A Message from Olivia Contini in Hangzhou
19 January 2016
Chinese New Year is fast approaching, which means that I have already reached the mid-way point of my year abroad in China, part of my Chinese studies degree at the University of Edinburgh. With every day packed full of new sights, smells and sounds, the past five months have zoomed past.
When I arrived in Hangzhou it was the tail end of summer and I, being used to not-quite-warm Scottish summers, was shocked by the humid heat that engulfed the city. The sun's reflection glistened on the still waters of West Lake as I stood atop Baoshi Shan, a small mountain in the centre of town, soaking in the view of the immense city that was to be my home for the next year. To the east, I saw a monstrous sprawling city of countless apartment blocks and towering offices. However, the view to the west was a stark comparison; lush, green mountains surrounding the delicately constructed West Lake, with only pagodas and temples breaking up the natural beauty.
I have now had the opportunity to explore this patchwork city that I fell in love with on that mountain. The tour around the West Lake should be taken slowly. With garden upon beautiful garden to wander through, boat tours and many islands, it is a slice of peace and nature right in the heart of a modern city. Running parallel to the east side of the lake is Hangzhou's main shopping street, lined with shopping malls, Apple stores and popular Bubble Tea shops. Along the Grand Canal to the north of the city are beautiful traditional areas, with well-maintained original buildings and bridges, which at night is transformed into a Chinese fairyland, lit with glowing red lanterns.
As Hangzhou is such a large city, with a population similar to Scotland, I was unsure how I could explore the whole city and not miss anything. When I'm not sure which street looks the most interesting, my solution is to follow my nose... literally! The result is that I have just about eaten half the city! From tasty ingredients from this province such as lotus root and bamboo shoot, to cuisines from across China like Sichuan hot and spicy Hot Pot, I am spoilt for choice!
I will soon be welcoming my parents to China to show off the treasures this country has to offer; and no doubt I will discover so much more in the next five months!