The population of Hangzho is a mere 7.8 million, compared to the 17 or so million in Shanghai. It feels like a country town by comparison. The star attraction is the West Lake, which is impressive once we find the thing. But we love the city itself, it feels a million miles from Shanghai.
The Lonely Planet says we should stay by the lake but screw you Tony Wheeler, we're staying up in the ye olde part of town where hoardes of local tourists and Shanghai weekenders wander around to buy snacks and souvenirs. In fact we spend the whole day wandering around and we can't even find the lake, it's a huge bloody great thing too. Instead we eat.
We stop at the first random place we can find to eat, even if the mascot is a rat in a chef's hat. Shawn is grumpy hungry, or hungry grumpy.
This joint has a canteen vibe, buy a ticket and take it to the lady, scratch your head for five minutes trying to figure out what's going on.
Pick your bowl of seasoning from the pile and put it on a tray.
The nice lady will then fill your bowls up with soup and wontons.
Voila! A plain, simple stomach filler for around a big $1. In 1970's Australia this was called 'short soup'.
Nearby is block of pleasant tree-lined streets lined with restaurants and touristy hawker stalls.
We'll have some of that.
Tofu bbq'd in a slick of oil and topped with soy and green coriander, then cut into cubes.
Better than a bucket of chips.
That's the second biggest mushroom we've ever seen.
We find ducks hanging up to dry, sadly we couldn't find somewhere to try the finished product.
More drying ducks and chicken...
Folks even hang their poultry out with their washing...
There's even pork hanging in the street. Anywhere I hang my pork, that's my home.
We find a wonderful old quarter of town while walking away from the lake, which we still can't find.
We make a round trip back along to the tourist strip and there's interesting snackages galore.
Purdy pink rice cake filled with red bean paste, like a Chinese jam donut. It was a bit plain though.
Steamed egg with tiny little decorations of peas, corn and Chinese sausage.
The steamed egg was eggy.
Lovely decorated googies.
Another strip of hawker stands set up for tourists. The stalls were staffed by bored teenagers on minimum wage, rather than that master who has been proudly making the same dish for forty years. The food was ok but not great. Tourist food is tourist food same as anywhere in the world: average.
Smooth kebab operator.
Cumin lamb kebabs, oily but fun.
Steamed rice snackages.
More steamed rice snackages.
This exotic looking drink is just like your Aussie can of Two Fruits.
Secret Santa. Don't let the kids see he's here yet.
Restoration - yay!
Lovely bronze in the city centre of a street hawker.
We expected Chinese cities to be all concrete and no soul, but all the city centres we visited were surprisingly pleasant, with trees and wide footpaths, wonderful for our urban hiking obsession.
We've walked a few kilometres around the city but still can't find the huge lake. This is as close as we got. Fail. Still, it's purdy.
For dinner we scope out the block of restaurants and market stalls near our hostel.
Scorpions anybody? We draw the line at insects, can't say the locals were to keen either. We only ever see insects in tourist areas...
These restaurants have 'Al & Shawn' written all over them, but right now we want somewhere to kick back with a beer.
So many tops places to choose from all in one block...
This joint looks perfect - it's called Zhouji Paidang - a busy Chinese stir fry joint - complete with beer.
We liked this joint so much we came back twice. The second night we had to line up for a table. The staff were so busy but found the time and patience to deal with a couple of stupid grinning foreigners.
How could we not be happy with a longneck each of Cheerday Beer? The label on the rear of the bottle states: "the water in Qiandoa Lake is green and clear with a visibility of 4 metres, it is a first-class water by national standard and can be drunk directly without being cleaned." Move over Boags.
Pigs ear sliced with coriander leaves, sesame oil and chili oil. Yum. Probably $1-$2.
Fish served with chili and soy beans. Around $7.
Fried crispy rice rolls filled with taro paste and topped with sweet and sour sauce. It's main course and dessert all in one, strangely moreish.
The trip motto "I have no idea what that was but it was delicious" certainly applies to this dish. Stir fried strips of green mystery veggies, with jelly fish (we think), amazing bean sprouts with crunchy ends and capsicum.
The mystery veg was amazing, thick with a nice chew and most interesting texture.
Harbin draft beer - at 3.1% it's the XXXX Gold of China.
Another "I have no idea what that was but it was delicious". Some kind of crunchy veggie stir fried with chili, sesame and garlic. In the menu the it was pictured as carved in a flower shape.
A simple but superb dish of Chinese greens and mushrooms. All the vegetable dishes here were only around $1 and were incredible. On our next trip we're going to go nuts on veggies.
More beer, more beer, more beer. Only 2.5% dangnabbit.
Prawns in a sweet soy sauce, around $7.
They're hairy buggers but there's prawnies under there.
Stir fried eggplant. Eggplant is always delicious.
Sweet and sour fish - (we think it's the local West Lake carp) - in a lovely gooey sweet'n'sour sauce. About $7.
In case you've ever wondered what's on the menu in a Chinese restaurant in China, we photographed the whole thing for you. Sorry the photos weren't better, we had to do it quick, it was kind of embarrassing...
In the lower right hand corner you can see the dish we ordered that was supposed to be a rosette.
We take a big walk after dinner but still can't find that lake, maybe tomorrow. We find another street of more upmarket/mid-range sort of restaurants for the domestic tourists that looked excellent.
We love China.