We finally couchsurfed for the first time! Our hosts, Huixin and “Ben,” live in Lin’an, a smaller city about an hour outside of Hangzhou. It was definitely off any kind of tourist trail. They had a very nice apartment and made us feel right at home with them. Huixin had to leave for a business trip, but before she left she took us out to a clean, hidden lake to swim (along with a few other naked Chinese men). We also saw a beautiful bridge in Lin’an. Besides that, there wasn’t too much there. With the notable exception of the cab drivers, the locals were very friendly, which was a nice change.
Even though Ben helped us with our commute to Hangzhou, it was still a big pain. The traffic in that city is horrible and we had several long rides in packed, hot buses. And of course we’re back in China, so the driving is absolutely nuts and the drivers honk almost nonstop. When we finally did get to the city center, we had to wait in a long, slow-moving line to book our train tickets. After all that, by the time we got to Hangzhou’s famous West Lake, we were not in very good moods.
The West Lake is a World Heritage Site with many emperors’ homes, temples, pagodas, and gardens. It also has several islands and causeways that were??artificially??made between the 9th and 12th centuries. Over the years many poets and writers have written odes praising its beauty.??The city of Hangzhou borders one side of the lake, and the other sides are surrounded by mountains (which we couldn’t see very well because of the haze/smog). With all the tour groups that visit now, it’s not exactly peaceful, but it is much quieter than the nearby city.??Really, it is a nice place, but we probably didn’t enjoy it as much as others might.