On Saturday, we were up at 5:00AM to catch a train to Hangzhou the “Paradise City”. This was my first train that I’ve ever taken. The Chinese used to say, “There is Heaven, and then there is Suzhou and Hangzhou”. And boy, was Hangzhou beautiful!! We first toured the gardens, coy fish pond, and explored the West Lake area. After, we took a boat tour across the lake and had lunch. This was probably the most interesting lunch of the trip with dishes ranging from eel, jellyfish, and duck tongue. I wasn’t feeling too adventurous and only tried the jellyfish which I would not recommend because it was like chewing on soy sauce flavored plastic. After lunch we visited a Buddhist temple, probably the largest I’ve seen here in China! What really, really struck me was a statue of Guanyin carved inside a small cave before approaching the temple. If you know me, you know I love caves and since I wasn’t expecting to go in any this was especially a treat for me. So, I walk into this dark cave and see in front of me this huge, serene statue of Guanyin, barely illuminated from a natural skylight in the cave. It was a beautiful experience, and as I exited the cave I crossed over a small stream, carefully watching my steps over the flat, slippery rocks. After I crossed the stream, I turned back to look at the cave and saw dozens of other Buddha’s and bodhisattvas carved into the side of the caves walls. I can’t even imagine how much time and effort was put into carving figures twenty feet above the stream.
After my experience with Guanyin and the cave, the group and I walked to see the Lingyin Temple. There were a total of three different temples that all housed enormous golden statues of the Buddha. I decided to go off on my own and explore all of the temples and wow, there were SO many stairs! I spent about an hour and a half visiting each of the temple halls and then decided to hike up the hill near the cave that housed Guanyin. I ran into Maggie, Kyra, Emily, and Omer on the top of the hill, so we took some majestic pictures to remember our hiking accomplishment and headed back down the hill to find water. Omer and I both bought these bird whistles earlier in the day, so of course we serenaded Kyra, Emily, and Maggie on the way down. Visiting the Lingyin Temple area was one of my favorite experiences here. The beauty of nature combined with the beauty of religious art made my heart swell!
On Sunday our day started at noon, which was a treat for everyone that needed to catch up on their sleep! We all had plans to go to Mr. Pancake for brunch but I slept through all my alarms and just ended up getting a Taiwanese lunch box with Ka. At noon, we all met up and took a subway to the Shanghai Museum which was relatively interesting. We had two hours to explore the four floors but I made my way through in an hour and a half so a lot of us met up in the café to eat cake and have ice-cream! After the museum we visited the Marriage Market in People’s Park. The Marriage Market is basically where parents advertise their sons and daughters so that they can find a significant other. Generally this only happens when one’s son or daughter is older, and as a parent you’re worried they won’t find a partner. What I found most interesting is that the resumes are taped on umbrellas which are popped open and set around the park. The resumes include what the son or daughter look like, their personalities, and some even told what parents were looking for in a suitor for their son or daughter. Our group walked around for a bit but because all the resumes were in Chinese we walked over to the “English corner” where parents could speak English. We talked to a lot of Chinese people who were really intrigued as to where we were from, however all of us left without a fiancé. Actually, the market doesn’t necessarily work like that, just finding a partner right away. Phone numbers are also included on the resumes, so someone could call the son or daughter and usually a date will be set up just to placate the parents. However, if the two don’t feel a connection after that date nothing is forced and the son or daughter will continue meeting other people. So really, this is just a way to meet people your parents approve of.
After the marriage market we broke into groups and were given an optional scavenger hunt to complete on Nanjing Road. We completed one task (buying White Rabbit) but were too tired to complete the rest so we all went back to the dorms.