A popular saying handed down from ancient times goes like this “Of the thirty-six West Lakes in China, east or west, the West Lake at Hangzhou is the best”
We are in Hangzhou, 100 miles (160km) south west of Shanghai, and it’s the lake that attracts Chinese tourists here in their thousands.
Originally dating back to 600BC but enlarged by every Dynasty since, the lake is Chinese through and through. With a backdrop of misty mountains, mysterious water, scenic causeways, and pagoda roofs peeping into every vista. For people living in the Chinese mega-cities, this is a wonderful place to come for some nature and space.
For us, it was a brilliant place to people-watch; couples dancing, old men flying kites, charismatic show-offs on rollerblades, cosmopolitan joggers, wedding couples posing for photographs, and tourists in tiny boats rowed by thin old men.
Here we are well away from the Western tour itinerary. As Hilary cycled round the lake (two hours) and Roger walked (five hours), we saw no other Europeans or Americans. In fact, one child, part of a massive school party in tracksuit uniforms, pointed to Hilary and said “Oh, there’s a white woman!”