From Suzhou, we traveled 2 hours to Hangzhou. Hangzhou was the capital of China during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) and it is one of China’s 7 ancient capitals (the rest are Beijing, Xian, Nanjin, Luoyang, Kaifeng and Anyang).
In Hangzhou, we had the opportunity to taste and buy Longjing (Dragon Well) Tea, the most famous green tea in China… so famous that it was once recognized as the “Imperial Tea” during the Qing Dynasty (221-206 BC). We spent half a day wandering around the West Lake. As part of the first batch of national parks announced in 1982, the West Lake is also recognized as the UNESCO World Heritage Site for its garden design influences in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries. The lake is so big that we only managed to cover a small part of the scenic spots. We also spent half a day visiting Xixi National Wetland Park, the first national wetland park in China.
From Hangzhou, we took the 4-hour bullet train ride to Fuzhou, our last destination in China.
The chronological events that occurred between Hangzhou and Fuzhou was by far the most stressful experience throughout our entire trip in China:
- Although we arrived earlier than scheduled at Hangzhou East Railway Station in effort to sort out the train ticket problems I experienced when traveling from Beijing to Shanghai, we still nearly missed our journey to Fuzhou. The ticket employee refused to issue my ticket due to the error made by the tour agency and was adamant that I would need to purchase another ticket at later date and time. The whole scene after that was very chaotic, which involved countless of phone calls, running around, convincing the security officers that I paid for the ticket and finding other group members in the crowded station. In the end, I managed to board the train with everyone else.
- Four station stops prior to our arrival in Fuzhou, I lost my seat to a fellow passenger who boarded the train later and was assigned to the same seat. Apparently, my unissued ticket was resold a few hours later. Instead of causing any commotion, Tony and I took turn standing at the hallway for an hour until arrival.
- Upon our arrival at the hotel, we discovered the tour agency had made a last minute change to our trip itinerary without informing us and booked a different hotel located outside the town center in the name of “upgrade”. Exhausted, hungry and furious, we stood our ground, literally and figuratively, at the hotel lobby for more than 1.5 hours arguing on the phone with the tour agency to revert this change. In the end, we prevailed but it certainly left a bad taste in our mouths dealing with this tour agency. A good and hard lesson learned is… if the tour agency decides to “upgrade” your hotel, it means they are trying to make more profits by making you stay in a secluded area.