We’re pleased to bring you a day-long itinerary for Hangzhou, one of the most famous cities for travel among Chinese locals. It is located right at the heart of a trifecta of excellent jaunts (Suzhou and Shanghai both a short bullet train ride from each other). We’re leaving airfare costs out considering that there are too many variables to account for, however, we recommend using Expedia (see the link on this page ) for the best rates on the web.
We would also, as always, recommend that you avoid local tours in China, as they are often extortionate and underwhelming. What to do instead? With a mild grasp of the language, and an understanding of your surroundings, you can get things done in a much more cost effective manner…we’re talking a tiny fraction of what one would have paid on a tour. China is a mostly safe country, so don’t be timid about exploring a little, just be sure to do your research beforehand.
What to see… and do..
There’s a lot to do in Hangzhou, we’ll give you the big three. Each one of these options will take a sizeable chunk out of your day, so time them carefully.
• $5-7 (30-45 RMB) Lingyin Temple:
One of the more remarkable temples in China, as well as the most famous in the Hangzhou. Constructed 1,800 years ago and still mostly unscathed by the communist cultural revolution which famously destroyed many of the original landmarks throughout China. Inside? The hall of the Four Heavenly Kings, ornate and beautiful to be sure, in addition to the four guardians statues and a 60 ft high statue of Buddha rebuilt in 1956. There are 470 Buddhist carvings etched along the riverbanks to gaze at, as well as several other fascinating temples nearby. The Northern Peak, which must be reached by cable car is also worth a visit should one choose where one will get a panoramic view of the city and temple.
• (Free) West Lake:
In our five years in China, no matter where we traveled, Hangzhou’s Westlake had to be in the top 5 of most-mentioned need-to-sees among nationals. Temples, gardens, red-carp ponds, small lake-islands make a long walk around the mythic body of water thoroughly enjoyable.
• $0- your call! Qinghefang Historic Street:
Gifts, tea , snacks and shopping. Historic alleys in China should seldom be passed on. Full of fun sites and sounds, aromas (occasional stenches). One can spend hours perusing all of the offerings and amassing foreign trinkets for loved ones. A must see.
What to taste:
China is full of cost effective and tasty food choices. One should choose carefully though as you will be rolling the dice if you’re not well informed of your pick. It should be known that the Middle Kingdom is a country of excellent holes-in-the-walls. Like many Asian countries, a lot of the best food is at the ground level, which is excellent for budget travelers because it makes passing on the premium stuff so-much easier. One caveat however, it is not a country for finicky eaters as a fellow wanderer once told me… Vegetarians and food allergy people beware, nothing is quite what it seems….
• .50-$2.00 Nan Fang Mi Zong
Baozi, the fluffy bread dumplings. Filled with pork, beans, vegetables. They’re wonderful here. Covered in gravy, fast and convenient. One could consider this a Chinese power-breakfast. They’re less than 50 cents each and delish.
• $6-9 Dongyishun:
While admittedly Hui Muslim minority food is much more common in the Mid-North to North West of China, this cuisine should not be missed while in visiting the country. Full of savory aged lamb in rich sauce, lovely breads and East/Far East fusion, This meal will likely fill you up for the rest of the day.
• $3-10. Zhongshan Lu South Food Street:
We’d anticipate the a late lunch at Dongyishun would keep you satisfied for most of the day, so a little exploratory eating at Hangzhou’s most famous food street would be great for an evening snack or meal. Everything ranging from sit-down meals to seafood, roast duck a well as items for the more adventurous (Insects anybody?).
Where to stay:
Customer service can vary greatly in China as western performance management and quality control are still in their infancy. Hostels, smaller hotels and air B & Bs will be a good bet for cost effectiveness. Depending on the season anticipate $25-$70 a night for a low to mid-range place. You can always choose high end of course, but to be clear, quality can still vary daily for a number of reasons.
How to get around:
In mainland China? On foot as much as possible. The subways found in China are excellent, some of the newest in the world and highly convenient. If you need to take taxis, dont allow the driver to negotiate; stay on the meter. If the driver refuses, get out and try another. Buses work fairly well. For a days worth of travel across the city you should be in the realm of $10.