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By Mikey
Friday, 12th November 2004 05:59

The Singaporean lady, who never actually introduced herself, was ready and waiting when we got downstairs. We had decided that since she didn't tell us which room she was in, we wouldn't wait long if she was late. However, we left on time in a taxi bound for the station. Claire and I made straight for the waiting rooms and found the one we needed from the signs over head while the Singaporean lady looked a little out of her depth. Possibly she may just have had no experience with Chinese trains before.

On the platform we separated as Claire and I were in a different carriage to the other lady - she had bought her ticket several hours after us. While we waited for the train to leave, the lady came to find us with a Chinese train attendant in tow. She wanted to know if we wanted to buy advanced tickets to all of the attractions in Hangzhou. We had been afraid something like this might happen. The thing with Claire and I is that we know each other well enough to know what we'd like to see and at what pace. Adding someone else to the equation can be difficult. We explained that we'd prefer to buy tickets as we went round and she seemed to accept that.

The hard seats on the train were not very comfortable and two hours was the maximum amount of time that could be spent on them without causing discomfort. Actually two hours was about an hour and a half too long.

When we arrived the Singaporean lady was waiting for us on the platform. She had decided to do some sort of tour and then make her own way back so we parted ways. We headed straight to the ticket office to arrange our trip back to Shanghai using some Chinese that Anson had kindly provided us with.

Our first stop, courtesy of the number 2 tourist bus, was the Lingyin temple. It took a while to get out there because it's on the opposite side of the West Lake (Xi Hu) to Hangzhou but once there we were dropped off exactly where we needed to be. We bought some tickets and started to wander around.

The temple is set in quite a large park area at the base of a small, rocky peak that we climbed to see what we could see. And all that we could see was the other side of the mountain but it was fun getting away from all of the people below. Down at the temple we found that we needed to pay again and that our tickets were just tickets to get you close to the temple. We decided to give it a miss as we have seen quite a lot of temples lately and it looked crowded.

We caught a bus back around the lake but got off before we arrived back in Hangzhou. We stopped at the southern end of a 3km causeway that spans the western end of the lake. Closed to traffic and 90% free from big tour groups, it was a very pleasant walk in the hazy sunshine.

At the far end of the causeway we passed by several sets of newlywed couples, all having their pictures taken by the lake as we searched for a museum. When we found it, it wasn't quite the history museum we had hoped for but more a collection of artifacts discovered in the region. Some of them dated back almost 7000 years and were quite advanced but we were hoping for perhaps a bit more of a history.

After the museum we wandered back towards the city as the sun was getting low. Several people were out flying kites in the gentle wind. Very serene is how I'd describe the place.

After watching a spectacular sunset we found some supper in a waterfront restaurant and ate too much. As we were paying, the lady handing us our change caught sight of our train tickets and urged us to get a move on or we might miss our train. It turns out that she was nearly right. Instead of leaving from the same train station, we were due to leave from the east train station and that was further away than we thought. We ran from our taxi to the station entrance and one of the station staff ran with us to show us which platform we wanted and we found our seats just before the train left. Phew!

The journey back to Shanghai was no more comfortable than earlier although there was the added amusement of seeing the girl opposite Claire squirm as a bug of some sort crawled out from under the seat. It wasn't that big really and didn't last long anyway. It became quite flat when a train attendant stamped on it and swept it up.

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