It’s now the end of my third week here at Zhejiang University, and I think I’m reaching a point where overseas exchange life is beginning to become routine and mundane. While I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few of the more exciting places outside of central Hangzhou this week, I’ve also found myself spending more and more time inside my room. Moving forward, these weekly posts are definitely going to be centered more on work than on fun. But I’m planning to make it all last while I can.
The week started off on a high note for me. After two weeks of deprivation from proper Ultimate Frisbee, I finally got to join some of the players from the Hangzhou Ultimate pickup scene for a scrimmage. We played with the Hangzhou Chinese International School’s high school team, as well as a team from Zhejiang Sci-Tech University (浙江理工大学). The Ultimate scene in Hangzhou is unfortunately not quite as extensive as that of Singapore, with this being one of the few chances I’ve had to play so far. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to be able to face off against opponents on the field again after such a long hiatus.
Around mid-week, I embarked on the third and final visit to Hangzhou Hu Shu School. This time, we did some dance routines with the children. They were the youngest group we’ve worked with so far (7 – 13 years); fortunately, we received plenty of help from the teachers, who were just as enthusiastic as we were in showing the dance moves to the kids. Although I’ve never been much of a dancer, I had plenty of fun myself.
Overall, while the past three weeks of visits have been very fulfilling, I can’t help but feel like I didn’t get to know all of the kids as well as I would’ve liked to. Perhaps this is just an unfortunate consequence of working with a different group every week.
But at any rate, the time I’ve spent here has been really meaningful, and I hope that’s been the case for the children as well.
Thanks to the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节) on Friday, I was able to visit both Wuzhen (乌镇) and Longjingcun (龙井村) at the end of the week. Although the initial plan had been to go to Wuzhen on Friday, we ended up going to Longjingcun instead as the trains to Wuzhen were fully booked. There, we sampled some of the famous Longjing tea. I personally found it to be rather unremarkable, though it should be said that I’m not exactly an expert on tea, so do take this opinion with a grain of salt.
The real highlight of the day, however, was a rather spontaneous decision to hike up a neighbouring mountain (I wasn’t able to find the name), where we were rewarded with a spectacular view. Like the visit to Wushan Scenic Area last week, the pictures don’t do the place justice. The ascent was somewhat challenging, which made the view all the more rewarding.
The next day, we finally made our way to Wuzhen. This trip was the first time I rode on a bullet train in China, which attained speeds of over 300 km/h. Even more impressive than that, though, was how incredibly smooth the ride was – it is quite a bit more comfortable, and much less shaky, than taking the MRT back at home.
Although I’ve heard many rave reviews about it from friends, I ultimately felt that Wuzhen itself was rather underwhelming. The most interesting part about Wuzhen is that it is a water town (not unlike Venice); however, the massive hordes of fellow tourists made it difficult to get around, and detracted from the overall experience and atmosphere. There is also a hefty ¥190 (S$38) entrance fee.
With the conclusion of my third week in Hangzhou, I’ve found that the most enjoyable trips tend to be the spontaneous ones. Besides the hike on Longjingcun and last week’s visit to Baoshi Mountain, some of the better moments I’ve had have come from simply walking around and exploring the area. With any luck, I’ll still have time to do that in the weeks to come.