At lunchtime the next day we headed back on a very comfortable bus for the 4hour trip back to Hangzhou to stay for a week. The weather had improved and it was warm and very humid. We ate at the cafeteria and we visited my nice hairdresser and made appointments for us both before we leave Hangzhou. There is so much to see in Hangzhou and I wanted to show Maurice as much as I could but we only had a few days instead of the month that I had in December.

We made an appointment and met up with one of my teachers Xie Xin who is 25 and like a little doll. She was telling us that she spent a year in Edinborough and had a lot of trouble coming to grips with the Scottish accents!

Her English is very good and she chose a very popular restaurant which served many Hangzhou specialties like beef and fish stew, a wonderful eggplant dish (our favourite) and a special fried sweet potato dish. It was all delicious and with tea the total was $12. The restaurant seated many hundreds of people and she told us that it was good that we got there early as the last time there was a 3hour wait.

We caught buses and walked many kilometres all over the city and around the West Lake which was beautiful with all trees and bushes flowering and thousands of lotus plants with enormous leaves although most plants were about a week away from flowering.

We visited Hu Xueyan’s house (another poor person!) who was a famous pharmacist and who in the 1870’s built a very beautiful house with many pavillions and ponds and gardens. It is now a museum. At floor height there is a large plank of wood covering the doorway that you have to step over. These are so the evil spirits cannot enter the house.

We visited a few Starbucks to have an OK coffee but they had the best wi-fi connections. We do miss our Australian coffees!

I took Maurice to see “Impressions on West Lake” a nightly spectacular show that I had seen with my mate Salim in December. The story is a simple one but it takes place on the lake on a platform which comes up from under the water (where boats move around during the day) to a few centimetres underneath the water. The show is a spectacle of lighting and sound with beautiful music and they light up the surrounding trees on the edge of the lake in a variety of colours and then the lights come on in the middle of the lake with the hundreds of performers drumming or waving enormous feathers or throwing water in time which represented the ocean etc – hard to describe but an amazing spectacle.

There are also huge hydraulics which come up from the lake to about 30metres into the air and sprays of water fall from them.

Some of the show takes place from a traditional two storey boat built for the show. At least

the water would not have been as cold for the performers (some of whom were wearing wellington boots) as when we saw the show December.

They have many pontoons full of lighting for the show moored in an obscure part of the lake which they move into position every night as well as the grandstands which are stacked in a corner during the day so people can walk around that section of the lake and in no time they are all set up for the thousands of people that watch the performance every night.

We also made it to the Silk Museum which had been closed for renovations in December. The story of the silkworm and the techniques of making silk and the displays of silk costumes and old clothing from hundreds of years ago and the various fashions of Cheong sam’s over the last century was really worth seeing. There was also a map and story of the silk route which was very interesting. I decided I wanted to have a go at colouring a printed design. I missed out doing this as a child! I think its done mainly for children but there was no one else there at the time. There were many designs and I chose a koi pattern. The two little ladies there were very helpful with suggestions of colours and ironed the hanky to finish it off.

The next day we headed out of the city into the hills to the tea museum. We wandered around the tea plantation and then through the lovely gardens when one of the staff came running behind us and stopped to ask us if we wanted a tea tasting. We went along and with

their usual tradition we tasted a lychee/black tea which was so delicious we bought some, pu’er tea, oolong tea and another black tea. The pu’er tea is fermented and came in hard cake that looked like a cowpat! The girl said that they always pour off the first tea and then make the tea from the second pouring. It was lunch time again so we were the only ones there which made it very pleasant. We then walked part of the way back to town and then caught a taxi back to the university as it got very humid. All over China there are giant magnolia (grandiflora) trees with the most fragrant and large blooms lining streets and in parks and gardens.

From the tea museum we went to the Lifeng pagoda which was burnt down by the Japanese centuries ago leaving only the brick inner structure. They have done a wonderful job of reconstructing this pagoda which overlooks all of West Lake (on an unpolluted day!) It is an amazing feat with large steel girders holding the pagoda up and they even installed a very long escalator to take you to the base of the pagoda and then inside lifts to the various levels.

That night we bought the most delicious chicken (the thigh bone was visible!) skewers and unleavened bread from the halal BBQ stand in the university which is constructed and deconstructed every night. The university has about 20,000 students and many dormitories with balconies full of washing most of the time. Some of the students that had graduated had their group pictures taken in front of the statue of Mao or in front of the main gate with some of them throwing their mortar boards in the air.

It has been warm but very humid every day but the nights have been lovely and balmy with just short sleeves – wonderful!

Maurice had a haircut and I had a hair colour, trim and blow dry with my mate the hairdresser and the whole lot only cost us $30.

We said goodbye to our lovely waitress in the cafeteria who looked after me in December and who looked after us both this time and we happened to meet up with her while waiting for our taxi to the station the next morning. It is people like that and other helpful, friendly people that make our trip so lovely. Even if there isn’t much communication you get the sentiment.

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