At then end of my last post on Hangzhou I mentioned that we were still a bit confused as to the exact location of the famous Xī Hú (West Lake) I was looking at a pagoda on Wushan Hill, when I heard a woman talking to the Missus. I was to find out later that the woman told the Missus that there's nothing really worth Her time on Wushan Hill. When the Missus asked the woman which direction to West Lake, the woman pointed up at this sign.....
Sigh..... can you say clueless tourists? Actually, this woman was really friendly, born and raised in Hangzhou, and told us to follow her; she'd show us to the bus stop that would take us around West Lake.
And even though there were times that the Missus could only understand every second or third word due to the woman's accent, She did learn quite a bit. The woman told the Missus that most of the young people working the restaurants in all the tourist areas are not from Hangzhou, and really don't care about anything except making money. This was a theme we heard everywhere, if someone was rude or provided terrible service, someone would say that "it is because they are not from here." The woman gave the Missus a few tips and pointed out the bus stop. The Missus was also told that there was a Silk Expo taking place, where everything was real silk, and prices were good. We caught the bus and arrived at the building right across from the famous Long Jing (Dragon Well) Tea Farm.
And did some shopping......
The woman we had net told us to get off at the Qu Yuan Feng He ("lotus in the breeze at crooked courtyard") stop.
The woman was right, this turned out to be the part of West Lake we enjoyed the most.
Even though it was pretty hot and humid, this area felt fresh and cool. I'm sure some of it was due to the immense beauty.
You started seeing tourist cruise boats taking people on tours of West Lake.
As we circled the North part of the lake, things started getting a bit more crowded.
The views were still quite beautiful, in spite of the crowds and noise.
There are tons of things to see, including one that got the attention of the Missus; the Tomb of Wu Song. Wu Song, is one of the great heroes of Classic Chinese Literature. According to the Missus, when She was young, all children knew the story of how Wu Song "killed the man eating tiger with his bare hands." Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classic Classic Novels of Chinese Literature tells the story of Wu Song.
By the time we got to the Eastern part of West Lake, I was bushed, sweaty, and had pretty much burned out on West Lake. Plus my left foot was starting to ache pretty good.
You could really tell that the Missus felt pretty tired as well since we started noticing the people more than the views. Like the guy at the right in this photo.....
We started counting the "crimes against Western fashion and mores" this guy was commiting. A short list:
1 - He was carrying his wife's/girlfriend's handbag.
2 - He was wearing capri pants!!!
3 - He was wearing a long sleeved dress shirt tucked into those capri pants.
4 - He had his shirt tucked in, but wasn't wearing a belt
5 - And last, he was wearing capri pants, but had dress socks on!!!
As you can tell, it was time to move on; we were hot, tired, and sticky..... and hungry.
The one restaurant we had heard about before setting foot in Hangzhou was Lou Wai Lou (楼外楼). When the Missus mentioned Lou Wai Lou to the woman earlier in the day, She recommended Zhiweiguan instead. She told us that this is where she brings guests who want to taste Hangzhou food. Zhiweiguan is a monstrous restaurant by Western standards at over 7,000 square feet, and four stories. The area outside the restaurant sells snacks and take-out food.
Like most of these multi-story restaurants, the first floor did snacks, fast-food, and cafeteria style service. It was just packed like crazy on this evening.
Wanting something less chaotic, we skipped the first floor, and went to the third floor. (The second floor did seafood, and the fourth floor holds the banquet rooms and bar). As we stepped up to the third floor, we realized that even though this place was less chaotic, it was just as packed! We won't complain about the service here, as the Servers and staff was literally running from table to table!
Though it was much cooler here, we could tell that the A/C was working full blast.
We were both bushed, and the heat and humidity had sapped our appetite. We just ordered a couple of items.
The Missus wanted ot taste the Nian Gao (rice cake) which She really loved.
The wrappers on the Xiao Long Bao were really thick and gummy.
The Missus enjoys a good Jiu Niang Tuan Yang (Fermented Rice with Sesame Balls 酒釀湯圓), and really enjoyed this version.
One of the most well known dishes of Hangzhou involves pork belly.... so you know that I was going to have Dongpo Rou! Named after famous Song Dynasty poet and artist Su Dongpo (Su Shi). According to the story, Su Dongpo had a visitor arrive, and decided to simmer some pork. Su Dongpo and his friend became engrossed in a game of chess. Suddenly realizing that he had left the pork simmering, Su Dongpo rushed to check on his pork. he was amazed when he saw that the pork had attained a beautiful color, and the juices created were wonderful. At least that's how the story goes......
This classic dish is pork belly (aka streaky pork) cooked in a combination of soy sauce, sugar, and Shaoxing (which is about 60 km from Hangzhou).
We decided to order two of these.
Man this was sweet.... like pork candy, much too sweet for me. It was also tougher and drier than I would have thought that braised pork belly would be. I wasn't really satisfied with this, I needed to have it again to see if this was really how Dongpo Rou should be........
We returned to our room exhausted, though I had Dongpo Rou on my mind as I drifted off to sleep......