Hangzhou, China

This one is about my favorite city in China: Hangzhou.
At the time when England was being raided by Vikings, Hangzhou was the biggest and most modern city in the world. And it remains, in my opinion. one of the most beautiful and advanced cities in China today. Like Marco Polo himself put it, Hangzhou was the “most beautiful and magnificent city in the world”.

Hangzhou is the only city in China where I have been more than three times except for Beijing and Tianjin, and would gladly take any opportunity to visit again. So what is so great about it?

The good: The touristy part of the city is very green and clean. There is pollution like most cities in China, but it’s nowhere near Beijing’s. The city is very modern and the people are civilized and polite within local standards. The people are also very friendly and willing to help their fellow Chinese travelers as well as foreigners. The view around the West Lake is fantastic. And the city’s location is great, making it very convenient to visit neighboring cities (Suzhou, Shanghai, Huangshan, etc.). And finally local food is delicious. There is also a tea museum free of charge, which for some reason is not very famous. For anyone interested in Chinese tea, this is a good place to visit. The tea fields outside the museum are great for a walk and one can visit a small community of tea makers that borders these fields. Tours won’t take you here but I promise the atmosphere will be hard to forget; and there are plenty of chances for good photography.

The bad: Not all the parts of the city are as clean and modern as the parts closer to the West Lake (since those are the ones most visited by tourist). And since many people also realize all the good parts I just wrote and many more, Hangzhou gets many visitors and can be very crowded during holidays.

What visitors shouldn’t miss: West Lake, He Fang Street, Long Jin tea, Dong Po pork, Xiao Long Bao (dumplings)

Tianjin’s Traditional Candy

When Chinese people think about food in Tianjin, China two things instantly come to mind 狗不理 (goubuli) dumplings and 麻花 (mahua) traditional fried snack. However how about really traditional and local things? things that people now in Tianjin remember from their childhood for example. Here I post two types of candy that are engraved in Tianjin people’s hearts:

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This is a traditional “blown candy.” The person who makes them is called a 吹糖人 (chuitangren), although I hear the candy itself can also be called 吹糖人 which literally means “person who blows candy.” The candy is blown like a balloon and molded into different shapes using only the mouth and fingers. When the candy cools it becomes hard and fragile.
The one in this picture is supposed to be a tiger, though it looks more like a ferret…

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This is a traditional “drawn candy.” The person who makes them is called a 画糖人 (huatangren), and like the blown candy above I hear this can also mean the candy itself, which literally translates as “person who draws candy.”
Here the melted candy is pour onto a metal plate in different shapes that will hold together once the candy cools off and solidifies. It is not as fragile as the blown candy once cool, and it can be eaten.

This particular one is a Chinese short sword with a ring hanging from the blade (the ring was a separate piece of candy that was really hanging loosely from the main piece).

Funny Bathroom Signs

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Here is an expanding collection of pictures taken inside men lavatories in different cities around China. All the signs encourage male visitors to go one step closer to the urinal to avoid spilling. While the Chinese completely makes sense, the English translation can be sometimes humorous.

Korean Church

A beautiful church very close to Gangnam district in Seoul, Korea. It is not on a busy street as one would expect, but rather tucked inside a small neighborhood.
This building is proof of the power and influence Christianity has in Korea. In a country that seems religiously divided between Christianity and Buddhism, this building bears witness to the increasing number of people (and funds) available to this faith.

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八一三

maoThis restaurant is one of my favorites in Tianjin. The food here is delicious, but that is by no means its only feature. The restaurant is called “八一三鸭子楼” that could be translated word by word as “813 duck building.” Allegedly Mao Zedong ate roasted duck in this place years ago on August the 13th, hence the number “813.” The place is obsessed with Mao’s persona. With black and white pictures of him talking to the cooks and waitresses, every corner of this restaurant is a reminder that the chairman once approved its cuisine.

Not content with pictures of Mao adorning the walls and menus, the restaurant owner decided to put up some pictures on the wall of the current Chinese leaders tasting food, again allegedly, from this restaurant.

 

And the decorations are not the the only thing that would catch a foreigner’s eye. The English translations in the menus can also be quite amusing.

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