The Everyday Magic in Hangzhou

At every city, I collect photos of city life that I think capture the everyday magic of the area.  Here are picks from Hangzhou:

Peacock Plumage
Koi Pond in West Lake
Checking His Shot
Buddhist Monk, Lingyin Templet




Louwailou, Famous Hangzhou Restaurant

Louwailou was on our list to try in Hanzhou.  It’s probably the most mentioned restaurant in the guidebooks, which is either good or bad.  We did pass by during the afternoon one day and it was packed, so we thought that a good sign.  Getting into the cab to get there was interesting though. When I told the cab driver where we were going, he pretty much said the restaurant was bad and that I was tasteless for going there.  Okay…well, we’ll find out.

We ordered the fresh-water shrimp, dongpu pork, fresh bamboo shoots, and longjin tea.  Meal was good, but probably not our best.  Pricey too, but we knew that going in.  It’s hard to judge the meals here with two people since most meals are meant to be eaten with several people so you can order lots of different types of dishes.

Dongu Pork at Louwailou
Yes, that is a layer of pork fat on top

Verdict: Glad we tried it, but we had better priced good food at Wang Ru Xin the night before on Hefang St.


Lifeng Pagoda and Three Pools Mirroring the Moon

Our last full day in Hangzhou, we spent on the south side of West Lake.  Every morning here, we wake up and get breakfast at 85 Degrees bakery—they have them everywhere (without the long lines that exist in LA).  We get a few breads for the day and Mike loves his daily morning milk tea. It helps warm you up since it’s a bit chilly here.

We headed to Lifeng Pagoda, which was originally built around 920 AD, but restored in 2002. It’s strange because the outside resembles an old-style façade, but inside it’s state of the art modern, with glass elevators and everything.  The main attraction here is the view you get from the top of the pagoda. But since it was more shades of gray today, we didn’t see much.  Pushy tour groups here, but the elaborate wood carvings that depict the legend of Lady Whitesnake (Bai Suzhen) are the highlight.

Lifeng Pagoda Wood Carving

Afterwards, we went to Su Causeway and took the boat to the island in the middle, which is called Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. It’s called that because there are 3 large ponds within the island and on a moonlight night, the view is supposed to be amazing.  It was a nice stroll, and honestly a nice break from all the walking we’ve been doing every day.

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon

We got some blue corn from a stand since it looked interesting.  It tastes heavier than yellow corn and stickier, almost like sticky rice!

I got some corn skills



Foiled! Getting ripped off

Getting ripped off comes with being a tourist. It also comes with being American in China when there are almost no other foreigner tourists and you don’t know enough Chinese to fight back. It’s happened a couple of times already, in different ways. Mostly I get angry for a few minutes and then I remember it’s only a difference of a few dollars.
Hmmm…so let us count the follies, shall we? 🙂 These seem minor in hindsight but it’s the principle! Also, when you’re trying to keep at $100/day for the two of us (including lodging), everything helps.

  • Shanghai candy store: they charge me 56/unit instead of what I see on the sign is 28/unit. The total is still only 7 RMB and when I get mad, Mike reminds it was only a difference of 50 cents.
  • Hangzhou fruit stand: Mike selects two large Asian pears and when we get rung up, the total is 45 RMB, or almost $8!! The guy says it’s because they are premium Korean pears and we’re too embarrassed to put them back so we pay up. We made sure to savor every bite! Haha
  • Hangzhou lakeside tourist trap restaurant: we ask how large the soups are and the waitress shows us with her hands that it’s not that big. So we order two bowls plus a vegetable dish. Soup comes out and they are humongous. We barely make a dent and have way too much food. Annoying but cost us maybe an unnecessary $10.
  • Hangzhou dinner at Louwailou: famous restaurant. I asked for a recommended vegetable dish and got the fresh bamboo shoots. When the bill came, the bamboo shoots were 58 RMB when vegetable dishes are usually around 12 RMB. Foiled! Always ask how much before ordering!

I’m sure we’ll have many more along the way!
I guess we’re lucky that I speak some, I can’t imagine how difficult it is without knowing the language but I guess you just get by, right?

Feilai Feng and Lingyin Temple

Today we visited Feilai Feng which translates to Peak Flying from Afar.  It’s this whole complex a couple minutes bus ride from the lake.  The coolest thing about Feilai Feng are the Buddhist sculptures that are carved into the side of the mountain.  There are over 340 sculptures that line the mountains and caves that date back to the Song and Yuan dynasties (from 960 AD).

Feilaifeng Carvings
Feilaifeng Buddhist Sculptures
Feilaifeng Carvings
Buddhas Carved into Mountain


Lingyin temple is a working Buddhist monastery and huge temple complex.  We were really lucky and got to see a Buddhist ceremony while we were there.  About 60+ monks came into the temple to chant and it was such a beautiful sound.


Lingyin Temple Buddhist Monks
Buddhist Ceremony at Lingyin Temple
Buddha in Lingyin Temple




Hangzhou’s West Lake: Pretty Even on a Gloomy Day

Yesterday rained all day, but we just bought two umbrellas and went for a walk along West Lake (Xi Hu), Hangzhou’s main attraction.  It has a ton of history behind it and very famous legendary poets who were once governors back in the Song Dynasty.

It’s very peaceful and was actually nice since the rain drove away some of the crowds.

Today we were lucky and it didn’t rain at all really and was in the 60s.  Still not a great day for photos of the lake though, since the sky and lake were all just shades of gray.  We were just excited it didn’t rain!

Hangzhou West Lake
Gray Day in Hangzhou
West Lake boat
Boat on West Lake



Train from Shanghai to Hangzhou – Really Fast!

We took the new express train from Shanghai to Hangzhou yesterday and were really impressed.  The express train is apparently really new since none of our guide books referenced it.  We took the subway to Hongqiao Railway station by the domestic airport.  The station was HUGE and immaculate.  Mike wanted first class tickets, but when we saw second class those looked nice as well!  The whole trip only took 50 minutes and cost us about 250 RMB, or a little over $20 each.