Hangzhou Holiday Adventures (Part One)

Mooncake, a bit too dry for my taste
Mooncake, a bit too dry for my taste

Despite only starting teaching 3 weeks ago, I’ve just had 12 days of holiday.  The holiday was for two reasons. The first is the Mid-Autumn festival. This festival ties in with the full moon and people view the celebration as a time to spend with family. The full moon symbolises peace and wholeness, and so it also involves eating a lot of mooncakes (not as nice as they sound). Still, I got give a box of them from the school which was very kind.

The second festival a few days later is National Day: celebrating that the People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1st 1949. The city has lots of flags, families spend time together, and there’s a good vibe around. The only thing is, everywhere is super busy. Everyone in China travels for the holiday. We contemplated going to visit Shanghai but we left it a bit late and realised there was still so much to see in our home town of Hangzhou.

Mid-autumn celebrations outside the Catholic Church
Mid-autumn celebrations outside the Catholic Church

The holiday started off as it should, with food, beer and good company. Not so long ago, I went to the local Pizza Hut delivery and the guy there spoke some English and was quite excited to see a foreigner. He asked if we could become friends. We swapped numbers and arranged to meet up so we could help him with his English and he could help us with our Chinese. He’s called Edmund, he’s a student, and on the night we met him he took us to the student area which we had no idea existed. It’s down a dark street you’d never think to walk down, but you’re greeted with so many restaurants, shops, market stalls, and a buzz of atmosphere which was awesome. We met Edmund’s friend and they took us to a very popular restaurant and ordered us the most riduculous amount of food: noodles, sweet and sour pork, fish, tofu. It was all delicious.

Late night BBQ on the streets of Hangzhou
Late night BBQ on the streets of Hangzhou

We’d arranged to meet up with some fellow English teachers later that evening so our new Chinese friends came along too. Many pints of beer later it was 2am and the owner of the bar took us all in taxis to some late-night BBQ. This BBQ was basically on the side of the road. All 10-12 of us were sat under a big tent with as much beer as you can imagine and a whole lot of food. Bear in mind, Mitch and I had so much food earlier with our Chinese friends, and now there was even more! However, it must be said, I had the most incredible lamb I’ve ever eaten in my life. I also tried chicken feet (eaten often here), plus tofu, pork, rice, more pork, more beer…next thing its 3.30am and the next plan is to go to a karaoke bar. At this point I am nearly asleep so Mitch and I jump in a taxi home.

Grand canal and Gongchen Bridge
Grand canal and Gongchen Bridge

The vast amount of beer meant that the next day we needed some comfort food. There is a large mall near us which we’ve done well to avoid, because, we’re in China right? We want some local culture. However, there is a McDonalds in this mall so we head to McDonalds and indulged in the ‘Modern China Burger’ (Time Out Beijing can give you the best picture and tell you more about this delightful sandwich).

Hangovers kicked by McDonalds, we venture outside to enjoy the rest of the National Holiday. There are families about, market stalls set up, and people selling little China flags. As it turns out, behind the massive shopping mall which we’ve been avoiding, is this gorgeous, historical, museum-filled part of the city. We visited the Grand Canal museum. The grand canal became a UNESCO site in 2014 and runs through much of Hangzhou, all the way to Beijing.

Chillin' on Gongchen Bridge
Chillin’ on Gongchen Bridge

After feeling cultural at the museum we walked across Gongchen Bridge (seriously…how did we not know this was near where we lived?), grabbed an ice cream, and enjoyed our awesome, new discovery.

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