It's been a loooooong time since I've visited a new city in China. Our first few years in Asia (in the Before Times) was a whirlwind of travel throughout Asia. I visited so many new cities I'd never visited before, like Shenzhen, Xiamen, Chengdu, Xishuangbanna, Guanzhou, Hui An, and more.
So I was really excited to go on a Girls Getaway this past March in Hangzhou China.
Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang Province in Southern China and is renown for its abundant nature, rich culture, and excellent food.
West Lake, which takes up a big part of the city, is by far its most famous icon.
The lake has many forests, bike paths, pagodas, and more. You can easily spend several days exploring it.
We rented bikes and rode from our hotel to the lake. Hardly anyone wears bike helmets in Hangzhou, and you have to ride in traffic sometimes, which was a bit nerve-wracking for me. Nevertheless, once you are inside the lake area, riding the bike is blissful and the scenery is breathtaking.
I highly recommend riding during "golden hour" (a little before sunset), when everything shines with the sun's warm glow. For me, the bike ride was one of the highlights of the entire trip.
Longjing Tea Terraces
Another highlight was doing this short and pretty easy hike up a tea terrace! Hangzhou's most famous tea is Dragon Well Tea, or Longjing Tea. Dragon Well tea is a green tea that is pan-roasted early in the process. It creates a light and mellow tea that is delicious.
The most premium tea leaves are the new young "shoots" that come up during the spring. The season is short, and the leaves picked before Qinming Festival (around early April every year), are said to be the most flavorful leaves. As time goes on and the leave become bigger and more full of water, their flavor is diluted.
Hiking up this tea terrace takes less than an hour, but you may want to stop and take photos (which could slow you down).
We made it to the top, but didn't have too much time to explore before we had to go back down.
The views are stunning, and it's really a unique experience.
Even though the hills remind me of wine vineyards, it's still pretty different.
City of Hangzhou
Hangzhou is a vibrant and modern metropolis that's home to Alibaba and many other powerhouses.
We ate most of our meals in the city, which gave up many opportunities to walk around and explore Hangzhou's malls, streets, and just absorb the general vibe of the city.
Stir fried tofu, ground pork, and chili
Sauteed vegetables with garlic
Other foods . . .
Other very well-known Hangzhou dishes that I've had before but that we didn't try this trip would include Dragon Well shrimp (small shrimp stir fried with dragon-well tea) and Beggar's Chicken.
And finally, just a fun comparison. I ended up flying Hangzhou's own regional airline Loong Airlines for the first time for my flight out due to the convenient time of their flight. I flew Cathay Pacific (my usual Hong Kong based airline) back to Hangzhou. It was interesting to compare my two meals (both Economy/Coach class). Though the food at Loong left a bit to be desired, overall it's a fine airline. The staff were very friendly and professional. Despite the long lines (I had no status on Loong), the overall experience was fine. Cathay is great, and I typically enjoy flying Cathay whenever I can.