For the Mid Autumn Moon Festival, Elle and I headed south to Hangzhou in the neighboring province of Zhejiang. Elle had Monday off of class so we had a nice long weekend to explore this new city.
Mid Autumn Moon Festival is a lunar holiday celebrated by the Chinese and Vietnamese people. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. The main custom of the festival is to find a place to watch the full moon (which is always ify became there is usually so much pollution in China you can rarely see the sky.) But, we had a marvelous view of the full this weekend. The other part of the holiday is celebrated by eating mooncakes. For those of you who do not know what mooncakes are I would describe them as this: a glorified Twinkie combined with a Fig Newton mixed with an egg yoke. Needless to say they aren’t my favorite things in the world but the Chinese love them. It is customary to give mooncakes as gifts during the holiday and Elle and I both have a massive box of them sitting in our apartments if anyone back home really wants to try them. I don’t think they go bad because of all the preservatives they put in them 🙂
Our first day in Hangzhou was a very fun/exciting/draining day. After waking up pretty early for us, we walked to get breakfast from a street vendor and ventured off to rent bikes and explore. Hangzhou has the same bike stations found in US cities where you can rent and park your bike in various places throughout the city. We had such a great time exploring around West Lake (the main tourist attraction in Hangzhou). Although, I picked a bike that was made for a Chinese person of 5’2 and struggled to keep up with Elle as she speed off. I felt like a clown on a tiny bike. Thank goodness after one wrong turn and two large hills I was able to find a bike suited for longer legs. We made almost a full circle around West Lake before we decided to park our bikes and walk to the water to take some pictures. We are passing through a square to find a place to sit next to the lake to relax a bit before lunch (both of us were quite pooped after our biking adventure) and i turn to say something to Elle and she has been swarmed by ten older Chinese men. “Oh no she can’t get out of this one.” So I walk over to her and sure enough another ten men suction right over to me. Without even knowing it we had walked directly into “English Corner” and all of these people thought we were there to talk English to them. Before we even know it we are being bombarded with questions about where we are from, how old we are, what are we doing in China, do you like China, what did you study etc etc etc. I think both Elle and I had to say 20 plus times that I am part Chinese, my Dad is American born, and yes I know I have a Chinese looking face. I was also told numerous times is a shame that I don’t know any Chinese. One older woman told me, “You a bad Chinese girl!” then she smiled with a the few teeth she had. This was probably the most intense hour and a half we have experienced since being here. I wish someone could have taken a picture of us each with 20-30 people just asking us questions. Both our cheeks hurt from smiling and answering so many questions. I wish I could describe more about the English Corner we encountered but even now I am getting anxiety just thinking about it.
After a much needed lunch and nap we went off to wander downtown and grab some dinner. We decided on an Indian restaurant by the lake, we both were so excited to have some different spices and especially thrilled about the thought of curry and naan bread. But of course, we didn’t get exactly what we wanted lol after all it is China. Our curry was good although the naan bread was only one small piece and lasted maybe 2.5 seconds. Elle ordered rice to eat with her curry (which they were going to charge extra for) and they brought it out about five min after she had finished her meal. Haha Elle was not a happy camper.
Later we happened to wander into an ex-pat bar and ended up meeting a group of friends, two from Switzerland and two from China. They were all friends meeting up for the holiday weekend. One of them is a fashion photographer in Bejing and has done work for Baazar and GQ… pretty cool! We went with them to a local Chinese club where a supposedly famous Chinese singer was preforming. This was hilarious. Elle was lucky enough to snag a free copy of his cd.
Here are some of my pictures from Hangzhou