05 February 2012

China Tour ~ Hangzhou Part 2 - Oh, That Lake

We finally find West Lake, have the world's longest shoe shine and eat more pan fried dumplings than we thought possible.

How could we spend a whole day wandering around a city and not find a lake this freaking big?

Walking around West Lake is supremely pleasant after the buzz of Shanghai. You can walk around the whole lake in a few hours, crossing over the causeways built hundreds of years ago.

It's just a real pleasant place to hang out, and this time of year wasn't too overcrowded.

We tried to stop and have a coffee and this lovely lake-side cafe but it was a $20 cup of tea and smorgasboard or nothing. Shame.

Chinese domestic tourism in a nutshell. Folks arrive in buses, follow around a tour guide with a flag, then get back on the bus. Safety in numbers. We did however meet some young local travellers getting into independant travel via the growing hostel and YHA scenes., which we thought was wonderful.

Where there's Chinese tourists there's snacks, and West Lake does not disappoint.

Oiden style snackages.

The tofu was bland but the black corn was excellent, even the cobb was black. It would be amazing to work this corn into a mexican inspired dish.

While we ate our corn this little sweetie consumed half her body-weight in instant noodles.

Gimme food!

More exotic West Lake snackages.

This was one of the most eye-popping amazingly delicious treats we had in China. Tiny, sweet, juicy little apples and mandarins coated in a light shell of crispy toffee. The mix of mandarin and toffee was too much.

This fine piece of Engrish was on Starbucks windows all over China. You'd think Starbucks could afford a translator. [edit - we later learn that 'let's merry' is used by Starbucks worldwide, sorry China, up yours Starbucks, that's evil].

We laughed as even in Starbucks the ordering system was confusing, it took Shawn about twenty minutes to get a long black: order, pay, take ticket, then get in the scrum to shove your ticket in the baristas face first.

Enough peaceful lake, gimme city.

After a morning of snacking and bad coffee we needed some food.

On the Street Food scale of restaurant dodginess, this one came in at about 11. Of course we had to eat here.

We had seen the clay mounds of beggars chicken stacked up around at vendors across the city, and wanted to try it before we left.

The chicken is wrapped in lotus leaves with flavours, then packed around with clay and baked. The whole of the bird is there - head, neck and feet, all neatly tucked up in a clay blanket. The chicken is supposed to come out fragrant and tender, but I think this scrawny 'free range' village chook was a tad overdone.

We ordered rice and veg to go with it, but they failed to materialise. The staff were super excited about a new embroidery the owner had just completed and eating their lunch so were distracted from serving the only people in the restaurant. So we just ate our chicken, politely drooled over the staff lunch and left.

This bakery must have been excellent, the queue never lies.

The friendliest pussycat we met in all of China. Maybe our hands just smelled of chicken.

Walking back to the old town we succumbed to the lure of the shoe shine. While Shawn's brown leather boots were polished black, Alison's suede boots received some powder treatment and a very shonky repair job. It took twenty-five minutes of slapping and polishing and pulling out of special powders and creams before they would let us go. Of course, the locals laughed their heads off at us as we grossly overpaid for the worst and longest shoeshines in history.

Feeling like we had lost some of our roughty toughty street cred for getting fleeced at the shoe shine, we decided to treat ourselves to the worst red bean fish waffles ever. At least they looked pretty. It can be hit and miss when you are a street food obsessed glutton, and this time we missed.

And as the street food gluttons we are, we got a bit obsessed with these great whole in the wall-restaurants near the big gate thingy near our hostel.

Hot freshly cooked bread, dunk it in fresh soy milk, oh yay. Sadly the stars never aligned and we never got to try the stall. On our last morning we arrived at 5am but he wasn't ready yet. Oh the perils of gourmet travelling.

We visited the bloke next door a couple of times. The cigarette ash adds extra flavour and aroma.

Dumplings are boiled then pan fried on this big hot plate, like a huge paella pan.

The bottoms of the dumplings go super crispy and are incredible. We've never had fried dumplings anywhere near as good as this. This whole plate cost around $1. We went back twice.

The done thing is to get a bowl of plain soup with thumbnail sized won tons along with your bowl of fried dumplings. This made for a superb breakfast, particularly when it's 5am and zero degrees. $1.

These folks worked so hard. We saw this beautiful bee-hived lady here at all hours, we saw her first thing in the morning and she was still there at 10pm when we were off to bed.

And here she is again on the left at 5 in the morning, smiling and looking great. Unlike us.

Leaving Hangzhou we find some street food vendors below the train station.

Noodle soup ready go go. Shame we'd just eaten a kilo of fried won tons for breakfast.

We're sad to leave Hangzhou, we loved the joint.

First class in a superfast train, lovely.

Alison's train snacks from the station. A big hunk of plain sticky rice sweetened with sultanas.

A deep fried sandwich with mystery pink meat.

Pickled veggie roll. Previously fried and now cold. At least they got us through a seven hour train trip.

Next stop on the fast train - Xiamen.

We love China.


  1. Ahhh! Tanghulu! (the fruit/toffee sticks). Soo good!

  2. Most shonkiest shoe shine ever, lol. Shame! But the dumplings do look incredibly delish!

  3. Re. "The tofu was bland but the black corn was excellent, even the cobb was black. It would be amazing to work this corn into a mexican inspired dish."

    What about "black pop corn".
    Re. "Walking back to the old town we succumbed to the lure of the shoe shine."

    Ahhh the damn lure of the shoe shine.
    The same shoe polishers wanted to polish my expensive Scarpa brand Nubuck trekking boots in Kathmandu.
    Yeah right...they told me Yak fat was the best gift from god to polish leather.

    Need less to say I didn't let them polish my $600 boots....no way !!!
    Re. "We visited the bloke next door a couple of times. The cigarette ash adds extra flavour and aroma."
    He he he....At least they weren't his boogers.

    Thank you for another excellent post.

  4. Deep fried sambo - erk. No wonder you couldn't find the lake, it's covered in water *boom tish*. I want to try Black Corn, looks GREAT.

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  6. My god EdF you're right - the horror, the horror!

  7. The apple-like fruits on the stick are Chinese Hawthorns, better known as Haw flakes when dried.

    Love your description of the chicken. I would love to try it one day.

  8. Tong wu lo's! The toffee apple candies, they always appear in the really old kung fu films, and as a kid I was always asking my parents where we can get them! I didn't taste my first one until I went to china in my teens. Oldschool tong wu lo's! :)

  9. Thanks Lucy and kanashimi blue. They were a little party on a stick, we loved them. I'm intrigued about seeing them in old kung fu films - I'll be looking closely for them, maybe they fought with them!

  10. i'm surprised you didn't hv the panfried dumplings in shanghai - they're a shanghainese specialty. Also xiaolongbaos, they were a glaring absence too

    1. nope, they are not. This food is popular among the eastern chinese province like zhejiang jiangshu and shanghai. But It is not local delicacy originated in Shanghai.

  11. Hi Keni

    We would have tried more things if they had come our way. We don't really eat to 'must do' lists, preferring to see what is around and trying that. We've also had plenty of these in Sydney - we wanted to find things we don't see often here.

  12. lol another international student from Hangzhou. I agree with your comment about those shameful coffee!!!

  13. This street delicacy arouse my nostalgia. Tears in eyes and water in mouth. Well done guys, expecting more lol


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).