Hangzhou Global Tour: Day five
It dawned on me the other day that one of the reasons West Lake in Hangzhou is so special is that it is an urban lake…an oasis right in the middle of a major city. I can think of only a few places I’ve been to where I can recall a body of water in the middle of an urban area, Lake Washington in Seattle is one that comes to mind.
Over the past few days here in Hangzhou, I’ve had an opportunity to view different areas of West Lake, in many vantages. Today, I had the pleasure of seeing the lake, while being in the middle of it…and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. My group and I boarded a Chinese style gondola at Hungang Pier and set a drift by our Gondolier. Under clear skies and a shaded canopy, a lake-affect cool breeze brushed our skin and cleansed our souls in a peaceful journey across the lake.
Along the way we saw the Leifeng Pagoda (later we would climb up and get a view of the lake) and the silhouette of White Snake (a small mountain bluff in the shape of a snake). Legend has it that in the lake, there is a white snake spirit who has been practicing Taoist magical arts in the hope of becoming immortal after centuries of training and cultivation.
While there was a lot activity on the lake, one thing I noticed was there were no swimmers or ski boats/jet skies. I can only assume the reason for this is to maintain a level of serenity with the lake. Something else I couldn’t help but notice was a massive Pogoda Dragon Boat at a dock. It was so ornate and beautiful…I can only image the impressive grandeur of seeing it sail across the lake. You’ll have to imagine what it might look like because I didn’t get a photo. Ugh. 🙂
After disembarking our gondola, we walked to the Leifeng Pagoda, a gigantic compound that beckons visitors to climb its many flights of stairs for breathtaking views of West Lake. This pagoda is actually quite new and was reconstructed in 2002, the original pagoda was over 1000 years old, but collapsed in 1924 after looters stole bricks from its base, compromising the structural integrity. The new version of the Leifeng Pagoda was built atop the same site and visitors can view the ruins that date back to 975 A.D.
It’s amazing how when Americans go to Europe they realize how new their nation is. I can only guess that Europeans feel the same way when they visit China.
Our next stop was to the Yougfu Temple where we had lunch with some Buddhist Monks. This particular temple is part of an enormous compound that must span 100s of acres with paths that meander through its hillsides. This monastery is part of the Fayun Village and attracts a lot of visitors. I found the Yougfu Temple to be a lot less busy, allowing me to take in the spirituality that emanate from its pours. Gravity pulled running water down its hillside, leaving a tranquil sound in its path that lulled me into a sense of calm and well-being. Another extraordinary sight at this temple compound are the ancient carvings out of the stone mountainside…some date back over 1000 years.