Shuffling to the West Lake

Someday I will learn not to travel during Chinese holidays. I have not learned this yet.

Thus, I got up at 3:30 this morning after about two hours of sleep to join the mad rush to where it is that people have decided to go for this year’s iteration of the Golden Week National Day travelpalooza. Even at 4:30 this morning, the airport was a line circus.

And so were the streets of Hangzhou, where I’m spending the day before shipping myself into the Anhui mountains tomorrow. See:

Crowds in Hangzhou. This actually is not crowded.

Crowds in Hangzhou. This actually is not crowded.

So you can imagine what the bus station looked like. One of the five bus stations, that is.

It was a day of stumbling through crowds and sitting in seats and standing in aisles with my eyes half open.

But I at last got to lay my half open eyes on the famed West Lake, which really does almost live up to the hype.

Truthfully, I don’t know much about the lake, except that every single Chinese person I’ve ever talked to about it has told me that it’s the most beautiful place in China. Right before they tell me that they’ve never been here. But that’s what the travel ads say, anyway. Maybe I will learn more later.

It’s certainly beautiful, wind whipped waters ringed with shrouded mountains and lotus clusters and plied by those goofy tourism boats. And of course, a horde of people. I made it about halfway around this afternoon, then watched the sun set over the water while the seabirds rode the breeze looking for fish before retiring to a snack street to do some more standing in line and shoving as part of the red-in-tooth-and-claw fight for my own dinner.

Red in tooth and claw and neon.

Red in tooth and claw and neon.

I’ll be back later this week to wander among the hills and temples on the far side, which I’m excited about. It actually does deserve its place on China’s 1-yuan bill.

Pictures will tell it better than my addled brain at this point, so without further nonsense: Pictures!

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