I have been to Hangzhou many times for business. It is a very wealthy Chinese city, considered by many Chinese to be the most beautiful city in China. I have seen most of the tourist hotspots, but always under rather controlled conditions with a colleague to guide me. I had a Sunday to kill so headed out by myself. I caught a cab from my hotel to a large cell phone store near West Lake and grabbed a Chinese SIM for my phone. Then I walked over to West Lake.
West Lake is very famous in China, and is memorialized in a famous love story. There is a bridge over part of West Lake called Broken Bridge. It is said that you have not really been to Hangzhou if you have not been to Broken Bridge.
Here I am with my new friend Mr. Zho, and the grandson of one of his friends. Mr. Zho saw me walking toward West Lake and excitedly flagged me down in English, “Where are you from?” he asked. “America,” says I. He was very excited to hear that, because his hobby is learning English. He spends every weekend at West Lake looking for native English speakers with whom to talk. We learned a lot from each other, I think. For instance, the boy in this picture goes to a special private English language school every Saturday, where he spends only 20 minutes with an American practicing English — for this, his parents pay ~$3,000/year. This is a common experience, and Chinese parents aren’t really that concerned if their kids learn anything, they just do what all the other parents do.
This is a statue of a Chinese soldier from the Korean War.
This plaque was a quick reminder that China controls its media and messaging very carefully… in China, the Korean War is called the War to Resist US Aggression.
I climbed up a peak near West Lake to grab a picture of this lovely pagoda. While really neat, it was a replica of the original. And you can’t go inside. So this picture is pretty much all I did there.
While driving down the road, camera flashes pop every 50 yards or so. Similarly, phone and internet are closely monitored. I always feel like I am in a fishbowl. I found it hilarious to see this book, 1984, on sale in China. I asked a colleague what he thought about being monitored, and even somewhat controlled, and he said it’s ok if you don’t break any rules. The monitoring makes it really safe for law-abiding citizens. I told him he was living in Orwell’s dystopian society… I hope he reads 1984, it will be fun to discuss.
Whenever I visit a factory in China, and make suggestions about how to improve their operations, I feel like I’m living the inverse of that 80’s movie Gung Ho. You should go watch it, if you haven’t before… give you a peak into my life.
I don’t always like Chinese food… much of it is bland or weird. But the giant shrimps are pretty great. This baby was halfway to graduating to lobster-hood.
I don’t spend a lot of time in Chinese malls because, well, I don’t spend a lot of time in any malls. I did wander through a few on this trip, though. I thought it was funny to see a MLB (Major League Baseball) store in Hangzhou. Baseball is not really a thing in China. They don’t play it, and don’t follow it. If they have ever heard of a single team, it is the Yankees (there was only Yankees gear in this store, FYI). But they love western culture. All text on everyone’s clothing is in English. They equate Western with stylish.
I guess someone grabbed a snapshot of Obama in or near this ice cream shop. So now he is an advertisement. Crazy.
My favorite hotel on the whole planet is now the Intercontinental in Hangzhou. It’s a giant golden sphere, for goodness sakes! The rooms are just splendid.
Here is the view of the sunrise over Hangzhou from my room on the twelfth floor.