Hi! from Hangzhou: First Impressions

Note: To keep posts “digestible,” so to speak, I’m dividing each day up into multiple parts rather than recounting everything in a daily diary format.

At the base of Wu Mountain, Wushanyi (吴山驿) hostel is convenient to the main road around West Lake, Nanshan Lu (南山路), although a little hard to find since it’s not on a main thoroughfare. I found it through hihostels.com, which I only knew about because I did some modeling for them a few years back (some awful modeling of which there is no evidence, for a reason). You can easily find a hostel anywhere in China on yhachina.com, something I failed to realize until halfway through this trip.

Wushanyi is a converted old courtyard-style residence and staying there feels like staying in an eclectic (read: liberal and childless) aunt and uncle’s awesome house. The rooms are minimal, as expected, and the house “restaurant” isn’t recommended, but it’s charmingly atmospheric and not overpriced. If you’re really concerned about money you could of course stay in a dormitory-style room, or find a less expensive place to stay (although some of those offer hourly rates, so you risk the chance of bunking up next door to a sex party). My entire three-night stay cost 540RMB (roughly 80USD).

While bopping around the streets I came across a brand-new hostel, the address and phone number of which I got written down on a piece of paper that I’ve uploaded as a jpeg below (copy it to your iPhone and you can ask around for it!) It looked great and was just opening for business, but I’d already paid for my stay at Wushanyi. I did, however, make it back to their café two nights in a row for the we-just-opened discount they offered on drinks (a glass of red wine for only 24RMB/3.50USD!), free wi-fi, and the lodge-cum-hutong atmosphere.

As I mentioned before, Hangzhou is known in China as “heaven on Earth,” but I couldn’t help noticing on my night drive into town that it’s rather average looking – characterless buildings and construction sites for miles, per usual. But West Lake (Xihu, 西湖), the main attraction and impetus for my trip, is indeed the most amazing thing evereveverrrrr. It’s soooo BeauTifUL! And Hangzhou, like Beijing, is a biking city, and by bike is the best way to tour around the lake and get to the many vantage points that line its shore. It’s easy to do – they even have that handy rental system you hear about in Paris and every Swedish city. I rented my bike from my hostel and set out for the day, eager to put to rest any worries I had about the city’s purported natural beauty.

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