THE busiest season of West Lake is on its way as the spring sun is set to shine. If traveling to Hangzhou is on your agenda, then it would be better to know how to best avoid crowds while appreciating the real gem of the World Cultural Heritage site.
The lake’s east and north sides are Nanshan and Beishan roads, famous for their restaurants, cafes, stores and museums, and therefore a gathering place for tourists.
The south and west sides are surrounded by hills which are favored by hikers and experienced travelers looking for wild leisure. First-time tourists rarely make it here.
On some parts of the roads on the west side, hikers break into hills, under lofty trees, or along the water — isolated from the modern world temporarily.
Shanghai Daily spoke to a local experienced hiker Hu Zhijiong and asked him to recommend a route at the west side of West Lake. Hu is the author of a book on Chinese-style pavilions around West Lake.
He suggested the route start from Jiuxi bus stop — Nine Creek and Eighteen Gullies — Longjing — Maojiabu to Yanggong Causeway. Hikers can also do it in reverse.
Hu said he designed the trip in the valleys more than on the slopes so that it is not too tiring. Also, it combines the essence of the lake — lofty trees, tea bushes, creeks and ponds, as well as pavilions and bridges. The trip is a good two-to-three-hour walk.
Jiuxi bus stop is between Qiantang River and West Lake. Find the stop and follow the uphill path, which is shaded by trees. Hikers will soon enter into a Xanadu amid luxuriant greenery, gurgling water, and the smell of earth and grass.
Take the creek as your lead. Strolling along it for 20 minutes, you will hit a place called Jiuxi Yanshu, or “nine creeks in misty forest” — a tree-covered, mist-enshrouded lake.
There are only two basic hues — green of plantations, and gray of bridges and stones. But even the best camera cannot revive the mysterious scene by a two-dimensional photo, as the ever-changing mist disseminates everything include hikers’ skin pores.
So try to stay there for a while, observe how the mist wets out bushes’ leaves, how streams and cascades compile into a tranquil lake, how plants reflect in the water, and let the sweet air make you soporific, as it does to everyone.
As you keep walking, visitors will enter a scenic area named “Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies.” The creeks originate in Yangmei Hill, flows through Hangzhou’s west mountains and empties into the Qiantang River.
The chief feature here is its clear waters bubbling around the rocks. Hills with lush trees flank the streams, adding to the fresh, peaceful environment. Along the way secluded farmhouses are dotted. So when you’re feeling tired during your hike, take a rest or enjoy some barbecue fare in one of these rustic retreats.
Continue walking to northeast till you reach Longjing Road, the axis of Longjing Village. Slopes of tea groves are all over, shimmering under sunshine. Currently, the leaves are old and will bud in April. It is around that time that farmers, in bamboo hats, pluck fresh buds, while workers fry them into dry leaves.
With sections skirting the West Lake, the road is popular with strollers and bicyclists, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and teahouses along the way.
Don’t miss China Tea Museum for a lecture on Longjing tea. It welcomed G20 leaders during the Hangzhou summit last September.
Leave the museum and continue walking on Longjingzhi Road for a relaxing experience as you pass a pond featuring weed groves waving under breeze.
That is the start of Maojiabu Village, another home of Longjing tea.
At the end of Longjingzhi Road you will come to the end of the trip at Yanggong Causeway. Hu recommends a rest at Banyin Pavilion in the middle of the causeway, which was built to commemorate scholar Zhao Zhiqian, known for his painting, calligraphy, poetry and seal-graving attainments.
The couplets on the pavilion pillars are calligraphy works done by Zhao.
For those still energetic enough, there is more fun waiting at Qu Garden and Flower Nursery near causeway. If you need rest, there are again dozens of cafes and restaurants waiting to welcome you.