Buying a train ticket in China is a bit of an ordeal. Thanks to the new high speed trains, it is no longer possible for a non-chinese to buy tickets at the automatic kiosks. This means that non-chinese have to wait in lines to buy their tickets; these lines are also full of chinese who are either too dumb or too complicated to buy tickets at the kiosks, necessarily extending the wait times that, were one able to use said kiosks, would require all of a minute. The new high speed trains are also to blame for the fact that Valid Identification is now mandatory for purchase of tickets on D and G trains; as a person who does not carry his passport with him when not staying overnight somewhere (although, as of today, this has changed), I was lucky that they US driver’s licenses are acceptable.
Hangzhou, today, was hot. Very hot. The train said 38 degrees, which was exacerbated by the oppressive humidity and blazing sun. After again waiting in line to get our train tickets for the way back (since, in China, one cannot purchase a train ticket if one is not at the point of origin), we dodged people asking if Evan was taller than Yao Ming and hopped a bus to the Lei Feng Pavilion. The Lei Feng Pavilion is a replica pagoda, whose original was knocked down because of greedy people pulling bricks out of it, whose claims to fame include a nice view of the West Lake and an elevator in the middle of it. It also has air conditioning in some parts, which was welcome, and by visiting it you can mark off one AAAAA tourism site off of your bucket list.
We moved along to the Hangzhou Botanical Garden, a curious little place where branches had been strategically placed between two fences, but not much else was going on. At one point, there was a pond, in the middle of which was a giant statue of three people swinging golf clubs. We also came across a very, very appealing pool that actually had white people in it. Surprising.
The botanical garden was adjacent to a mountain that we climbed. And climbed. And got lost on. And walked down stairs and up stairs and hit dead ends and huffed and puffed and sweated and cursed and finally reached the top and were treated to a beautiful, if hazy, view of the west lake. On the rare occasionscalde we weren’t oppressed by jungle on all sides, there was a light breeze that did little to dry our sweat-drenched clothing. The better cooling off option was to climb off the mountain and sit on a bench on the edge of the lake, where many chinese took surreptitious pictures of us. When we caught them, they would get embarrassed and we would make them sit between us for photographs, so they ended up on top. Then, without warning, a kid walked up next to Evan and started to pee. On the grass.
To a restaurant, where we ate traditional Hangzhou food like Dongpo rou and Beggar’s chicken, a dish that really, truly uses the whole chicken. This is a nice way of saying I put a chicken’s head in my mouth. Evan and I also used the chicken feet to fist bump. We moved on to walk down the tourist street and head back to the train station, getting there with about 30 minutes to spare before our 7:53 departure time. It was at this time that we discovered that 7:53 was, in fact, the arrival time in Shanghai and we had missed our 7:00 train by a good 20 minutes. Luckily, all you have to do is go to a ticket window and say, “Hey, we didn’t get on our train” and they say “ok” and print you a new ticket. Which is nice, but considering the fact that we both looked like we had jumped in a pool and were very, very tired, it would’ve been nice to get home an hour earlier.