A Trip Back: China Part 4–Hangzhou and My First Chinese Train Ride

If you are new to my China series, catch up! Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I last left you after a night out on the town in Shanghai so it’s only appropriate to pick up with the morning after. Naturally, after a late night out, we didn’t feel 100% the next morning, so a trip to the corner fruit/liquor/cellphone stand for some sustenance was a necessity. Enter the most delicious, manna from Heaven, magical citrus fruit known to man….the pomelo.

Palmelo Palmelo 2

Isn’t it lovely? Ok, so that isn’t the greatest picture (late night, remember?) but I assure you that this is the best citrus fruit of them all. It’s kind of like a giant orange, only tastier and without the chewy white membranes some oranges have. It was so yummy, and sadly I have never seen one at any grocery stores back in the states. Maybe Whole Foods or somewhere really fancy carries them? If you know, please share because I would love to have another! The pomelo effectively brought us back to life and canceled out the late night Chinese McDonalds we indulged in, leaving us ready to bid adieu to Shanghai and head to the train station for our trip to Hangzhou.

Goodbye Snowy Shanghai!

Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province in Eastern China and was the perfect location for a day trip on our way to Beijing. It is a beautiful city and home to West Lake, a large freshwater lake bordered by many temples, gardens and pagodas. It is a fairly large tourist destination and definitely worth a stop if you are nearby!

 Hangzhou 5

It was snowing when our train arrived so Anna and I grabbed some coffee and headed out to explore West Lake. We explored a few long winding walking paths around the lake and came upon this adorable trio of musicians.


We also spotted this guy with a pretty bad toupee who proceeded to hock a giant loogie directly in front of our feet. Bleh.

Toupee Loogi Guy

Public hygiene etiquette is a little more lax in China than what I am used to. It was not at all uncommon for people to spit directly on the floor of the subway or train as they are sitting next to you. You will learn to watch your step rather quickly around there.

Hangzhou 3 Courtyard Statues

There are many beautiful temples around the lake so we decided to explore one of the tallest pagodas that would give us a good vantage point. There was a brand new escalator leading up to it which seemed hilariously out of place.

Escalator up to temple Escalator up to temple 2

Once inside, we thawed out a bit and discovered  a beautiful display of wood carvings. They were behind glass so excuse the poor photos but look at that gorgeous detail. Amazing!

Wood Carving 2 Wood Carving

The uppermost deck of the pagoda also afforded us some beautiful views of the lake and snow capped temples.

Hangzhou 4 Dragon Boat

After a little more touring it was time to grab a snack and get back on the overnight train for our trip to Beijing. I still hadn’t gotten over the dirt doughnut from yesterday’s breakfast but it was time for another taste of the strange flavors of China. Below are some new to us potato chip flavors:

Crazy Chip Flavors Fish soup chips

In case you can’t read those bags, they are “Italian Red Meat Flavor, Hot and Sour Fish Soup Flavor, and Numb and Spicy Hot Potato Flavor….sounds delicious right? In case you were more inclined to try something sweet, you could go for this corn ice cream bar instead.

 Corn Ice Cream

China, you are strange, and I love you.

We booked a private sleeper car for our overnight ride to Beijing. Although this was a little more pricey, I would learn later (on the way back from Beijing) that this was definitely the way to go, more on that later but take my word for it! We found our cute car, complete with slippers, and after some initial language barrier confusion, made ourselves comfy on the top bunks. The bottom bunks were inhabited by two Chinese women who went to sleep almost immediately. Anna and I changed into our pajamas and were preparing to do the same when there was a knock at our door.

Top Bunk Overnight Train

We were surprised by a young Asian girl around our age who told us she was traveling with several photographers who wanted to know if they could take our pictures. This wasn’t nearly as creepy as it sounds now that I am typing it years later, so if you are imagining a “Taken” style situation about to go down, it didn’t (thankfully). American tourists are a bit of a rarity in China, probably because of the distance and the obvious language barrier. Most Caucasian tourists that they see are of European decent, so when they meet American’s they are very excited. Especially if said American’s have blonde hair like Anna which they LOVE. During our time in China we had our pictures taken and got requests to take pictures with people A LOT, probably because of blonde Anna, I was just along for the ride since many of them asked me if I was “half Chinese” aka, not nearly as exotic or exciting as my beautiful blonde friend. So keeping that in mind, we didn’t think it was THAT strange that these photographers wanted our pictures. What was strange was the fact that we were in pajamas, mine specifically consisted of a purple Mardi Gras sweatshirt that belonged to my mom back in the 80’s. No pictures of that for obvious reasons.

We followed the girl back to their sleeper car where her photographer friends not only did exist, but had very fancy looking cameras, seemed legitimate. They spoke no English, but with the girl acting as translator, they proceeded to pose Anna and I in the most awkward “school picture day” poses and take a lot of photos. This is where my slim hopes of ever becoming a model (I’m only 5’3) were immediately dashed as 98.9% of my pictures were met with a stern look and a “hmmm, no” when my photographer looked them over. Apparently he knows that word in English.

Perhaps we have a future as foot models?

When the pictures were finished we hurried back to our rooms laughing about the translated directions we had been given, such as, “look more sad but happy eyes,” neither of us would have made Tyra Banks proud.

After a surprisingly restful night, we woke up the next morning in Beijing! We’ll pick up there next!

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