Saturday, May 2, 2015

24 hours to Hangzhou and Back

It took 11 months of living here, but we finally got out of Shanghai to seen another part of China!

Ryan had visited Hangzhou in the past, but even he got to see new sights, as the West Lake area is quite big and has been built up quite a bit since he went.

 Ryan worked ahead to get off at 2 PM a week ago Friday, so we could hopefully make it out to Hangzhou by dinner. Hadassah woke from her nap, we jumped in a taxi, and headed to the railway station.

Unfortunately, things were a bit busier than we planned. We got stuck in traffic for a while (typical in Shanghai) and when we finally found the right ticket line after asking people three times, it was 4:30 PM and the next available tickets weren't until the 6:30 PM train.

Hadassah was quite happy to spend a lot of time riding the escalators up and down, and remembering how much fun I had riding them when I was young, we let her do it a lot, switching off when one of us got tired. There was also a Burger King in the station, so we took advantage of it. It's funny how the fast food joints you think of as unhealthy and rarely eat at in the states become an amazing taste of home when you live overseas...

After supper we found a child's play place, which we'd somehow not seen earlier, and Hadassah had a blast with a play house with a doorbell that rang and then had a dog bark. She played it over and over, and kept reminding us of it during the trip: "ding dong, ding dong, ruff ruff ruff!"

 Finally it was time to board, so we joined the mad rush of people making their way on board the train. Unable to read the signs in Chinese, we went in one of the nearest doors. Our ticket was all in Chinese, and there were three numbers on it. One we surmised was the platform number, but we didn't know how to find our seats. After sitting in someone else's seat, they told us we had to get on a certain number train and then find our seat. Not sure when we were to take off, we walked through the narrow aisles, only to get to the end of the doors we could go through just as the train was taking off. The attendant there said we could wait until the next station and then go out and back on to get to our seat. so we sat on the floor. At least we weren't alone: 2 other foreigners were also sitting on the floor there, also confused as to how to find their seat!

I hadn't sat but a minute, though, when a young man came out of first class and indicated I was to take his seat. He probably had no idea how good a reclining seat with a foot rest felt to a weary mother!! I thanked him profusely and enjoyed the comfortable ride, singing Hadassah songs out of her current favorite book: "My First Hymnal."

The next stop we ran along the train to find our car, not knowing how long we had before the train started again. Thankfully we found our seat just in time, and enjoyed the remaining 40 minutes of the trip together.

We made it to the Hangzhou station with Hadassah already drooping, as it was past her usual 7:30 PM bed time. Snuggled in the ERGO with her ni-night lamb, I hoped she'd get some rest, but she never fell asleep, though she seemed comfortable. We stood in line for a taxi for a while, but with at least 50 people ahead of us and the line moving slow, we eventually abandoned it and went for the metro. We had trouble finding tickets at first, but eventually found a machine that didn't have a long line, and were on our way.

We joked that it wasn't a good idea to not research and prepare going anywhere, but especially in China! Next time we'd definitely try to buy train tickets ahead of time and plan out our route, but with a busy week, we just seized the time we had to just go, and enjoyed the adventure of it all. We had, at least, booked a hotel online!

Hadassah was pretty much done. Her face says it all! But, Ryan convinced me her staying up a little later wouldn't hurt too much more, and it was worth seeing the West Lake all lit up at night.

 He was right.

We happened to get to the lake around 9 PM, just as announcement played that a fountain and music show would be starting in 5 minutes. It was amazingly beautiful, to have light, water, and music combine!

 There were other beautiful sights as well... this mountain was all lit up so amazingly!

 We stayed about 10 minutes, and then headed off to find our hotel. We finally got a taxi, but the traffic was so bad we soon wished we'd tried walking. But, we finally arrived, and got settled into a comfortable room. We'd even been able to request a bed for Hadassah that they had all set up.

Settling down was understandably hard for the little miss, as we had dragged her through so much and kept her up so late. She was initially happy to get in bed, and we tucked her in and went into the bathroom to give her some time to fall asleep, as she doesn't usually go to sleep if she knows we're right there. Unfortunately, there was a big window from the bathroom to the bedroom that had a shade, but still let in a lot of light. Then Ryan realized he really needed to go out to get enough safe water for us to drink, so after waiting a bit with all quiet, hoping she was asleep, he slipped out.

Big mistake. She was very confused, as the door was loud and let in light, and she wondered where daddy went. We read stories and tried to settle down, but she cried each time I laid her in bed. Eventually Ryan came back and we hurried to brush our teeth and get in bed. It was still hard for the overtired girl, but once the lights went off, she soon settled in to sleep. As a mom, I hated the hardship she was having, and of course questioned if it was worth traveling. But, we know sometimes getting used to a little schedule disruption can be good, and she was just fine the next morning.

