May 10, 2008

We know at least this much

We'll be flying in to Shanghai in the 3rd week of June, taking an opportunity to stay in Hangzhou to visit Dan's family (his parents, two sisters, and their families).
If you click on the map it will enlarge and you'll find Zhejiang Province, on the east coast, shaded green. Hangzhou is the capitol, about a two hour drive from Shanghai (which is capitol of the province with the same name).

Hangzhou, (link to the left is to a Wikipedia article) pronounced Hawng-joe in Mandarin (though if you want to sound like a local, and be intelligible only to the locals, you'd say Hawn-zei), has a 2,000 year history. Signs of this history, in keeping with tradition, have been erased, re-erected, newly interpreted, re-discovered, celebrated, and denigrated. You just kind of have to take it as you get it, which is a city full of vibrant back-alleys, apalling traffic, cosmopolitan fashion districts, meandering lake-side paths, lush sub-tropical growth on surrounding hills, rebuilt temples, crazy crowded streets and quiet tea houses. It's hot and humid in the summer, pleasant in the autumn, cold and sometimes snowy in the winter, and vibrant in the spring.

I would have loved to have seen pre-communist Hangzhou (that blocky, grey architecture just doesn't do much for me), and I was lucky to visit before the mania for reconstruction and all things modern took over completely - the tree lined streets were lovely, there were more bicycles than cars, and it was a pleasure to take a ride in a pedicab, chatting with the driver who pedalled the single-speed contraption steadily down the road. Not having been back in 5 years, it'll be interesting to note the changes, which I'm sure will be many.
(most of the pictures will open in a larger view if you click on them - I'm still trying to figure out why some don't, like the winter scene, above)

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