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The Phenomenal ‘Impression West Lake’ June 20, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Entertainment, Misc, Travel.
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My final Hangzhou post is a cracker.  It was our last night there and we got tickets to see Impression West Lake, an outdoor extravaganza everybody told us we must see if we were even within a hundred miles of Hangzhou.

It’s hard to put the show into words.  Brought to life by Zhang Yimou, director of the films Hero and House of Flying Daggers and the guy behind the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Impression West Lake is one of several ‘folk musicals’ (according to Wikipedia) set across various parts China (the others being Liu Sanjie, Lijiang, Hainan and Dahingpao).

There’s lights, there’s dancing and there’s marvellous music — and I think there is a love story in there somewhere.  Hundreds of actors in beautiful traditional dress, running and dancing across the freezing water of the massive lake, colourful lights illuminating the river surface and the night sky, giant mechanical boats and structures floating on and appearing out of the water — it really was a splendid spectacle, the likes of which I had never seen before.

The only complaint was that the show had to be set outdoors, and since it was in March and at night, it was absolutely freezing.  Even with gloves, I honestly couldn’t feel my hands by the time the show began.  I couldn’t imagine what the poor actors splashing in the water were feeling.

Anyway, I will let the magic of the photos speak for themselves.  We actually weren’t allowed to take them but everybody was snapping away so I joined in.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the best camera, though I did try do make it slightly clearer through some primitive editing.


Hangzhou’s Wai Po Jia June 14, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
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One of the most popular restaurants in Hangzhou is the chain Wai Po Jia (translated to mean ‘Grandmother’s House’), and it was on our list of places to visit during our trip there.  Actually, we enjoyed it so much that we ended up going twice.

Unlike Lou Wai Lou (reviewed here), which is one of the more expensive options, Wai Po Jia is a mid-range restaurant in terms of price (don’t worry, it’s still clean).  But in terms of flavours and variety, I preferred Wai Po Jia a lot more.

The unique thing with Wai Po Jia was that each of the restaurants in the chain has a different theme/look.  If you don’t look at the sign you’ll probably think it’s a completely different restaurant.

The best thing with Wai Po Jia is the amazing variety.  Going through the massive menu with hundreds of colour photos is an experience in itself.  It took us a good 20 minutes of looking, asking and debating to decide what it was we wanted to order on both visits.

As for the taste of the food, also very good, extremely varied in terms of texture and flavour.  Not every dish was a homerun but none were horrible.  Definitely more suited to foreigners than some of the other local restaurants.  I mean, just check out the 16 photo slideshow above.  Do I need to say anymore?

In all, a place I can happily recommend.

8 out of 10!

Lin Biao’s Underground Bunker June 12, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Social/Political Commentary, Travel.
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I thought Hangzhou was all temples, scenery and tea leaves, but there’s a little bit of history too.  Our driver next took us to this fascinating bunker that was built by Lin Biao, one of Chairman Mao’s closest comrades.

I didn’t know about the history of the Communist Party but Lin Biao’s bunker was still an interesting place to see.  It’s like a mini-maze, with cold, stuffy air and long corridors enforced by thick steel doors.  Paranoia must have been rife back in those days.

The story of Lin Biao’s life and his ultimate demise was also compelling to learn.  According to official reports, Lin Biao (who was second in command by that stage) attempted to assassinate Mao several times before he and his family died in a plane crash while defecting to Russia.  Despite all the battles he fought for China and everything he did for the Communist Party, Lin Biao is still officially condemned as a traitor.

Others suggest that was not that case at all.  Lin was a war hero and highly respected in the Communist Party, but had apparently become too respected, to the point where Mao got a little nervous.  The ‘accidental’ plane crash?  More like a pre-emptive strike.

Who knows what really happened?  All I know is that the bunker was pretty cool.

Misty Trees by Nine Streams June 11, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Travel, Uncategorized.
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‘What the heck?’ I hear you say.

That’s what I said at first too.  Jiu Xi Yan Shu (direct translation: Misty Trees by Nine Streams) is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Hangzhou, but apparently not a lot of tourists know about it — or so we were told by our taxi driver.

To be honest, there’s not a lot there to do, but the sight of the thick trees surrounding a misty lake is a marvellous sight.  Reminded me of Crouching Tiger and the various Chinese martial arts films that followed it.  Definitely worth dropping by and taking a few snaps if you have a few minutes to spare.

I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Hangzhou’s Qiantang River June 10, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Travel.
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Qiantang River and the Qiantang River Bridge on a very calm day

I’m back with the China posts, and I promise this time I’ll keep up the momentum till the end!

After visiting Leifeng Pagoda, the driver took us around to have a quick look at Hangzhou’s famous Qiantang River.  To me, it looked like just a normal body of water, but Qiantang River is legendary in China for its amazing tides, leading to many myths and folk stories about it.

According to my research, Qiantang River has a unique gravitational pull, and combined with the bottleneck shape of the Hangzhou Bay, makes it easy for water to come in back difficult for it to go back out.

The tide really hits its stride once a year around the 15th-18th of the August, and millions of people flock to witness the thunderous 30-foot waves.  Apparently there is an annual ‘Tide-Watching Festival’, which has gone on for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Unfortunately, we didn’t go at the right time, but if the opportunity arose again, I would love to check out the waves.  I wonder if anyone has ever tried to surf them.

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