Updated: Jan 26
For me it's Home!
I'm talking about Hangzhou, a lovely and romantic Chinese megalopolis in full development that hosts ten million people that make it more unique every day. It is located in Zhejiang province and is the provincial capital. What's special about it? Well, literally every little corner and every single taste!
It is among the most developed cities in China after Shanghai and Beijing, but unlike these two, Hangzhou retains the charm of a rural village where you can eat a plate of 炒饭 (chaofan - fried rice) from a corner food stall and immediately run to Starbucks for a meeting while you order a 美式咖啡 (meishi kafei - an americano).
You may think well, it's a mix, a perfect blend of fantastic skyscrapers and tea houses, between restaurants on the 18th floor and the illegal and dilapidated food carts that pop up on every corner of the city after 10 PM. A megalopolis that retains all the charm of Chinese culture, with fruit stores where a lovely grandmother is there to serve you and like every single grandma in the world, if she doesn't see you for two days, she starts to worry.
Waking up in Hangzhou means going to the office while risking your life at least a couple of times. It means smelling fried food as early as six in the morning, seeing grannies out exercising and meeting rows of children in uniform going to school. Living in Hangzhou means being part of a dynamic and emerging system, a reality that wakes up with the desire to do, and perhaps that's what makes it so fascinating. It never stops. The typical day of a 老外 (laowai - foreigner) living here is very different from that of a typical Chinese person. The 老外 tends to stick to their habits, preferring a beer with friends after work, while the Chinese might eat out before going home relatively early. Oh yes, most Chinese families eat out almost every day, which might seem unimaginable for us as Europeans, right? It must also be mentioned that there you can have a meal even with 20rmb (about €2.50). Now it makes sense, right?!
Hangzhou embraces you and makes you choose how to live. It’s a place famous for 西湖 (Xihu), the West Lake, which is located in the exact centre of the city, so as to divide it in two. On one side we find the lake surrounded by the chaos of the hectic city, where prestigious brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel appear alongside miles of taxis blaring their horns. On the other side, we find ourselves in an ancient picturesque village, where time seems to have stopped. The fragrance of green tea lingers in the air and the houses are smaller and made of stone and wood. The Chinese like to come here and take long walks in the calm and tranquillity that this place offers.
Here we find the Longjing tea plantations where “龙井茶” (Longjing cha), the green tea which is cultivated across the immense and ever-green karst hills. The residents are those who take care of these wonderful plantations. It is a bitter tea, very different in flavour from the teabags you may be used to. The area is full of small restaurants managed by locals who turn their houses into “easy” restaurants. The most famous one is definitely The Green Tea, very good and in a fabulous location where, however, it is better to go during the week to avoid long queues during the weekend. The Longjing prawn is also a must-try, a simple dish but unique. Trust me!
Are you already buying the flight ticket? See you soon in Hangzhou!
Emanuela Villani is a Translator & Interpreter based in Hangzhou. You can find her at www.e-mamahuhu.com
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the views of European Guanxi.
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