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Explore West of the Lake for a Real Break 2019-06-24
Most tourists go to Hangzhou for the West Lake but there are other options in the good weather when its magnificent waters and surrounding areas are overrun by sightseers.

If you are looking for something closer to nature and less crowded, the local tourism authority recommends going “West of the West Lake” to experience a paradise of farming areas, relaxing lifestyles, hostels, and cafes offering organic foods.

Visitors can breathe in the fresh air, listen to birds twittering, relax in the Longwu tea garden, or enjoy undisturbed boating on streams in areas such as Xixi Wetlands and White Dragon Pond. Xihu District Tourism Bureau has organized several two or three-day “West of the West Lake” tours and Shanghai Daily explores two.

Route One

Day One: Longwu Tea Village

The largest tea garden in the city, Longwu covers 600 hectares and is about 15 kilometers west of downtown Hangzhou.

The extensive tea bush plantings roll out along the gentle slopes and seem to engulf visitors walking through them. A bird’s eye view from the second floor of any nearby restaurant or hostel is the best way to take-in and appreciate the tea plantation vista.

The pace of life here is slow, the air is fresh and it is an ideal location in which to “waste” time. Use the hours to wander on green slopes, to take photos in the garden, or to just sit somewhere with a cup of tea.

If you visit in spring, venture out to pick tea. In autumn, enjoy the crisp air and foods with osmanthus sugar. If in winter, go to dig bamboo shoots from the hill.

Restaurants run by local farmers will always welcome you with organic foods and tea. The three largest are Wind Pavilion (Ting Feng Ge), No. 3 Tea House and Farmer’s Yard (Nong Jia Xiao Yuan). Boutique hostels, including Original Vhas, Uncle Tim, and Yuan Shu, are recommended. The room rate is around 400 yuan (US$63) per night.

Day Two: White Dragon Pond and Waitongwu Village

The air is clean and fresh at White Dragon Pond, a crystal clear body of water in front of a mountain that is ideal for hiking because of the views it offers over waterfalls, canyons and plantations.

The hill rises gently and wide stone steps are well laid out so the climb is not difficult.

Outdoors training is available for enterprising trekkers.

Not far from the pond is the “new countryside” concept Waitongwu Village where 60 percent of houses are rented to artists as studios. Nearby are tastefully designed cafes and restaurants.

Now is the season for picking guava and in the looming winter villagers will celebrate the Chinese New Year by making rice cakes and rice wine. Ancestral halls are open to the public for visitors to learn more about folk customs and village cultures.

Route Two

Day One: Hangzhou Botanical Garden and Qingzhiwu

Also west of the West Lake is Hangzhou Botanical Garden. It always has a few visitors but it is guaranteed to have many more beautiful plants. These days a strong, sweet fragrance wafts off 2,000 osmanthus trees whose blossoms are in glorious gold, silver and rosy red colors.

Ten minutes’ walk past the arboretum along the shaded Yugu Road is Qingzhiwu, another avenue that leads to green-forested hills and features all kinds of restaurants, cafes, hotels and hostels.

Reyi Restaurant at the top of the road provides fusion foods, Cha Tian Wu She in front of a large tea garden is known for its recycled furniture and rustic decor, and at the south end Pu Shu sells tasty local foods. At night, Amigo Restaurant becomes a bar, and Blue Lotus, William’s Taffy, and Cat House are nice hostels.

Day Two: Xixi Wetlands

Visitors to Xixi Wetlands during autumn should wander among its delightful persimmon trees and go boating through the silver and white reeds.

Shade from the blooming catkins can be enjoyed while floating through the narrower passages of the wetlands’ boating channels. In the wider parts, travelers can cast a net with local fishermen. Those who pull in fish can order them to be cooked at the end of the tour.

When night falls, make your way to the Xixi Slow-life Block that houses lively bars, cafes and restaurants. Choose a bar playing jazz music or a peaceful restaurant offering friendly service and then take a walk under the trees. If budget allows, star-ranked hotels are available.

Source: Shanghai Daily
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