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Travel Hangzhou China
An Adventure just outside Hangzhou

Day1, Nov. 4th

Two of us went exploring over towards Hangzhou where we had heard about some impressive sites, that only the Chinese get to see, as the infrastructure is not yet set up for Western tourists.

White Horse Cliff, Lao Dui Xi (a great walk though a canyon and along the river), and Da Ming Mountain; this mountain is said to be as goodas Huangshan (Yellow Mountain).

Let's go and find out.

We took the early train, to Hangzhou. (6:30am, and it is the first fast train, arriving around 8:15am.) We arrived at the Hangzhou East Railway Station just as it started to rain.

The Hangzhou East railway station is very old and run down and a bit out oftown, not like the main Station, which is very new and modern. As we were unsure of our plans for the next three days and getting train tickets can be difficult, we decided to buy our return tickets forthe Sunday.

After buying our tickets back to Shanghai for the Sunday (6-30pm), we headed off to find a taxi, as we needed toget across town to the Hangzhou West Bus station. Hangzhou has a population of over 3 million, so it's not a small place, and the lake is not the only main amazing attraction, as we were soon to find out.

It took us 45 minutes to get across town and then from the Hangzhou West Bus Station,we took the 9-50 bus to Chang Hua (cost RMB 20).

The bus is comfortable and we got a seat number, so we had a 2.5 hour ride in the heavy rain and muddy roads to get to a small town called Chang Hua.

There are two main towns that feed all the mountain sight-seeing spots in the ZheJiang province; one is Lin'an which we had just driven through, and the otheris Chang Hua.

Lin'an is the bigger of the two and about 35 km (45 minutes) east of Hangzhou, on the Yellow Mountain side of Hangzhou. There are 3 main tourist areas with Lin'an being the central feeder to them all.

There is Jin Cheng (east side, Down Town), Tian Mu Mountain (in the middle) and QingLiang Feng (west side); allare around and within 2 to 3 hrs from Hangzhou.

Lin'an is very well set up to get bus tours, etc, out to the mountain sight-seeing places. Here there are plenty of Chinese 2 and 3 star hotels ranging from RMB 60 to 300 per night, which are a bit more expensive over weekends. I asked around, and these areas get NO Western tourists - all Chinese, as these areas are very difficult for the Western traveler to get to. Nearly all foreigners go to the more easily reached Huangshan (Yellow Mountain).

In the Lin'an area, it's all Chinese language, hotels, cafes, transportation out to the sites, sorry, NO English at all.

This whole area is much cheaper than Yellow Mountain and in my view, just as good, as you will soon find out.

Chang Hua is a very small country village and has a 500-year history of having the best roasted Chestnuts in the land; its bus station is a main feeder to all the mountain sites around this area.

Oh yes,it also has a classic Chinese toilet at the bus station, Take a deep breath. (Or don't!)

At Chang Hua we boarded another bus (RMB 6) and headed for Tai Ping Qiao which is a very small mountain village close to the places we wanted to see.

The weather had started to clear and we were in for a great sunny afternoon.

When we arrived at Tai Ping Qiao, we were met by the hotel boss who took us to our room. The whole town has about 6, 5-floor low budget hotels and that is about all. This is the off-season, so we were the only tourists in the whole town and being a foreigner certainly made for funny looks inmy direction; remember no foreigners come to these sites.

The room was as expected for RMB 60 per night. What was a surprise was a new hot water heater on the wall, at least we could have a nice hot shower. A point to remember, a RMB 60 per night room does not come with a towel, so take your own, Hehehe.

We were starving by this time with all the traveling to get here. With only two proper restaurants in town, and both empty at lunchtime it was not a good sign, we went into one and the lady there had to phone the chef to come to work, another bad sign. we left.

We ended up in a noodle place (the only one) across the road from our hotel. Here we had four local dishes including great dumplings and noodles. Our lunch cost us RMB 16 for two persons, nice.

Now, with a bright sunny day and being well fed, it was time for us to do what we had come here to do, see the sights.

As the tourist sites are still a good distance from the small town, we asked the hotel boss to take us to the furthest site up the mountain road and we would walk back. This cost us RMB 20. He took us to the first site called White Horse Cliff (Bai Ma Ya) where the entrance fee here is RMB 60, which also includes another sight-seeing place called Lao Dui Xi, just down the road.

