We arrived in Hangzhou to heavy rain but managed to get a taxi from the southern railway station which is on the other side of the Qian Tang River. I had never been to that side when I was here in December and if I hadn’t known it I wouldn’t have known it to be Hangzhou. The scale of the city that side and the new construction and buildings there are mind blowing to say the least. There are still some green areas in between but I was glad that we were staying on the other side of the river near West Lake where it is very leafy and green and there are a lot of parks and gardens and a relatively small city area. It was nice to arrive somewhere I knew my way around instead of flying blind in a new place. The enormous West Lake is a huge attraction for the Chinese who flock here in their millions because there are not a lot of wide open lake areas with beautiful gardens surrounding them as there are in Hangzhou. The lake covers a vast area and would take days to walk around it and over the many bridges and follow all the meandering pathways around the lake. The park areas are dotted with tables and chairs where people can take their thermoses and picnics for a few hours. There are of course the obligatory “Starbucks””KFC” and McDonalds” dotted around the lake but there are also some restaurants and other snack bars to cater for everyone.

The one drawback in Hangzhou is that there is no metro system so you have to rely on taxis and buses. The buses are far more reliable but a bit more difficult to use unless you know where they are going. There are many tourist information locations around the city but very few of the people speak any English. Luckily I knew a couple of routes to get us places. We tried to get a taxi back from the city and the taxi drivers here are notorious for not taking you if they don’t like the direction you are going. We were standing in the rain in a road I was not familiar with and were knocked back by six of them so we decided to walk to any bus stop and ask a driver the way back to the university. Luckily we turned a corner and I recogized the street and the bus stop so we got on but I couldn’t remember where to get off and couldn’t see out of the fogged up windows. I asked an older couple behind me if they knew Xixi road but they weren’t sure so they in turn asked a girl behing them and she asked the girl opposite her. In the end the four of them were having a discussion about where we should get off. They decided on the stop and motioned for us to get off. It was lovely of them and we all said fond goodbyes! Maurice said it reminded him a similar situation in Ireland where if one person doesn’t know the answer others get involved to find a solution.

In Hangzhou Maurice is getting a bridge made with three teeth for his upper jaw. He lost a tooth a few months ago and the dentist in Perth recommended a bridge with three teeth for $1580. The service and oral hospital is amazing. He paid 50cents to see the orthodontist and had 3 appointments scheduled within minutes. The bridge is costing $325 a 5th of what it would cost in Perth and the facility is affiliated with the university and is state of the art!

Maurice had an eventful time getting money from the bank and helping a young chap who fell off his bike while texting! and had a bad gash on his nose. Maurice took off when others arrived as he tends to faint at the sight of blood!

We rearranged our travel plans and set off after 2days for Suzhou for 4days on the fast train via Shanghai on 1st June. We don’t know how lucky we are with queues at home. The train ticket office had thousands of people waiting to buy tickets in ordedrly long queues but they also process them at a fast rate. We did 304kms an hour to Suzhou so even going via Shanghai it only took and hour and a half.

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