Mentioned Hangzhou and you will be thinking and talking about WEST LAKE (西湖). The beauty and charm of WEST LAKE is legendary. Hence, it is hardly surprising that we made it a point to visit Hangzhou during our last trip to Shanghai.
Hangzhou is approximately 2 hours drive away from Shanghai. We left Shanghai early in the morning before the early morning office rush hour and the drive from Shanghai to Hangzhou was pleasant. But little did I expect to take another hour to reach West Lake after we arrived at Hangzhou. The traffic congestion getting into West Lake was horrific and it was quite a turn off for me. The place was so crowded and almost every corner you turned, there are people, tourists, tour buses and cars.
If you are thinking that you would experience any form of serenity that a lake so beautiful and charming would offer, you would be seriously disappointed. Everything here was a rush. Even a stroll around the lake would not end up a stroll, as you have to constantly dodged tourists cycling past, or being pushed or bumped into or avoid bumping into some groups of local tourists who would without warning just stopped dead in their tracks to take pictures. It was far from what I would expect.
The gloomy skies and slight drizzle when we arrived was not helping either and any attempt to take pictures turned out rather disappointing and dull.
Having said that, I must admit that the West Lake is indeed a charming and romantic place, if one discounts the noise and the crowd. The vast lake surrounded by mountains on three sides in the background and islands with pagodas in between, is definitely a wonderful sight to behold. I can only imagine how much more mesmerizing she can be, on a clear sunny day where the lake is blue with clear reflections of skies and trees or on a bright moon lit night.
The beauty of the West Lake has become the blueprint and influence of so many other similar lake gardens around the world. West Lake was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011. The West Lake scenic area covers approximately 60 square kilometers and the lake itself covers 5.6 square kilometers. The average depth of the lake is reported to be only 7.4 feet.
Taking a ride in one of the row boats offered is definitely one of the best ways to appreciate the lake and most of her scenic sites if you have limited time. However, the cost of such a ride is pricey, considering that this is one of the most visited places in China.
One day is definitely not enough to truly appreciate the real beauty of West Lake. Unfortunately, we did not have the time needed. Given an opportunity, I would like to revisit this place, stayed at a hotel within walking distance to the lake and stay back late into the night when the crowd is long gone, to sit by her shores under the moonlight, watching the reflections of the moon and the lights from the LeiFeng Pagoda. Maybe then, I would truly experience the romance and the true charm and beauty that the old scholars had shared in their songs and poets.