We could choose to buy a 4 site ticket that includes all the sites for this area and this would cost RMB 110. However if visitors do not arrive early enough there would not be enough time to fit them all in.

The 4 sites are called Tuo Lin Waterfall (Tuo Lin Po Bu), White Horse Cliff, Lao Dui Xi, and Jian Men Guan.

If you have time to do just two sites you need to buy the tickets in this order, or you will be overcharged

White Horse Cliff + Lao Dui Xi - both for RMB 60.

White Horse Cliff + Sword Gate - both for RMB 60.

If you start with either Lao Dui Xi or Sword Gate, you will be sold a ticket for RMB60 for just one site.

WhiteHorse Cliff

This place is really beautiful; it has a well made stone path walkway through the forest and valleys, with water pools, waterfalls, amazing rock formations, great views of lush valleys all along the way.

This walk takes about 2 hrs at a stroll.

We had chosen the best time of the year to go on this mountain trip asthe whole place was alive with autumn colors

As it was a Friday, we were the only people in the entire scenic spot.

WOW. Nobody, no crowds, lots of peace and quiet, waterfalls, fresh mountain air, just great.

Well worth all the train and bus rides to get here.It's quite a climb in some places with many steps (many Chinese mountain sites seem to have a lot of steps), so visitors need to just take it slow and pace themselves.

Good for the legs and butt, my Mum always used to say.

There is a lady at the top-most point who has a shop there. She climbs up everyday summer and winter, and in the winter on some days when no-one comes, she earns nothing for the week.

However she still does it; she is a tough lady dedicated to her business. This is typical of how hard some of the country folk have to work to make a living.

White Horse Cliff is a great walk and well worth the visit; however, in the summer I imagine it would be very crowded and very hot.

This place gets busy from May through to the October holiday, after which the tourist traffic falls away and over the winter months only the hardened day-trippers from Shanghai or Hangzhou come here during the weekends.

Lao Dui Xi

From White Horse Cliff you can then walk down the road to Lao Dui Xi, which was a complete surprise. Here were Minority dancing displays, working models of ancient grinding and mill-type tools for making different types of local oils, and a great teahouse overlooking the river. And open spaces for kids to run and play, all very well done.

Again, we were the only ones there, as it was a Friday.

Once you have enjoyed the main areas and sites, there is a walkway alongside the river. It is a good path that takes about an hour and brings you back to the road further down the mountain.

It is really a nice walk with high cliff-sides, big rock formations, autumn colours, and peace and quiet. Remember it's a Friday, so the next day there will be many, many people here.

By the time we arrived back on the road it was nearly dark, but we knew where the hotel was, so we just walked back.

We got back in total darkness with the hotel boss thinking these two silly city tourists had got lost. She was quite worried for us.

We went straight to dinner and decided to try the restaurant that had a chef. On the menu was peacock, Snake, Wild Boar and Rabbit, Mountain Turtle, Wild Chicken, Donkey, quite an interesting menu with prices at Shanghai levels. In the summer tourist season the prices must be very high. We bargained and ended having a local stonefish dish, egg fried rice with mushroom and a local dish bamboo root / vegetable and bacon soup, total RMB 45. It was ok.

This is a real small country village and when it gets dark, well that is it. nothing to do except go to bed.

So we did as the locals do and retired to bed as well, a long day but a great day, well worth the effort to get up here.

Day 2, Nov. 5th

We were up bright and early after a great nights sleep; we're not used to the quiet, and it was good to hear a truck roar through town at 3am.... Hehehe.

Then it was off to the best place in town (the only place in town) for some breakfast. We got there about 8-15 and found the buns (Rou Bao), soybean juice, pan cakes etc were all sold out before 8AM. WOW - must be good business in the early morning.

We settled for their very good dumplings and local noodles, 2 bowls of each, (we were hungry), total cost RMB 11.

Here we saw a local running around with a snake trying to sell it to the restaurants; don't you just love these local country places... Hehehe.

We were off to a local mountain called Da Ming Shan, which is a mountain that is compared to Yellow Mountain for views and scenery; however very much cheaper and closer to Shanghai and Hangzhou, being only about 2.5 hrs from Hangzhou.