 Her bed also doubled as the best play place, as it unzipped on the side. She climbed in and out of her "tunnel bed" and got some energy out as we got ready to go. She was up and going by 6 AM despite the late night, so we enjoyed the amazing complimentary breakfast (is it bad I was looking forward to the hotel breakfast days ahead of time?) before hitting the road at 8:30 AM. We laughed, thinking back to a time before children when that would have been the time we would have been waking up... how children change things!

 After some mix-up of how to get to the lake from the hotel, no taxis being willing to take us where we were asking, and a little trouble finding the subway, we finally made it. It was quite hazy - probably quite polluted, but we had no internet access to check - but it was beautiful. It just felt so good to be a family out together!

Seeing around the lake so crowded, and the free buses too full to take around the lake, we again tried to find a taxi to take us to a place our neighbor had told us about. After asking the 4th or 5th that waved us off (Ryan did an amazing job even flagging them down!) we finally went back to the lake.

 On a whim, we decided to take a boat docked along the edge. It was the equivalent of $25 for an hour, and ended up being one of the most relaxing things we could have done!

 Hadassah enjoyed pointing out "boat" with each one we saw, and we sang songs, like "I've got peace like a river!" :)

  We enjoyed the rippling waves (I tried not to think about how tippy the boat seemed, since we had no life jackets!), the beautiful surroundings, and the shade from the boat. It was a perfectly warm day!
 We got out on the other side and walked some, enjoying the flowers planted in boxes periodically along the edge. I've said it time and again, but the Chinese sure know how to landscape!

 It had been Ryan's goal to climb a mountain, and the boat owner pointed out where to go. Hadassah climbed almost the whole way - that girl is motivated by stairs! It ended up being one of our favorite things... it felt more in nature, which we've missed, and the air was cooler and felt clearer.

 Hadassah was tired, but crackers are a charm for cranky toddlers at key points. ;)

 She seemed to enjoy seeing some new sites too, and was cute posing next to this extremely old carved statue.

 We saw an iconic pagoda on the way up...

 Ryan was amazing. Because we were leaving that afternoon, we'd had to check out of our hotel and bring all of our stuff. He carried both backpacks most of the way, and when I couldn't climb another step with Hadassah on my front, as she got more tired of walking, he switched off with me. He's an amazing husband and father!

We climbed some paths I questioned taking a little one up, but when it came to being a rock edge with a narrow path that required mostly crawling, I happily waited while Ryan fulfilled his urge to climb and got a great photo from the top.

 We then began our descent, stopping when we saw something rare: dark dirt!

 It was the highlight of Hadassah's time! Living where almost everything is landscaped and has concrete paths, we enjoyed letting her just play in the dirt for a while, while we enjoyed the smells of nature...

 The paths kept splitting on our way down, and we asked those we passed, in our limited Chinese, which way got us down. They kept saying "all okay" so we just headed towards whatever looked most down. Hadassah passed out, exhausted from 3 hours less sleep the last night.

 We finally did make it to the bottom, enjoying lots of cool architecture along the way. It was fun seeing more in the ancient Chinese style!

 We were quite hungry by the time we got to the bottom, so went in one of the first restaurants we saw. We ended up getting quite comfy chairs (more restaurants should have couches and plush arm chairs!) and we could see the beautiful lake out the window. We ordered some beef rice which turned out to be amazing, and some chicken curry and rice, which was okay. And Ryan wouldn't let me see another thing he pointed to: a delicious, strawberry shake! He made me drink most of it, so I felt pretty spoiled and so refreshed!

Hadassah woke near the end of the meal, and would have probably been in worse shape from only an hour of nap, had she not seen rice the first thing upon waking. She eagerly dug in... oh the power of rice!

 Then it was back to the train station. We were pretty tired, as we waited another hour for our train. They only had one seat available, but sold us two tickets regardless, saying Ryan could stand or sit on the ground. Thankfully, he did end up finding an empty seat.

 On the way back through the Shanghai railway station, Hadassah saw her beloved play house, so even though we wanted to get home, we stopped to let her play for a bit. Who can resist such pure joy as this!

The 45 minute taxi home had us all pretty tired, Traveling - especially with a toddler - is exhausting, especially with lack of sleep. Not something we could sustain every weekend, though Ryan was tempted to try, with the beautiful weather this time away and the brain clearing it was to get away fro work and the chores of home. It was a great time to be together, and God gave us a beautiful time, despite our little planning. We are thankful!


  1. What an adventure! That tower looks amazing - and the lake at night looks just beautiful! I'm so glad that you guys were able to travel and see a little more of China, even with Hadassah being so young. I'm sure you won't regret it once you are back in the US - you'll be so glad to have the memories and pictures of your adventures. =)

  2. Anna, your wonderful descriptions and beautiful photos make me feel as if I was there. Thank you again for sharing such special times. All your posts are a joy and inspiration to read. You are Ryan are a wonderful example of a Godly couple and Godly parents.

  3. Anna, your wonderful descriptions and beautiful photos make me feel as if I was there. Thank you again for sharing such special times. All your posts are a joy and inspiration to read. You are Ryan are a wonderful example of a Godly couple and Godly parents.