Hangzhou Adventures - Part 1

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Hello! 

It's been a while since I've written anything on this space. As can be seen from my spammage of photos on Instagram a while back, I went to the land of strict firewalls, great food, picturesque sceneries and... smog - CHINA.

More specifically, Hangzhou. Hangzhou is a beautiful city steeped in culture and history, yet cosmopolitan enough such that the past and present, East and West collide. Marco Polo has once commented that it was the 'finest, most splendid city in the world where one fancies himself to be in Paradise.' There's also this Chinese saying that goes like this, '上有天堂,下有苏杭', roughly translated to mean, 'Hangzhou and Suzhou are the 2 paradises on Earth.'

For history buffs, they would be delighted to know that Hangzhou was the capital city of the Wu and Yue Kingdoms and the Southern Song Dynasty of China, and it ranks amongst China's "top seven ancient capitals". It's also one of the birthplaces of the Chinese civilisation. WOAH.


If you were wondering how on earth I managed to use Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook when I was behind the Great Firewall of China, the answer is 'Astrill VPN'. Honestly it's the most reliable thing ever, just that you have to pay for an account. I didn't exactly have that much time to blog about my experiences during the trip though it was a free-and-easy holiday, so here I am struggling to clear my backlog of photos. I have to shamelessly and egoistically say that I'm pretty proud of the pictures I've taken. At least my photography skills have improved somewhat.

Our flight to Hangzhou got delayed by 2 hours, so it was a bummer. Thank goodness the flight company offered us complimentary meal coupons for brunch. We wandered around Changi Airport, camwhored a little, and shopped for a while. 


Maybe I'll make an awesome Mama shop storeowner... Can that be my plan B in life? Haha.


The 5-hour long flight got boring midway, the pretty clouds could only entertain me for a while (yeah, I have a short attention span) and my neck was aching from sleeping in weird positions on the plane's seat.


I bugged my mom to help me take another photo from her side of the plane. 

When we touched down, I was pleasantly surprised at the weather. It wasn't humid at all. Perhaps that's the reason why my complexion improved after my holiday! Guess I'm more suited to China's weather?

Priorities first. The next few days were spent in my quest for the search of good food. Street food, restaurant food - I'm not that picky as long as my taste buds are satisfied. 

First stop - 胜利河美食街. (Sheng Li River Food Street)


Very Chinese-y vibes...


长沙臭豆腐 (Stinky tofu) was surprisingly delicious despite the smell. Seriously, you could smell it from the end of the street (or maybe I exaggerate a little). The charcoal-like tofu deep-fried in oil, sprinkled with preserved radishes and some other spicy seasonings didn't look very appetising but don't be fooled by its appearances. 


I have no idea what this crispy crepe-like street food was. I had simply bought it from a roadside stall owner out of curiosity. It was actually rather nice, with the crunchy wrap complementing the soft and piping hot vermicelli and veggies filling perfectly. :) Extremely worth it for RMB 4 (<SGD1!)


I tried acting step but earned myself weird judgemental looks by the locals and tourists alike. 


I threw a wish in the well river, don't ask me I'll never tell. 


On my way back, I walked by this residential area and decided to take an artistic shot. Not bad, huh?

Next stop: 清河坊 (He Fang Street)

Located at the foot of Wu Hill, this area is a vignette of Hangzhou's historical, economic, architectural and folk cultural pride.


Summer rains are awfully irritating. I've destroyed a pair of sandals and a pair of heels from this trip alone, thanks to the flooded pavements that are everywhere when it rains. It was hardly surprising that it was just my luck for it to rain on my visit to Qing He Street.


If not for the way the people are dressed, it would have seemed as if I had travelled back in time! Most buildings here were built in the Qing Dynasty, and are considered as conserved heritage sites. 


This building was constructed in the 1930s, and it reflects the evolution of old commercial buildings with its mixed Western-style storefront.


Along the streets, you'll see rows upon rows of roadside stores selling trinkets.


The interior of a souvenir shop.


The glutton in me loves the food streets. The prices of the food are quite reasonable and the sheer variety will leave you spoilt for choice.


For lunch, I went to '咬不得高祖生煎', a Chinese-styled fast food restaurant. Their 生煎 is simply AMAZING. It's like crispy xiao long baos, with a whole lot more juice inside. It was literally 咬不得(You can't bite it), for you might end up with a face-ful if you aren't careful enough.  




We walked some more and ended up in a cute little candy store, China's version of 'Stickies'. To satisfy our 'Stickies' cravings, we bought 3 large packs to last us for our holiday. 

Historical sites are really EVERYWHERE in Hangzhou. Immediately outside the metro (MRT) station 打铁关, I saw this cool place. It used to be where Yue Fei's (岳飞 - an extremely patriotic general in the Song Dynasty) army used to manufacture their weapons.




It was pretty cool for historical sites to be located at neighbourhoods for locals to learn more about their roots and the history of their neighbourhood.

Near that area, I've spotted many Chinese-styled fast food restaurants with rather decent food and affordable prices. 



Their Dan dan noodles (担担面) was cooked to al dente perfection! That genuinely exceeded my expectations.


Their 生煎 wasn't as good as 咬不得's because the dough was a little too thick.




This shop's dumplings were huge and fresh. I thought it was quite novel to have black sesame seeds included in the filling to give it a slight nutty crunch.


What's a visit to Hangzhou if you miss out on the famous xiao long bao and beef vermicelli from 新丰小吃,one of the most prominent names in the Hangzhou food industry?

I had my fill of xiao long baos on par with Singapore's Ding Tai Fung's standards at only SGD 4 for 10 of them. BEST DEAL EVER! The beef vermicelli was also pretty noteworthy. 

Another one of the more notable restaurants would be 川味观, with outlets all around Hangzhou. It specialises in steamboats, so winter would be the best time to patronise the restaurant. Well, of course no one can stop you from having steamboat meals in summer.



There's a "buffet-like" concept for their appetiser dishes, fruits and steamboat sauces, with interesting choices like 'XO sauce', 'Satay sauce', 'Shrimp paste', 'Beef paste' and etcetera. 



Shabushabu <3<3<3


Our steamboat ingredients were placed on a trolley to the side of our table. The dining concept is a "eat-only-what-you-order". Ingredients are chargeable on a per-order basis.


Steamboat partayyyye!

Late night suppers are always convenient in Hangzhou, for there will be pop-up mobile roadside stalls with chefs who will cook on-the-spot. However, there's no guarantee that they are hygienic for they have no licenses. You have been warned.

A safer option would be legit shops like the one below. 



This offers a wide selection of braised food, like chicken feet, duck feet, duck's neck, cow's stomach and etcetera. Nope, it doesn't taste as gross as it sounds. In fact, it's the exact opposite. 

There'll be more to come of my adventures in Hangzhou in the next few posts. Toodles for now~

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