Day 7: Time to get touristy.
Our working week had ended and this morning would inevitably be the lay-in that Kane and I had agreed was most important. I came to at about 10am, loaded up my laptop and had a little overlook of how the team back home were doing with all of our client’s social. They were knocking it out of the park, as expected – we have a great team. Being the brilliant business partner that I am, I head out to the McDonalds round the corner and pick us up some coffees and blueberry muffins. The beauty of the surreal realisation that I was standing in a McDonalds in China was immediately lost as I get hit by a balloon in the face, which is followed by four Chinese toddlers yelling things at me. I look confused and awkward, collect my coffee and muffins and flee the scene.
Kane is pleased with his coffee/muffin combo. I message Felipe, who had generously agreed to give up his Saturday to be our tour guide and show us the best of Hangzhou. He gives us his address and we jump in a taxi and head to meet him. A little background on the main man, he was born in Colombia and has lived in many places before settling in China. He can speak several languages, including; Chinese, English, Spanish and Japanese – to name just a few. He is arguably one of the nicest people I’ve met, who will do anything for anyone.
We set off on our quest to find a place to have some lunch and the benefits of having a knowledgeable tour guide become instantly evident. Felipe guides us to this awesome restaurant that also doubles up as a store that sells vintage furniture. Very cool. The food is brilliant, we have some conversations about language and cultures, and then we head out to get a taxi.
The taxi takes a different route because we hit so much traffic, he then decides to let us out at arguably the busiest intersection in Hangzhou – leaving us to dodge cars to remain alive. Felipe seems a lot calmer about this than us. As we cross the road, we get a glimpse of the old street that everyone has been telling us about. It is stunning. Imagine an old Chinese market street in your head – yeah, it looks exactly like that. Felipe guides us down the street telling us stories and facts about Hangzhou and all of these different shops and market stands. The standout shop is a tea boutique of sorts. We walk in and are greeted to 4 of the staff there welcoming us in perfect unison. Felipe informs us that this is the best tea shop on the whole street. This is where it gets awesome. If Kane and I had just been there on our own, we’d have not been able to do what came next.
Felipe had a quick word with one of the staff members, and we were all ushered through to the back. As we enter the back room, the sound of Chinese mandolin trickles through the air – I feel an instant peacefulness. Incense burns in the corner and we are calmly asked to take a seat at a table. The woman then proceeds to brew us all of these different types of tea, telling us the story of each – it is fascinating. The whole experience was remarkable, and one I will never forget.
We stroll around West Lake, which is even more beautiful in the day time than it is at night – if that is possible. Felipe guides us to the metro and we catch a train back to where we started the day. He tells us that when we get off, there will be a short taxi journey to where we will be having dinner. As we come out of the metro station, we are bombarded with people asking us to get in their cars. Felipe warned us about this earlier in the week; that normal civilians offer lifts to people and charge more than the taxis. It all sounds rather illegal. However, moments later I am in a van of sorts. In the front, an angry Chinese woman. The next seats are filled by Felipe and Kane – who are both laughing. Why? Because I am sat on the back seat, with the woman’s two children. One of which is a three year old who is clambering all over me and shouting. This is not what I had in mind when Felipe said we’d be getting a taxi.
Felipe takes us to what seems to be the dirtiest restaurant in Hangzhou, with the promise of ‘the best chicken in Hangzhou’. He was not wrong, it was absolutely amazing – never have I eaten such a tender chicken. Another plus is that it is this evening that I realise I have mastered chopsticks. Ain’t no thing. I act arrogant now, but just days before I was using them to stab my food like a cocktail stick. The difference a couple of days make.
We profusely thank Felipe for the day, head back to the hotel and spend our evening packing our bags for our trip home in the morning.
Day 8: Time to go home.
I woke up with that normal, end of a trip feeling – of excitement to be home and see family and friends, and sadness to leave the excitement and novelty of this foreign place behind. We had made some awesome new friends in China and it was a bit gutting to know we may not see them now for a few months, until our next trip out.
There isn’t much to really say about the final day, as it was just a day of planes, cars and sitting around. Nothing of note really happened, mainly just reflection on one of the most amazing weeks of our life.