The past week in Hangzhou has really been an eye-opener. Hangzhou is the capital of the Zhejiang Province and home to many e-Commerce giants such as Alibaba. A relatively quiet city as compared to it’s much louder neighbor Shanghai, Hangzhou has it’s own unique charm of being a city blended with nature. The 4 season climate here also serves as a good escape from the humid, sweaty and chiong to shopping mall weather back home.
THINGS THAT MADE ME GO WOW
Payment system – Alipay, Wechat Pay and definitely not cash unless you want to see the irritated faces of shopkeepers at the sight of this paper-based payment system. Paying with paper is so yesterday to the Chinese. Over here, Alipay is used to pay for everything from taxi rides to groceries and even for that 2 Yuan bottled water you buy from some tucked away corner shop. Mobile-based payment is literally everywhere.
Bicycles (that are neatly placed along the side of pavements) – The bicycle culture here is really strong. In Hangzhou, they have dedicated lanes for bicycles/e-scooters at every single road in the more urban areas. Coupled with the sheer number of available bicycles/e-bikes for rent and cheap rental costs (1 yuan / hour), bicycles have become the choice of transport for short/medium distances. Apart from the occasional guy in a scooter riding against the flow of traffic, bike riding here is quite safe and convenient. They even have e-bikes for rent!
Food – Mad serving sizes. Also when you’re unsure of what to eat you’ll probably just eat Mala. Another alternative would be the affordable ZJU canteen food. A typical meal there costs about 15 yuan.
PLACES THAT MADE ME GO WOW
Hefang Street – Headed to this food-filled ancient street during the ice-breaking session According to one of the TA’s we could try the free samples from each shop along the street till we got full.
Xihu & Leifang Pagoda – Everyone talks about it so we headed there to explore. It is considered as one of the most scenic spots in Hangzhou. It was a little crowded though.
Fajing Temple, Zhongtianzhu Temple and Faxi Temple – Signed up for a Buddhism Cultural Trail on Buddy Day. Guided by our buddies from ZJU, we hiked between these famous temples and learnt about their history.
Liangzhu Dream Town – Basically a town dedicated to 3.007 / 30.007 projects. Over here we got exposed to the start-up culture in China and visited a 3D printing facility.
Ever since I signed up for DATE @ ZJU, I’ve received a fair share of “you sure anot China?” and “thought you CLB one” from my friends. My biggest worry for this trip has always been the aspect of communication. Having to converse in Mandarin with the uncle at my favorite bak chor mee stall back home is already challenging enough when it moves past taking my order. Communicating in China would therefore represent an exponential jump in difficulty. Nevertheless, I am determined to improve my Chinese and I look forward to an enjoyable and meaningful exchange here in Hangzhou!