The best tea in China
The China National Tea Museum (571-8797-9221) is located among the tea plantations around the Dragon Well, between Wulao Peak and Jinqing Hill. It consists of several picturesque houses connected by winding stone paths and streams gently flowing over stepping stones. Among these are the Exhibition Building and the Tea Customs Garden. The Exhibition Building consists of six halls showcasing different aspects of Chinese tea culture and is a good place to learn all about tea culture in China.
Nestled between the hills to the southwest of Xi Hu is the tiny village of Longjing. From the village, one can look through the misty air out across terraced hillside tea plantations as far as the eye can see. This is the tea for which the village is famous. Longjing tea is considered by many to be the best in China, and possibly the world. For the tea lover, a visit to Longjing is a pilgrimage. Local people can be seen carrying wicker baskets overflowing with leaves fresh from the plantations, while chickens and puppies scuttle on the road.
The well after which the village is named is over 1,200 years old. Rope marks worn deep into the stone lip attest to the many generations that have used it. This is the only part of the village that bears any resemblance to tourism-oriented Hangzhou. In the immediate vicinity of the well, tourists are fair game for a pushy sales pitch that eventually leads to the inside of a sales room across the street. This is a chance to get a feel for the different grades of tea that are available, but it抯 not the best place to buy.
If you really want to bring some tea home, the best way is to wander between the rows of houses asking random locals until you find someone whose dialect you can understand. Everyone is involved in tea one way or another, so eventually you will find yourself sitting at a teamaker抯 family table looking out over the terraces, sipping some cha. The delicate, smoky flavor perfectly complements the cool, misty air of the village. If you抮e lucky, you might even get a demonstration of the tea processing technique.
Get back to nature
The beautiful Fuchun River and surrounding hills are not too far away. However, the trip is somewhat time-consuming so an entire day is necessary. The trek is well worth the investment for the inner serenity this natural setting imparts upon visitors. The river is flanked on both sides by thick, green forests rising up the sides of tall hills. A river tour by boat includes the Hulu (Gourd) Waterfall, cascading from a gourd-shaped cleft high in the rock and plunging into the lapis-blue water of a pure mountain stream.
You can also visit Dong Han Yan Zi Ling Diao Tai, the tomb and former home of Yan Zi, an Eastern Han Dynasty hermit famous for his decision to avoid politics and adhere to an honest and humble life even after being offered a lucrative government post. There is now a temple dedicated to Yan Zi, with incense available for offerings. Over the centuries, famous writers and artists have visited the site and left behind stone inscriptions. A well-tended path leads past a series of inscriptions, through a forest of tall, thick bamboo trees and up to the top of the hill. You will be rewarded with a stunning view of the Fuchun River and surrounding landscape, whose natural beauty has inspired artists and hermits since the time of Yan Zi himself.
Where to Stay
Hyatt Regency Hangzhou Hotel
West Lake is the best place to shack up for your Hangzhou holiday and the Hyatt Regency is one of the best properties on the lake shore. When you book, ask for a room high up to give you a view of the water. Expect top shelf service that the Hyatt is famous for. Details: Hyatt Regency | Tel: (571) 8779-1234 | www.hangzhou.regency.hyatt.com
The second property in China from this legendary group is located in a secluded valley and is surrounded by Buddhist temples and a bamboo forest. Enjoy the peaceful and meditative environment as you indulge in top of the line luxury. Details: Amanfayun | Tel: (571) 8732-9999 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake
This amazing property officially opens on October 1 and it's like no other Four Seasons you've ever seen. It's done up in completely local style, but with the top-notch service the chain is famous for. Details: Four Seasons Hotel | Tel: (416) 445-5031 | www.fourseasons.com/hangzhou
Hangzhou State Guest House
Formerly the favorite West Lake stomping ground for Chinese leaders (and Western dignitaries), this rambling resort done in traditional style is now open to the public. Sleep in the room that Mao stayed in or see the pavilion where Nixon and Mao signed the historic ? Joint Communiques?in 1972. Be part of history, in style. Details: Hangzhou State Guest House | Tel: (571) 8797-9889 | www.xihusgh.com