|Brasserie of Waldorf Astoria
|Steamed Buns and dumplings
|Western and Chinese options
|Many kinds of yogurt
We went back up to the room for about 20 minutes. I used the wonderful Toto toilet again. I am going to miss that! I love the washlet component. We brought our bags down to the concierge. They are storing our bags overnight and we will pick them up tomorrow evening. I then checked out. Because we are using the points for our stay the only charge was for our train tickets to Hangzhou which the hotel purchased for us in advance.
After breakfast we walked down the Bund to our rendezvous point at the Peninsula hotel. As we are heading to opposite end of the Bund the walk will take about 25 minutes.
We stopped along the way a few times to take some photos. We passed Three On The Bund which has some fancy restaurants.
|Three On The Bund
|I think this was #12 but I am not positive
|Interior Peace Hotel
|Beautiful Art Deco window
We will be touring Shanghai this morning on motorcycles sidecars. They are Changjiang 750C models which were used by the PLA (People's Liberation Army) and the Russians in the 1950's. They have of course been refurbished. I have been assured that the sidecars are very safe. My mother and I are not thrill seekers and at first she had some trepidation about getting in but overcame her anxiety. The advantage of the sidecar is that you can see much more than from a car and it is easier than walking too. I emailed the owner Thomas and explained what I hoped to see. He seemed to be very accommodating.
|Guides Maxim, Gary and our motorbikes
We could have shared a bike but I was wary of the backseat (did not want to fall off!) and felt safer in the sidecar. I was very happy with my decision. It was also easier to use my camera. It would have been much less expensive the share one bike. The total coast for the two bikes was 2400 RMB. Sounds expensive but I think it will be worth it.
I pulled out the iPad before our departure and went over some places I would like to see. Some of them they didn't know, like Marble Hall, the former home of Elly Kadoorie. He made a fortune in real estate and utilities and is the founding family behind the Peninsula Hotel chain. Marble Hall is now a school for gifted students. Architecturally it is supposed to be quite interesting but we didn't stop there even though it was requested.
Our drivers today are Maxim from Belgium and Gary who is from Shanghai. We departed the curb feeling more akin to Driving Miss Daisy than Easy Rider.
We passed along a bridge and then finally to drove down some quite streets.
|Shopping Center popular with locals
|Crossing over a bridge
|Lady walking her dog
|Now a hotel
Our next stop was yet another hotel that was the former stomping ground of one of Shanghai's most notorious mobsters, "Big Ears Du". In the 1920's he rose to prominence as an opium king pin and neighborhood gangster. He was known to wear shrunken monkey heads that were sown into his jackets. He hung out at his Mansion with his wives and various concubines.
|"Big Ears Du"
|Mansion Hotel former home of Big Ears Du
|Well preserved interior
|Big Ears Du in the back row in Black to the left
Our destination is the French Concession neighborhood of Shanghai. This area is known today for its 1920's mansions, french influenced architecture and chic restaurants. As a result of the 1840-1842 Sino - British Opium War, Shanghai was forcefully opened up as an international port. British, French and American enclaves were created in various sections of the city. The French Concession retains it French influence and is bordered by Fuxing Road West and Shaanxi Road South.
At Xinle Lu we entered from the end of Shaanxi Lu. These shops are geared to younger people. I had asked to stop at Julu Lu to look at a store called Spin at #758. However, I don't know if we ever passed that road or if it was even nearby.
|Stores in French Concession
|One of the Huaihai Shopping Center Malls
Maxim decided he wanted to show us the Russian Orthodox Church. I was happy as at least we got to see something of historical significance.
|Russian Orthodox Church
|Interior of the church
|Getting stared at. Perhaps he doesn't want his photo taken?
|Home of Zhou Enlai, Former Chinese Premier
|French Concession buildings
|An Interesting Store
|Checking on Mother with Maxim
At noon Maxim and Gary dropped us in Xintiandi which is a 2 block shopping area of refurbished shikumen lane houses. Xintiandi means "New Heaven and Earth". It is sort of ironic that this vibrant shopping destination is the site of the first National Congress of the Communist Party. It took place in Shanghai on July 23, 1921. Mao Zeodong and his compatriots met at this location. It is open from 9 -4 and is located at 76 Xingye road. I asked my mother if she wanted to visit but she declined so we just walked around looking at the boutiques and restaurants.
|Shops in Xintiandi
|Lots of restaurants
|At Din Tai Fung waiting for our table
|Pork Cutlet and Rice
|Directions on how to eat the dumplings
|Excited they had cider
|Cover for one of our bags
|Preparation area for the dumplings
We decided to checkout the Xintiandi Style Mall. It seemed surprisingly empty.
|Xintiandi Shopping Mall
|A very nice but very empty mall
|Metro Ticket machine
The machine was very easy to use and was accessible in English. I think it was only 4 RMB for both of us to take the Metro.
|Glass doors protect you from the oncoming trains
|Diagram where the train is headed
|On the subway
Hongqiao Railway Station
In about 8 minutes we arrived at the Hongqiao Railway station to catch our train to Hangzhou. The Hongqiao station is the newest and busiest in Shanghai. They also have train service from Shanghai to Beijing which takes just 4h 48m to travel 819 miles! That is the same distance from New York to Chicago. Amazing!
