Hangzhou (杭州) is a special place for me where I made my decision to come to China. I first visited there last year during the Golden Week while I was still working in Japan.
Hangzhou is a historical resort city developed around Xihu (西湖, the West Lake) known for beautiful scenery. The rapid train will take you there in around two hours from Shanghai.
With the booming economy and rising tourism market, Hangzhou is packed tourists in the week ends. When I got there in the afternoon, Sudi (苏堤) was filled with screaming tour guides followed by crowds of colorful caps: red, yellow, orange… （The Chinese tourists, especially ones from the countryside, like to wear matching caps en masse.）
… which is totally ok for me. I didn’t really come to “tour” and do not have to participate in push and squeeze war with them at every entry points.
I came to see the sun rise on the West Lake.
I rode the rental bicycle to Sudi the following morning at 4:30am and found the exact bench I sat last year. The munks in Jingci Temple (净慈寺） had just started the morning chanting. In the view towards the right lies the small hill with the Leifeng Tower (雷峰塔) and far behind towards the left is the Hangzhou downtown. The color of the sky turns from dark sky blue, to vague gray, to glossy purple, and is reflected in the tranquil lake water. As the silhouette of the sun slowly appears, a warm orange sun ray strikes in the air and diffuses into the purple background.
Although now the air had the smell of summer, this was the very scenery that encouraged me to the decision to come to China last spring. The changing colors of the West Lake sky reminded me how precious every moment is and amazed me how mesmerizing a place could be. I decided that I should be in a place I want to be, not just anywhere I happened to be, while life is too precious to spare.
After one year I made it to come to Shanghai, and it has been another half year living here. I feel that much of what I see and hear has already become part of the everyday life. For this reason, I revisited Hangzhou at the very spot I saw the sun rise to look back on where I started and confirm my original intensions.