I guess other posts covered about the origami robot, so I shall give that a pass. Instead, I’ll provide a guide regarding Xixi wetland and Huangshan.
Xixi national wetland park
Pretty sure every theme talked about Xihu and west lake. But that is not the only big nature patch in Hangzhou. There is a young park in the area, which recently became part of China’s scenic areas. Say hello to Xixi national wetland park.
Picture Singapore’s Botanic Gardens, with the typical food eateries and tourist shops, small museums and stone walk paths. Now add a ton of lakes, more trees and grasses, a few hotels here and there as well as numerous preserved olde times building – that is Xixi wetland in a nutshell.
Don’t let this brief description fool you, this wetland can be a feast for your eyes. Nature-lovers will appreciate walking through the meandering forest-like stone paths, while Instagram folk and snapchat addicts will enjoy taking a lot of selfies of the picturesque landscape.
You can cycle for 30 minutes from the hostel to the wetland’s entrance at west wen er road. Walking down Fu causeway, you’ll notice beautiful water bodies at the sides of the road, as well as forested paths which leads you deeper into the park. It is not recommended to walk these maze-like paths alone, if you are one to lose your way easily. But it is a nice breather from the urban landscape, for all that you see are trees and water. There are a few scenic spots hidden away from the main roads, only accessible by these forested paths.
There are a few shops located in Hezhu street, left of Fu causeway. Most of them are traditional looking, and since it is a tourist area, they mark up the prices. You can walk up Hezhu pagoda to have a nice view of Xixi wetland, or check out the few chinese wall art around the street.
There are a few pay-to-enter areas in the wetland, one being green causeway (its ticketing booth is next to a starbucks), and another at the south of Fu causeway, Jiaolu Tianzhuang check in. It costs 80rmb to enter these 2 areas (if I did not hear it wrongly), and an additional 60rmb for a one-hour long boat ride inside. I entered the latter, with the advice to get out before 6.30pm as there are no artificial lights inside. Inside the paid area, you’ll see even more preserved buildings of the past, some with furniture in place. There are more forested paths as well as bridges, basically places to take beautiful photos.
Oh yes… there’s a lovely botanical garden inside this area where you can take lovely sunset pictures at. However, I have forgotten where it is located on the map.
If you want less water, then hopefully you’ll be more interested in huangshan. Many travellers speak of its beauty, claiming that it is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. So, I decided to give it a shot. Hopefully this post will help make things less confusing for you.
For those who want to visit huangshan, please remember to bring your PASSPORT, STUDENT ID (yellow card issued by ZJU) (if you have) and HARD CASH for the entrance fee into the mountain. And a heads up, prices on the mountain is not cheap, because everything is brought around without the use of vehicles.
Start at Hangzhou West Bus station. There are 2 routes to get to the base of the mountain: the first way is by taking a long bus inside the station to a bus terminal, then from that terminal take a shuttle bus to the bottom cableway station of Yuping cableway; the second way is by taking a coach outside the bus station to another bus terminal, then take a shuttle bus to the bottom cableway station of Taiping cableway (locals call it “bei da men”). Both bus and coach from west bus station to the mountain will take 4 hours and cost about 100rmb; from the bus terminals to the cable car stations takes about 30 minutes and costs about 20rmb. I went by the second way as… just outside the bus station at the taxi stand, a man was already yelling “huangshan? Huangshan?” and he directed me to take the coach bus. The coach bus uncle then recommended me to go by bei da men as, quote on quote, “it is most scenic”.
At the bottom of Taiping cableway station, you can either hike up like a macho, which takes 4 hours… or just take the Taiping cableway up for 20 minutes and 90rmb.
Do note that to enter the mountain, you have to pay a separate fee of 190rmb, or 95rmb if you are a student. For those without a China ID, this is where you PAY IN CASH. I paid for the entrance of the mountain just before I entered the cable car; I am unsure for those who choose to hike up.
Upon reaching the upper station of Taiping cableway, you can just follow the map to navigate around huangshan. All paths are in stone, and give way to the porters – they carry extremely heavy loads.
For me, I spent my first day travelling a very small area, just to get the hang of it. I brought my own tent and camped outside Xihai Hotel for 80rmb – you have to register inside the hotel, where they will ask for your passport. Do note that there are designated camping grounds in huangshan, most of them located just outside some hotels. But be warned – there are smelly insects at this campsite.
Afterwards, I hiked up Danxia peak (Purple Cloud Peak) to watch the sunset. The clouds were very thick, so it only lasted for 2 minutes. I overheard a few locals stating that that was good enough for them – sometimes they can’t even see the sunset or sunrise.
I then rushed back to my tent because it was getting dark. So dark that mountains start to disappear from your sight.
I was awoken at 3.40am the next day, by a neighbouring camper, to see the sunrise. There were lights along the path up to Danxia peak, but not enough to illuminate all the steps.
Bring a torch.
I went on to see the Xihai Grand Canyon, as recommended by the locals. I started at the first ring at around 7.10am. I took a cablecar from the end of the 2nd ring of the grand canyon to tian hai zhan at 100rmb, walked up ao-yu peak (turtle peak), past lotus pavilion (lian hua ting), to see the greeting guest pine tree (yin ke song). These sections of huangshan in this paragraphs are swarming with tour groups.
It was around 11am when I made my way down the mountain by Yuping Cableway, which took 20 minutes and costs 90rmb. Or, you can hike down which takes 3 hours.
At the base of Yuping cableway station, you have to get a bus to the bus terminal (the last station for the shuttle bus) for about 30 minutes and 19rmb, then take the long bus ride back from that terminal to Hangzhou west bus station for 4 hours and 110 rmb. Here is another time where they will ask for your passport. And do note that from that bus terminal, there is ONLY 1 LONG BUS AT 2.30PM TO HANGZHOU. If you miss it… then search for a nearby hotel to spend the night.
Overall, these two trips taught me something: sometimes, you just have to travel alone. This will sound dangerous, especially to females. But when you put yourself in an unfamiliar place alone, your actions will start to change: you’ll learn how to take care of yourself; to not be frequently engaged in conversations with your friends (or your phone), and instead notice and be aware of your environment; to develop your gut feeling to know which locals to reach out to, and even to exchange stories and perspectives with them. Just like how it is important to connect with people, it is also important to give yourself personal time to grow, reflect and be independent.