I was more than exited about visiting JJ's home town Hangzhou after hearing so many good things about it. It is often referred to as Shanghai's backyard thanks to its location less than 180 kilometers southwest of the country's largest city. Marco Polo once called it the "finest and most splendid city in the world" and it is also hosting the upcoming G20 summit.
Our flight took us from Tokyo to Hong Kong and from there after a short layover to Hangzhou Airport, where we got picked up by JJ's parents and drove to their home, where we would spend most of our time in the next two weeks.
There home is special because it's actually being designed as a community center for the village to offer a public library and teach kids in reading and different kinds of art.
The next morning we went with JJ's mom to explore the West Lake in Hangzhou. The lake has been a big source of inspiration in Chinese history for poets and artists, offering great views over the large lake and small paths leading around it for walks.
After taking a stroll we stopped at one of the lakeside restaurants. It offered the local cuisine, which is mild but flavorful with a focus on fresh ingredients.
Another stop we had when exploring the city was a small museum where JJ's family has a permanent exhibition.
The week we arrived in China was part of the big national holiday, so one day we had a big gathering with lots of cooking and many relatives and neighbours coming over.
On the menu were local dishes and my tastebuds were up for a challenge.
In the coming days we explored the surrounding bamboo forest, which served as a nice reminder of Kyoto.
There was even a small local temple on top of a nearby mountain where we got served tee for free by a local. Many of theses temples were abondoned or even destroyed during the cultural revolution, so it's nice seeing them being taken care off.
I think JJ's parent's were not happy that I've been a bit "picky" aubt the food when eating home, so a few days before we left we visited another nice restaurant in the city. It was a very interesting concept: They had all the ingridents on a plate (or swimming in an aquarium) and you could just point at it and it would be prepared for you.
One final highlight of the trip was JJ's grandfather teaching me some basics about caligrafie. I did not expect it would be so hard to draw even simple strokes with the brush. Eyeopening!
We hope to come back in the future!