China - Hangzhou

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.

JJs parents home
These are pictures of their home that they use to advertise it as an vacation destination.

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.

West Lake Bridge
West Lake Bridges all along the way
JJ at West Lake
The entire site covers more than 12,000 acres
West Lake Pagoda
Many pagodas, pavilions, temples and gardens can be found at the lake

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.

Longjing tea-fried river prawns
Longjing tea-fried river prawns on the left and a small dessert on the right
More desserts, made out of rice flour filled with red bean paste (Ding Schin Cake - Determined Victory Cake according to Google)

Another stop we had when exploring the city was a small museum where JJ's family has a permanent exhibition.

Sun Museum
Even some of her work can be found here

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.

With kids
Between us are two village kids. On the right is Susan, JJ's cousin. Communicating with most people I met was a bit of a challage, but she's going to a foreign language school in Shanghai and was speaking perfect English

On the menu were local dishes and my tastebuds were up for a challenge.

On the left are JJ's grandparents and to the right is her mother
At the table
Still smiling
One of the local dishes: Cooked River Turtle

In the coming days we explored the surrounding bamboo forest, which served as a nice reminder of Kyoto.

Bamboo Forest
Bamboo Forest

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.

On our way back from the temple we met this local worker and he propmply asked me to help him with the cart.
Live chicken
Living the farmers life
Dead chicked
Dinner is under preperation

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.

And this is not even all of it...
Sesame Ball
The biggest Sesame Ball I've ever seen

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!

JJs Father and Grandfather
Here you can see him with JJ's father
Grandfather and Alex
And here with me

We hope to come back in the future!