Hangzhou holds on to that special ‘touristy’ feel, in a good way.
As reasonably sophisticated travelers, we want to escape the crowds and try new places. This might mean that Hangzhou — once you have visited once — gets pushed down the list of places on your China or Asian travel wish-list.
But as soon as we are back there, we’re happy.
It’s so green. While a city, the West Lake area is somehow even greener then the countryside. It’s green, green, green at every turn. Even the football team is called ‘Hangzhou Greentown’.
The area still evokes that good tourist-y feeling: that all you need to do for your entire time in Hangzhou is see green, eat food, sleep, eat more food and sleep more, surrounded by greenery.
It’s an infinity of leaves and pleasure.
The only problem with popular places is people.
That’s one of the reasons why we only and always go for the Xihu State Guesthouse Hotel.
It’s right on the lake, in large grounds.
It means that you get the West Lake experience and views — but without the crowds!
It’s the state hotel for military and world leaders. Presidents, Royalty and even Chairman Mao stayed here on several occasions.
The room rate is around ¥2,000, which is reasonable. For less in Hangzhou, you’d have a worse hotel in a worse location.
For more, you’d be in a universal, mono-designed brand. Banyan Tree, Four Seasons, Hyatt … you’re just in ‘another hotel’, while the Xihu SGH is ‘still Hangzhou’.
You don’t leave Hangzhou to return back to ‘a hotel’, you stay in Hangzhou for the whole time!
It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Shanghai, or the train is two hours and a taxi to the hotel around 30 minutes.
The Chinese restaurant in the hotel is in Villa 8, the new villa that was built especially for the G20 summit.
We recommend staying in Villa 8 for this reason.
Where to walk in Hangzhou:
The Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies; Jiu Xi ShiBa Jian area is the nice place to walk. It’s quite near the hotel, and right in the Longjing Village area.
It’s not steep, so it’s suitable for kids.
Wandering in / enjoying the Xihu SGH and going for a walk at Nine Creeks is a great way to have a two-day / one-night trip to see Hangzhou greenery, before either going back to Shanghai or onwards to South Zhejiang and Xianju, the best valley in China!