A travel and photography blog by Loke Chee Meng
About the title shot :
In the autumn of 2009, I found Little Bugsie, of all places, on a toilet sink in the Days Landscape Hotel located at the foot of Changbaishan, Jilin, China. I invited Bugsie into the room. I gave it the 'red carpet' welcome and took the shot above with a Panasonic DMC-LX3.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Circumambulating the West Lake

The charm of the West Lake is legendary.

According to a Chinese saying,

Viewing the West Lake on a sunny day is not as ideal as a rainy day;
Viewing the West Lake on a rainy day is not as ideal as a misty day;
Viewing the West Lake on a misty day is not as ideal as a snowy day.

I take that to mean that the more obscure the view, the more enchanting the West Lake is.

There are west lakes and there are west lakes

Before I go on any further, I am of course referring to THE 'West Lake' in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in China.  Well, the fact is that there are over 30 west lakes in China.  I have been to the West Lake in the city of Fuzhou in Fujian province.  It is nothing like the West Lake in Hangzhou.  So, don't bother to waste time visiting any other west lake.  From now onwards, I will only talk about THE 'West Lake' in Hangzhou.  By the way, there are also many heavenly lakes in China.  The two worth visiting are the Heavenly Lake in Changbaishan and the Heavenly Lake in Xinjiang.  I will write about these two some time later.

The West Lake in Hangzhou is one of the most easily accessible and conveniently located scenic locations in China. It is right in the city and the reasonably priced 4-star Ramada Hai Hua Hotel is just 150 m from the West Lake.  The pricey Hyatt Regency and Shangri-La are also equally well located. I have stayed in the Ramada every time I visited the West Lake.

Circumambulate the West Lake?

In the spring of 2014, I decided to circumambulate the West Lake.  Yes, I mean walk round the West Lake. I felt that in my previous visits I have not really seen the real the West Lake.  So, walking round it should be the best way to see more.  Is that possible?  Yes, it is.  How long does it takes?  I took about 12 hours including breaks for rest and taking of photographs. Was it tiring?  Yes, but not unmanageable.  In fact, I think I managed pretty well considering the fact that I was lugging along my photographic gear weighing about 20 per cent of my body weight.

As you probably already know, there are 10 classic scenes of West Lake:

1) Dawn on the Su Causeway in spring
2) Breeze-ruffled lotus in the Quyuan Garden
3) Autumn moon over the calm lake
4) Melting snow on the 'broken' bridge (The bridge is anything but broken.  The break is a visual delusion due to the melting snow.)
5) Leifeng pagoda in the sunset
6) Twin peaks piercing the clouds
7) Orioles singing in the willows
8) Fish viewing at the Flower Harbour
9) Three ponds reflecting the moon (This name is a bit of a misnomer and a mystery.  There aren't any three ponds.  What one sees are 3 pagoda-like stone lanterns about 2 metres high arising above the water.  This scene is depicted on the back of the RMB1 note.)
10) Evening bell of the Nanping Hill

(These days, the Chinese had come out with 10 'new' scenes of West Lake.  I have not visited any of them.  Firstly, they are spread out over quite a large area in Hangzhou.  Secondly, somehow, I feel that they are mainly tourist's traps.)

By circumambulating the West Lake, I tried to visit each of these locations.  Well I did 8 out of 10!  I did not make it to (9) because one would have to take a boat out to an island in the middle of the lake and (10) because one would have to deviate and go up the hill.

The following are some of the 10 scenes.

Twin peaks piercing the clouds
Leifeng pagoda in the sunset
Fish viewing at the Flower Harbour

Dawn at the Su Causeway in spring


On the western edge of the West Lake are several smaller lakes called Maojiabu.  This area is seldom visited by tourists and walking along the lakes, one really gets to soak in its tranquility.  Maojiabu is not to be confused with the Xixi, the wetland made famous by the 2008-movie 'If you are the one' staring Shu Qi and Chinese actor Ge You.   Xixi wetland, is a short car-ride from the Westlake.  The following are some shots of Maojiabu.

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