We decided to take the bus. The hotel boss wanted to drive us there for RMB 80, but we thought the bus would be more fun.

After an hours wait, snacking on local pancakes with the whole town watching us, the bus stormed past us. Luckily for us two seats were available, and we discovered the local area officials are very strict on overloading and will not allow anyone to stand - no-seats and the bus will not stop to pick you up. This is actually is good to know, as when I back-packed 10 years ago, the policy was - pack in as many as you can. It's a lot safer now.

Half an hour later we were dropped off in a small town called Long Gang (Dragon gate), to catch the next local bus to Ji Xi, which is the junction point to go up to Da Ming Mountain, another 4km up the road.

All the bus rides provide great entertainment from the locals, as getting to this mountain is easy for the Chinese, but very difficult for the Westerner. So this famous Chinese tourist site gets no Western tourist traffic.

The weather had turned into a beautiful hot sunny autumn day, and we had to buy hats; strange weather the Chinese autumn, cold and wet one day, so hot the next that you need a hat.

Da Ming Shan (Mountain)

The entrance fee and the sign are in English, and it says RMB 68. Yes, you get charged this, plus an extra RMB 8, which is not explained in English. It's the fee for an internal mountain bus ride between the main entrance and the cable car area - (it's a long walk but not worth doing), so the correct entrance fee to Da Ming Shan is RMB 76.

There is a hotel up beside the cable car station called Da Ming Mountain Villa; the rooms are from RMB160 to 350 per night with different prices for the weekday and the weekend. I checked the lowest cost room as well as the highest cost. Both rooms had small windows, but not really showing off the wonderful views, with the RMB 350 room being newer and cleaner.

From the cable car area you have some decisions to make - take the cable car up the mountain, or walk? The ride up is RMB30, the ride down is RMB25.

Trust me, take the cable car, it's a LONG walk and there plenty of steps and climbing to do when you up there, so save your energy.

WOW, What a view. We have chosen the best time of year with all the amazing autumn colours around us.

When we arrived at the top and thought, good ride up, now what, we were told to "walk this way" straight into the side of the mountain.

All the scenic sites are linked via 10km of tunnels through the mountain, it's just amazing. The tunnels are well lit and take you to all the best viewing points around the mountain.

The site description signs are bi-lingual, hanging bridges, spectacular outlooks, restaurants, very clean toilets, all well placed, very impressive. And not one foreigner.

There were many tour groups here from Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou etc, and all the guides said that Da Ming Shan gets no western tourist traffic due to being so hard to get to. If a foreigner comes, it is always with a Chinese tour group.

We spent the rest of the day up there, checking all the sites out, climbing, what I though were thousands and thousands of steps, and ate good hot local noodles overlooking a beautiful mountain meadow.

The hot sunny autumn sunshine, magnificent views, and a well set up scenic site, provided a great day out - well worth the effort in getting here.

Da Ming Shan definitely should be checked out, and in the winter all the mountain peeks will be very spectacular. I will certainly be back over the winter months for more photos.

Oops! I forgot to mention about getting back. It was getting too late for the local buses, so some quick talking was called for. We needed to get back to Lin'an, which is just 35 minutes away from Hangzhou, and find a good cheap hotel.

Fortunately we found a Suzhou tourist group (120 persons) on their way back to Lin'an to stay the night. The tour group leader said he had some spare seats at the back of the bus and we could have them, so we were lucky.

It turned out that the tour group had some people drop out and the hotel where this group was staying had rooms booked that they had to pay for. So we were offered one of the rooms. We were very pleased to get a good hotel room at a tour group price, and it saved the tour operator paying for empty rooms.

Oops! I forgot to mention about getting back. It was getting too late for the local buses, so some quick talking was called for. We needed to get back to Lin'an, which is just 35 minutes away from Hangzhou, and find a good cheap hotel.

Fortunately we found a Suzhou tourist group (120 persons) on their way back to Lin'an to stay the night. The tour group leader said he had some spare seats at the back of the bus and we could have them, so we were lucky.

It turned out that the tour group had some people drop out and the hotel where this group was staying had rooms booked that they had to pay for. So we were offered one of the rooms. We were very pleased to get a good hotel room at a tour group price, and it saved the tour operator paying for empty rooms.

