We left for Hangzhou by train one morning at 10. The trip to Hangzhou takes around 70 minutes from Shanghai Hongqiao Station. At the station we hopped on to the Y2 bus and reached the Lingyan temple in about half an hour. We couldn’t possibly miss this, since it is on the flanks of the Feilai mountain, which is supposed to have flown in from India!
You need two separate tickets to visit the temple. One ticket for the mountain (no discounts even for Indian passport holders) and another for the reconstructed temple. We thought it was worth the money. The mountain side is full of birds; there were several species we had never seen before. Unfortunately we were not equipped for birdwatching; we had neither field guides, nor binoculars. The sky was heavily overcast, and every now and then a fat drop of water would plop on to our noses or heads.
The temple was spectacular and full of people hedging their bets on the future. After visiting three spectacular halls with the Buddha-in-residence attended to by a host of scowling guardians, we needed a little respite. We had an al fresco lunch at a little temple cafe with a variety of nuts, dried fruits, and green tea. Refreshed, we climbed a little further to some more temples and a little temple museum. It was now well after noon, so we decided to go check into our hotel.
We took a taxi to our hotel. While checking in we discovered that the room we had booked was no longer available due to a mix up. The hotel gave us an upgrade to what they called a king room. Then while trying to pay for it I realized that I had left my phone in the taxi. The concierge immediately took my taxi receipt and called the company, which in turn traced the taxi, found my phone, and agreed to deliver it later in the day. Meanwhile we were shown to our room, which was spectacular: huge and comfortable, with a free minibar, a grand bath, a huge bed, and other luxuries which we thought we would not be able to use, given our tight schedule.
We dumped our bags and rushed off to Xihu (the West Lake). Our plan was to walk along the Sudi (Su causeway) all the way to the north, and then cross a small island and take the Baidi (Bai causeway) to the east. We had barely gone a hundred meters when a thunderstorm struck. In moments we were drenched. The only way out of the rain was to take a cruise. This took us to one of the smaller islands where we got even more drenched watching beautiful rock sculptures and lotus flowers in a rain-swept lake (see the photo above). We made our way back from this disastrous trip to our hotel, where we had dinner and enjoyed the room.
Hangzhou is pretty and friendly (I did get the phone back), has good cuisine, and probably makes a great holiday within a holiday. But for that you need a little luck. Ours was short this time around.