It’s hard to believe that we have finished the first half of our trip and there are only six days left. After a good night’s sleep, we woke up to a cloudy and foggy Hangzhou. The city of Hangzhou is located in southeastern China, about a two-hour drive from Shanghai. Hangzhou is considered one of the most beautiful cities in all of China. It is located in the mountains with lakes and bodies of water in and around it. It has more greenery than a tropical rain forest, and there are many picturesque vistas all around the city. The only downside is that it is hot and humid.
Although China is officially an atheist country, people of all religions practice their beliefs. Our first stop this morning was the Lingyin Temple. Lingyin means hidden spirit and is one of the largest and most visited Buddhist temples in China. It also holds the largest statue of the Buddha in a lotus (seated) position. With today being a Sunday during the summer months when schools are on holiday, throngs of children and visitors frequent the temple. There were hundreds if not thousands of people around us. Personal space was still at a premium. We were hot, sweaty, and surrounded by people in close quarters. It was quite the experience. Although we were not used to this, we were all open-minded and understood that things would be quite different in China. After all, this is what studying abroad is about – being out of your comfort zone and experiencing new things.
We had spent the entire morning at our first location, so we headed for a much needed lunch break to appease our appetites and to cool down. After lunch, we visited Leifeng Pagoda (Buddhist temple). What a sight this was! The pagoda is an octagonal five-story (15 stories in modern buildings) tall structure that is located on top of a hill which gives it the appearance of a high rise building. We had to climb more than 150 stairs to get to the base of the pagoda, and another 150 stairs to get to its very top floor. The top offered breathtaking views of the West Lake, the surrounding mountains, and the city of Hangzhou. It was also significantly cooler at this higher elevation with a pleasant breeze to cool us off. Our clothes were quite wet due to the heat and a humidity that neared 100 percent. After enjoying the spectacular views for a while, we headed back down, grabbed some ice cream, took a group picture, and headed back to our bus. Our next stop was every girl’s dream.
We were on our way to the Silk Market which is a market area that sells all sorts of items, especially souvenirs and silk products. Since we’ve been to China, we haven’t had much time to shop. This was a great opportunity to buy Chinese souvenirs for our family and friends. The main drag was about half a mile long, lined up with shops on both sides and small vendors in the middle. We had about two hours to indulge in shopping which was a much needed respite from all the sight-seeing. This was a perfect way to end our day. We headed back to our hotel which is actually located on the campus of Wanxiang Polytechnic University. We had dinner and retired to our rooms for a much needed night’s sleep. In fact, since we were experiencing 12-hour days almost every day, we are usually exhausted and ready to crash as soon as we get back to our hotel rooms.