk threads from all six cocoons in each “tub” are wound together into one long thread on a reel above. These threads can be as long as 1,300 meters.
Sample of silk doona cover, manufactured here
The silk expert who addressed our group was a very skillful sales person. She engaged everyone with humour, participation and a delivery that would have made any standup comedian proud. And she achieved a great result. Most of our group bought silk items and reportedly the majority spent more dollars here than at other locations.
There was a vast array of beautiful silk products to purchase, from clothing to bedding.
The Grand Canal Suzhou
Tourist Canal Boat
We travelled a small, narrow section of the canal in a boat like the one above. As can be seen, this section of the canal can be temporarily blocked during entry and exit of passengers.
The canal at Suzhou is only a small part of the Beijing to Hangzhou Grand Canal, which is said to be the oldest and longest canal in the world. The oldest sections date back to the 5th century BC. All sections were combined by 618 AD to cover a distance of 1,776 kilometers.
This Black Crowned Night Herron was the first (and one of only three birds) I recall seeing while in China
We were told that, during China’s “Cultural Revolution” Mao ordered all birds to be shot, as they destroyed crops. Research shows however, that from 1958 to 1962 sparrows (not all birds), rats, flies and mosquitoes had to be exterminated, as part of the Four Pests Campaign.
The Lingering Gardens, Suzhou
I love oriental gardens and have been more familiar with the Japanese garden style than any other. So I was delighted to spend time in the Lingering Garden of Suzhou.
It was suggested that Japanese garden designers borrowed their garden style from the Chinese. Whether true or not, both share certain design concepts; such as a “partial reveal” or “hidden view” – a view through a small opening from one “room” (or garden section) into another; and “borrowed views” – the includion of scenes from outside the garden.
I hope the following photos convey the sense of peace and joy I experienced while in this garden.
Coming next from Shanghai is the third and final episode of our 2018 visit to China. Be ready.
Feel free to leave a comment below on any aspect of this blog, including your memories of China, suggested corrections or helpful hints.