The Waldorf Astoria purchased our train tickets for our round trip to Hangzhou.
|Our Train Tickets
|Hongqiao Railway Station
|When the lights switch from yellow to green you can go down to the train
The light switched to green and our hearts were kind of racing as we headed down. Lots of people pushing and cramming their way through the doors. However once down stairs it was easy to board the train. We located our car which was in the front. I am very happy we were able to leave our carryons at the hotel. We found our first class seats in car 1. I had been pre-warned by an expat living in Shanghai that the Chinese will take a seat on the train if they have a standing ticket. You need to kick them out. Thankfully our seats were unoccupied.
|High Speed Train
We arrived at the Hangzhou railway station exactly on time. There are two railway stations in Hangzhou. The downtown Hangzhou railway is the most convenient for visit the West Lake. The other station is called Hangzhou South and is about 40 minutes away.
I pre-arranged with our hotel to have a car waiting there to pick us up. We saw the gentleman holding the sign with our name. He showed us to the Audi A6 and they drove us the 20 minutes to the hotel. I don't know why there was another escort accompanying the driver. We could have tried to get a taxi on our own but I have read that getting a taxi from the railway station is no easy feat. The car service is a little expensive at 320 RMB + 15% gratuity but worth it since we are on a tight schedule.
While many people's top sights to see in China may be the Great Wall, Xian terracotta warriors or the pandas in Chengdu, I have always been focused on visiting Hangzhou. One of my college professors talked glowingly about the beauty of the West Lake.
Marco Polo is said to have described it as "In heaven there is paradise, On earth, Suzhou and Hangzhou".
Hangzhou is known for its charming lake and as a spiritual retreat. Many famous poets and painters lived here during the Song Dynasty during the 12th and 13th centuries. Hangzhou is now a city of eight million people and is very popular with tourists. The high speed train from Shanghai now makes many runs everyday and it is easy to transit between to the two cities. Prior to October 2010 it took 3 hours to drive here by car.
We arrived at the Four Seasons West Lake at 6:20 pm. The hotel is beautiful and situated right on the lake front. There are also some captivating gardens.
|Four Seasons West Lake (supplied by the hotel)
This show started in 2007 and was created by the famous movie director Zhang Yimou, who also presented the 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony. Impression West Lake is an interpretation of the White Snake legend. It incorporates the local cultural and unique charm of Hangzhou. The music is by Kitaro Matsuri. Total audience capacity is 1800 people. One of the fascinating aspects of the show is that the actors look like they are walking on water.
The show features the story of star crossed lovers who are separated but then reunited after death. There are 5 acts over the one hour show. Act 1: Encounter - Two white cranes transform into a man and woman and fall in love at first sight. A silk umbrella symbolizes their pledge of love. Act II: In Love - Fish chase each other to display happiness and true love. Act III: Parting - this is the pivotal moment in the show where the love of the two cranes face adversity from great powers. The female crane dies and provides a dramatic farewell to her betrode. Act IV: Memories - the male crane returns to the place where they first met. The beautiful scenes are the same yet his love, the female crane is gone. Many beautiful ladies pass by but none can replace her. The rain of that day. the boat where they stayed and the promise of their love are now just memories. Act VI: Impression - As in a dream the crane couple meets again. They disappear on the horizon. The memory of their love leaves a mysterious and magical impression on us.
When we arrived at the show and found our seats in the boat we were not happy. The boat had glass widows which we could not tell if they would open. Although it was cold sitting outside the view was much better. We asked to change our seats and they let us sit in one of the back rows in the outside venue.
|Some of the cheaper seats
|The boat where our original seats are located
|Our new seats outside
It must be challenging for the performers who have to act and sing though the cold. The show has a two month break over January and February when it is the coldest in Hangzhou.
The show started on time and the music, lights and costumes were amazing.
|Start of the Impression West Lake Show
|A Chinese pavilion appears
|Part of Act 1
|The splashing is supposed to symbolize adversity
|A gate is raised
|Love the changing colors
|Feathers which is theme in the story
|They look like they are standing on the water
|Almost the end
|A happy Ending
After the show we walked back to the hotel and went to our room to deposit our jackets, scarves and mittens. Tonight we will have dinner at the Four Seasons restaurant Jia Sha. The food is Sichuan, Shanghai Chinese with some other influences. It was hard to decide on what to order as everything sounded delicious. They were out of the Beggar's chicken so we settled on the barbecued pork and the Peking duck.
I also had a pot of the famous Longjing Green Tea which is cultivated and produced in Hangzhou. The size, shape and texture of the leaf determines the taste of the tea.
The tea was very good but our dinner was disappointing. The pork was ok but I actually felt sorry for the duck.
|Server performing surgery on our duck
|Pancakes with skin
We walked around the hotel checking out the other public rooms on the way back to our room. The hallways reminded us more of a hospital than a fancy hotel.
|Long Hallway at Four Seasons
We watched a little TV and I made notes for the blog. The wifi worked very well in the room.
Tomorrow we will tour Hangzhou and in the late afternoon take the train back to Shanghai and then later to Pudong Airport for our flight to Singapore.