westlake

Capital of Zhejiang province to the southwest of Shanghai, Hangzhou is one of the most popular tourist destinations in mainland China. Its prized attractions include scenic West Lake, which together with the surrounding temples, pagodas, and gardens, was recently inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Shanghai to Hangzhou

On our third day in China, we decided to have a day trip to Hangzhou before our flight back to Manila at midnight. The ever-expanding China High-speed Rail (CRH) network depart from Shanghai’s massive Hongqiao Station, around half an hour by subway from where we stayed in West Nanjing Road. Shanghai Hongqiao is the largest railway station in Asia by floor area, measuring 1.3 million square meters.

Shanghai Hongqiao Station

Shanghai Hongqiao’s Vast Waiting Area.

The 180-kilometer trip from Shanghai Hongqiao to Hangzhou took just under an hour with the CRH bullet trains reaching speeds up to 340 kph.

CRH Train

CRH Bullet Trains

Lingyin Temple and the ‘Peak Flown from Afar’

Even though Hangzhou is a huge city of 8 million, the atmosphere at Hangzhou Station was undeniably more provincial compared to Shanghai. People carrying agricultural produce were transferring their boxes to other modes of transportation that converge at Hangzhou Station. In the chaos of Hangzhou Railway Station, we somehow made our way to the correct bus for Lingyin Temple.

To get to Lingyin Temple, one has to pass through Fei Lai Peak, also known as the “Peak Flown from Afar”. Legend says that an Indian monk arrived here in the 4th century and noticed a mountain that looked similar to those found in his native India and was different from the others in the valley. He called it the “Peak Flown from Afar” and the name stuck ever since. Fei Lai Peak features caves and cliffs with Buddhist statues carved in stone in different poses, probably the most famous of which is the Laughing Buddha.

Lingyin Peak

Stone Statues on Fei Lai Peak. Hangzhou, China.

Laughing Buddha

Laughing Buddha on Fei Lai Peak. Hangzhou, China.

Lingyin Temple, literally meaning the “Temple of Soul’s Retreat” is located further on the valley pathway of Fei Lai Peak. The Buddhist temple is one of the oldest and most popular in China.

Lingyin

Lingyin Temple. Hangzhou, China.

Lingyin Temple

One of the halls of Lingyin Temple

Also within the Lingyin Temple compound is the Hall of 500 Arhats. In Buddhism, an arhat is an enlightened one who has attained nirvana. The hall is shaped in a Buddhist Swastika, each Swastika arm containing rows of Arhat statues.

Hall of Arhats

Hall of 500 Arhats at Lingyin Temple

West Lake

We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around West Lake’s gardens and walkways. The beauty of the famous lake is said to have inspired countless Chinese poets and artists for centuries.

West Lake Bridge

One of the bridges around West Lake

Westlake scenery

West Lake in B/W

Westlake man

Contemplative Chinese Guy in West Lake, Hangzhou

There were lots of pagodas and bridges to see around West Lake but we were afraid to miss the last subway to Pudong International Airport later that evening so we decided to leave by 5pm. After a game of charade with a taxi driver for the words ‘train’, ‘station’, and ‘Shanghai’, we finally got a taxi for the short ride to Hangzhou Station.

Postscript on Shanghai and Hangzhou

Hangzhou, specifically the area around West Lake is a huge place. Though I believe one can squeeze the major attractions in a one day itinerary from Shanghai, I underestimated the time needed to explore this place. Once you get past the chaos of the main train station, the West Lake area was nonetheless was a scenic place worthy of its place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Shanghai, on the other hand, is a huge cosmopolitan city with lots to offer to the average sightseeing traveler. Getting around is a breeze, thanks to the extensive subway system and China-cheap fares even on taxis. Even though Shanghai was exposed extensively to Western influence, it is still possible to see elements of traditional China in places such as Yuyuan Garden.

Itinerary

Day 1: Shimmering Shanghai

  • Shanghai Maglev
  • People’s Square
  • China Pavilion
  • Huaihai Road

Day 2: East meets West

  • Yuyuan Garden
  • The Bund
  • Jin Mao Tower
  • Oriental Pearl Tower
  • Nanjing Dong Lu

Day 3: Hanging out in Hangzhou

  • Lingyin Temple
  • Fei Lai Peak
  • West Lake