After a day of adventures and excitement, it was off to bed, with much more to look forward to tomorrow.

Day 3, Nov. 6th

Up bright and early again. Last night we came in after dark, so didn't get a good look at Lin'an.

The Hotel's name was Hai Ding Tian; the group rate we paid was RMB 140; the actual room rate was RMB320, so we did OK. Breakfast was a very expensive RMB 5 for a classic Chinese breakfast!, YUM YUM... Hehehe

We went for a small walk through town before breakfast and noticed that the town was very industrial; many small shops all with building supplies etc; many new buildings going up, and many, many small Chinese hotels. This town is the main feeder town for the mountain tourist area, as it's much cheaper to stay here than in Hangzhou.

At 8-30 we were off in 3 large buses winding their way through very small towns and villages to Xiao Jiuzhaigou. The scenery is beautiful. We came across a hydroelectric dam, and the lake it has created is spectacular; we never expected this.

Our trip took about 50 minutes in our private bus. However you can get a public bus from the Lin'an, Hangzhou bus station up to here as well.

Well, what a shock. On the way we found we were in a 3-bus convoy (thought we had left early) and arrived to find another 10 buses already ahead of us.

It was time to experience the throngs of Chinese tourism.

Another shock - all the signs etc were bi-lingual and the entrance fee was RMB 48. We were invited in as guests of the tour operator from Suzhou ?, very nice.

Later, in discussions with the operators of Xiao Jiuzhaigou I learned that this place also sees no western tourists; it's just too hard to get to.

It had just started to rain a little and the temperature had dropped - very different from yesterday's beautiful sunny day.

Xiao Jiuzhaigou is in a small valley with waterfalls, ponds, lovely little bridges, some monkeys on show; a cool climbing wall that everyone can have a go on, with the safety procedures looking OK as well.

It's a lovely place to walk through breathing some welcome fresh air, be close to running water, sit and have tea at the temple at the top of the valley, and sample the local food on sale.

We went there with a lot of people, and in the summer it will get very crowded. But in the winter it would be quite beautiful, as there would be snow and ice all around.

It's not a long walk up the valley and you only need a couple of hours there, then you either sit down and enjoy the atmosphere, or feel its time to move on.

We said our gracious thanks to the Suzhou operator for looking after us so well and said I will contact him concerning trips etc for Suzhou and the surrounding area; I now have a good contact in Suzhou.

Fortune rained down on us once again. We meet a tour operator from Shanghai and he asked us if we needed a ride back to Lin'an. Yes please.

After a local lunch for us both in Lin'an (RMB11) it was off to find the bus back to Hangzhou.

Buses leave from the Lin'an bus station to Hangzhou about every 15 minutes and the ride takes about 35-40 minutes, costing RMB 10.

We had already bought our 6-30pm train tickets back to Shanghai from the main Hangzhou railway station, a big modern station with thousands of people everywhere.

We were now 3 hrs early for our train, so we dropped off our bags at the station luggage office (RMB 5 per bag) and headed into town, as I needed some coffee. (I must be getting too old for this wild exploring. Hehe

To get into town from the main railway station, there are many buses so we jumped on a K900 to the lake.

Hangzhou is well set up; it was easy compared to the last few days of finding buses etc.

We found a new coffee shop down by the lake, Blenz Coffee shop, a nice clean, modern coffee shop overlooking the lake and ordered coffee and cake, wonderful, I must be getting old.

There is a great, cheap famous local place to eat in Hangzhou called Zhi Wei Guan where the main restaurant is upstairs and it's a ticket system for downstairs, with all dishes about RMB 5. We had a quick dinner and headed back to the station on a 151 bus, which took 15 minutes.

We had brought soft-seat tickets, so we headed for the soft-seat waiting area; big nice soft seats to crash into, to wait for our train to arrive.

Then we took the N510 back to Shanghai; unfortunately it was a slow train and took 3hrs - oops, bad planning there.

Finally arrived back in Shanghai, and crashed.

A great weekend, exploring new sites to share with you all.

If you would like more information on Travel Hangzhou China, and the surrounding area please contact me anytime

Happy travelling

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