Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

26 days in China, part 4 – Huzhou

Huzhou is one of those places that is as of now mostly untainted by tourism, and the only reason I visited it (and found out about it) in the first place was to see my long-lost friend, YH, whom I met in Bordeaux and hadn’t seen for four years! Huzhou is her hometown and where she currently works, so a north-to-south China trip wouldn’t be complete without stopping by, especially since it’s only 2.5 hours away from Shanghai by high-speed train (and my mom’s first time on China’s high-speed train). In fact, I would say that Huzhou was the most anticipated stop on the itinerary!

Compared with nearby tourist hubs like Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and many other cities in the Jiangsu/Zhejiang provinces, Huzhou is quaint and quiet but certainly did not lack characteristic. In fact, because it wasn’t super crowded, Huzhou exhibited an accentuated sense of elegance that so well defines the Jiangnan region (or my impression of the region). Again, these are settings that only ever appeared in the quintessential historical Chinese movies and drama series, but beautiful places like these do exist in real life! Here is an alley on Yishang Street (“yishang” means “clothing”), which is one of the oldest and historically significant streets in Huzhou.

One (very well) hidden gem in Huzhou and my favourite place was the Lotus Garden, Huzhou’s response to the many famous gardens of Suzhou, except without the crowds and admission fees. Near the entrance there was a path lined with bamboos on both sides, and I felt like the only thing that was missing to make this a perfect TV scene was the sound of a bamboo flute and a handsome guy with a sword. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, anyone?

At the Lotus Garden, people liked to sit in pavilions to have tea and chat, or sing in groups in a courtyard, the way one leads a leisurely life. Now, that’s a lifestyle that I wouldn’t mind adopting after retirement.

Going away from the city centre, we arrived at a prominent landmark of Huzhou: the “Moon Hotel” by Tai Lake, which is really just a Sheraton Hot Spring Resort. It was rather a pity that we were not there during the evening, when the exterior of the entire crescent-shaped hotel is lit up and transforms the surrounding atmosphere. I would actually like to experience a stay at the hotel, at the very top of the crescent…one day, when I’m super rich!

And at Tai Lake, I met none other than my childhood hero, Doraemon! Well, a life-sized or more like a blown-up version of him, as I don’t think Doraemon is really THAT tall and huge. Can’t resist taking a photo of my all-time favourite fictional (is he fictional?) character, a close tie with the Little Prince whom I already met years ago in Hong Kong. Now if only Nobita and Shizuka and the rest of the gang are present, that would have been perfect!

By Tai Lake, a fisherman was drying and selling his catch of the day. It was extremely windy and cold that day, especially around the Tai Lake area. As I walked by, I was hoping that this man had enough clothes to keep him warm, because who knows how much longer he had to stay outdoor! Take care!

In the evening, YH and I went back to Yishang Street, where we were earlier, and I was surprised to see such spectacular night scene by the river that ran through Huzhou. This just goes to show that a city doesn’t have to have glittering skyscrapers to be charming. Even when most of the city seemed to have fallen asleep, Huzhou shone secretly and quietly only for those who were determined to seek her beauty.

During the preparation of my stay in Huzhou, YH originally intended to arrange for me and my mom to stay in one of the chic, Chinese-style boutique inns along the river but because I am a “foreigner” (not a Chinese citizen), I wasn’t allowed to book there… 😦 I don’t really know why that is the case, but even though China is an amazing place full of things to be discovered, being a foreigner in this land (even though it was MY native homeland) has its disadvantages. Oh well.

As for food, I was fed so well that if I lost any weight within the past month of going to the gym, I gained it all back in Huzhou. YH certainly knew how to be a great host! Let’s see what we have here. Top left: steamed fish from Tai Lake, one of the “three treasures of Tai Lake”. Bottom left: fish cooked with suancai (Chinese sauerkraut). Top right: cow (or pig?) stomach cooked with suancai. Middle right: home-styled tofu, excellent with the sauce and a bowl of rice! Bottom right: marinated beef wraps, kind of like the beef version of the Peking duck. It is almost dinnertime as I write this and looking at the photos of this food makes me sooooo hungry…

The one thing that I did regret was forgetting to take a photo with my friend YH this entire time (except the group photo at West Lake in Hangzhou, from the previous post) as we were having way too much fun reminiscing and exploring. One of the most frequent phrases that I heard during my entire China trip was this: “Your stay is too short!” Of course I heard this in Huzhou as well, but albeit it was a short stay, being able to experience this authentic city with a born-and-raised-here local was truly the greatest blessing. Huzhou and YH, you are greatly missed!

Next stop: another city in Zhejiang province – Wenzhou!

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