Day 1: Arrival in Hangzhou
As I descended into Hangzhou, the picturesque landscape below heralded the beginning of a remarkable journey through Zhejiang Province in China. As a European traveler, the prospect of exploring this region promised a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, embraced me warmly upon arrival.
My initial impressions of Hangzhou, with its rich history and the enchanting aura around the West Lake, validated its status as one of China’s top destinations. The city exuded a harmonious fusion of tradition and modernity, offering an exquisite experience for tourists and locals alike.
Day 2: Unearthing Ancient Treasures
Today, my quest for history led me to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City. These ruins offered a window into a 5,000-year-old Chinese civilization, with the Liangzhu Museum being a treasure trove of artifacts. Among the treasures, the enigmatic Jade Cong stood out, offering a glimpse into ancient rituals.
Strolling through the archaeological site, I marveled at the sophistication of early urban civilization, where rice cultivation laid the economic foundation. It was evident that this place had a complex ritual system, where divinity and kingship intertwined.
For lunch, I savored dishes passed down through generations, paying homage to the region’s rich history. Traditional delights like Beggar’s Chicken, Dongpo Pork, and West Lake Vinegar Fish tantalized my taste buds, revealing the complexity of flavors that Zhejiang cuisine had to offer.
Day 3: Nature’s Embrace
Hangzhou’s natural beauty took center stage on the third day of my adventure. The serene waters and lush surroundings of West Lake captivated my senses. Surrounded by hills on three sides, the lake boasted ten scenic spots, each with its unique charm and story.
A visit to Lingyinsi Temple, nestled between two mountains and steeped in history spanning 1,700 years, offered a sense of tranquility and spirituality. It was a beautiful reminder of Hangzhou’s enduring Buddhist and poetic legacy.
Continuing my exploration of nature, I was pleasantly surprised by the Amanfayun Valley, showcasing Zhejiang’s picturesque landscapes. Experiencing the process of picking and roasting Longjing tea, known as Dragon Well tea to Western tea lovers, provided insights into the province’s commitment to preserving nature and tea culture.
In the evening, the city came alive with the Impression West Lake performance, an open-air spectacle of music, light, and dance staged right at the lake. Against the backdrop of natural mountains and the lake’s waters, the performers seemed to dance like fairies on the water’s surface, a testament to the creativity of renowned Chinese director Zhang Yimou and the musical genius of Kitaro.
Day 4: Hidden Gems in Lishui
My journey continued to Lishui, a city in southwestern Zhejiang Province. A short, scenic train ride transported me to what the Chinese edition of National Geographic dubbed “the last secret land.”
My first stop was Songyang Village, nestled among the mountains with a rich heritage spanning over 520 years. The village’s ancient buildings, perfectly preserved, transformed it into a living city-museum. The local hospitality offered an intimate view into their daily lives, a rare experience in China.
As night fell, I had the privilege of experiencing an overnight stay in one of the local villages, where I savored authentic local cuisine, and the warmth of the people made me feel truly welcome.
Day 5: Tea Gardens and Terraced Splendor
The penultimate day of my journey led me to Yangjiatang Village, boasting traditional architecture dating back to 362 BC. Stepped buildings, both in their exterior and interior design, offered a glimpse into a bygone era.
The Damu Mountain Tea Garden provided a captivating bike tour through lush green tea plantations, allowing me to appreciate the fragrances and craftsmanship behind some of the world’s finest teas.
My journey culminated at the Yunhe Rice Terrace, hailed as the most beautiful rice terrace in China. With individual terraces comprising as many as 700 layers, the result was a breathtaking landscape, especially during the spring and summer. The morning offered a spectacular view of picturesque terraces reflecting the morning light with a backdrop of dreamlike sea clouds.
Interacting with the She ethnic group, a minority with a small population in China, added depth to my experience, making it all the more enriching.
As I reluctantly prepared to leave Yunhe Rice Terrace, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of fulfillment. This journey through Zhejiang Province had woven together history, culture, and natural beauty, leaving an indelible mark on my heart and mind.