China's Paradise On Earth
19 April 2015
I recall years ago reading an article on China’s rich history, where Marco Polo was quoted as describing Hangzhou as “ The finest and most splendid city in the world”. This must have hold true then, as it still does now. Beautiful Hangzhou is certainly China’s version of Paradise On Earth; with breathtaking scenery, cool weather, rich history and cultured treasures. Truly splendid, indeed.
I was very fortunate to visit Hangzhou with my wife on our 2nd wedding anniversary. Shangri-La Hangzhou was everything we imagined .. and more. With sweeping views of the magnificent natural surroundings (West Lake, Gelin Hill as well as the hotel’s very own manicured beautiful gardens) coupled with warm hospitality and outstanding facilities, I daresay it was the best anniversary staycation ever!
Hangzhou is certainly a charming, romantic city. A wonderful mix of old and new; we walked past traditional old streets steeped in history lined with charming tea houses and shops selling traditional candies alongside fancy modern shops selling urban streetwear as well as western-style eateries.
However, our favorite spot in Hangzhou was undoubtedly the breathtaking West Lake (Xi Hu). We loved it so much we spent 2 days just exploring the entire lake. I guess if you’re in a rush you can go around the lake in about 2 hours but we took our own sweet time to just relax, appreciate and take in the beauty of it all. With such mesmerizing inspiration, no wonder Hangzhou produces some of China’s most well-known poets, painters and calligraphers. The blooming lilies, graceful weeping willow trees, quaint bridges, pretty pagodas and serene tranquillity of the lakescape… Everything was just postcard picture-perfect!
We also visited the famous Lingyin Temple and spent an entire day there. This place is spiritually magical – sheltered amongst forested hills; Lingyin temple houses an imposing, magnificient statue of Sakyamuni Buddha meditating atop a sacred Lotus Flower alongside other divine halls housing the statues of other Buddhas, Boddhisatvas and Arahans of the Buddhist religion. As Buddhists ourselves, we were truly inspired.
Another not-to-be-missed attraction is the Fei Lai Feng Grottoes (also known as Peak Flown From Afar) which we found truly fascinating. The grottoes are somehow adjoined to the Lingyin Temple. Composing of a series of limestone caves; the naturally-formed grostesque rocks of the caves take the form of various fascinating shapes- flying dragons, phonenixs, crouching tigers and more! Intersperse with magnificent rock carvings of Buddhas and Boddhisatvas into the hillside, are secluded caves with winding tunnels and jagged stalactites, flowing streams, quaint temples and beautiful gardens. We had so much fun and adventure just exploring every nook and corner, squeezing through narrow crevices and admiring each of the thousands-years old carvings!
Finally, if you are a tea-lover like my dearest wife, a short trip up to the Longjing tea plantation high up in the Lonjing mountains is a MUST. Longjing tea is one of China’s best teas and little wonder- it has a refreshing taste and a fragrant aroma that’s neither too overpowering nor too bland. Just perfect! The winding ride up the Longjin mountains is really nice too; with wonderful views of the imposing tea terraces on all sides.
Yes, Hangzhou was definitely one of the most romantic and charming places both me and my wife have ever visited. Unassuming yet arresting; it’s perfect for romancing couples as well as singletons looking to find romance and inspiration in life. And to come back each day to the sanctuary, luxury and comforts of Shangri-La Hangzhou complements the perfect wedding anniversary celebration…. ever!