Monday, September 05, 2005

Marco's Tip

I've finally made it to the east coast of China and my first stop here is the city of Hangzhou. There is a palpable difference between the east and its people from the west of China. Whereas Kunming and Chengdu were blatantly consumerist Hangzhou has gone far beyond that and is unbelievably bourgeois. Apart from the multitude of trendy bars, clubs and cafes there are the designer label stores and even luxury car showrooms (Bentley, Ferrari, Porsche et al.). But Hangzhou is not crass. It carries this wealth with a certain aristocratic gentility, somehow seeming aloof from the other cities I've visited so far. The beautiful Western Lake with its landscaped parks and intricate causeways forms a focal point for the city and it is the place to see and be seen. Indeed, when Marco Polo passed this way in the late 13th century and he didn't mince his words when he stated that Hangzhou was "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest (city) in the world". Unfortunately the city is mercilessly cashing in on its famed beauty and many of the sights have exorbitant entry fees that, after a while, lessen the allure of the place.

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