Hangzhou and Shanghai – The Big Smoke

Arriving at 2am in Hangzhou was particularly stressful – in an effort to get to the city as early as possible I left my credit card in an ATM and then had to deal with Hangzhou taxi drivers.

There is an orderly line of taxis with airport officials mediating but within minutes all the tricks come out. They roll on without turning on the meter and refuse to do so – I had to forcibly stop a taxi by opening the door at which point another guy came over and tried to take my bag and put it in his car!

Getting my bag back I rejoined the line, the next taxi driver dutifully put on the meter but stopped up 100m away from the line and another guy got in and he drove off quickly. A bit unnerved by this and him not paying any attention to my protests there wasn’t much I could do although I knew we were headed the right direction. I rang my friend Rob – who was in a bar – who put someone on who was clearly worse for wear to translate which didn’t really help matters!

After 40 minutes of this eventually I did end up in the right area and the taxi driver expected me to pay the full fare which I was having none of. With him shouting in Chinese and me in English – in the end I brought it to a conclusion by giving him what I thought was fair and walked off. I had to laugh at him taking umbrage at not ripping me off!

Fortunately I was able to find Rob in the bar and dropped my stuff at his place nearby. The next day we headed out to the green tea plantations which are just west of the city. This is where the famous Longjing tea which was created for the emperors comes from.

Apparently humid and rainy conditions are ideal for growing tea. A few hours whizzing around on Rob’s electric scooter had us sopping. I did at least get to visit the tea museum and the plantations and dry off at lunch before heading to Shanghai.

Shanghai was a murky affair where we couldn’t see much of the Bund or from the Bund either. We went for a drink in the Ritz-Carlton where we watched a bizarre procession of people taking selfies of themselves against a background of pollution and nothing else. Possibly typically Shanghai?

Then it was off for dinner at Hakkasan and on for night on the town Shanghai-style, bouncing around from place to place in taxis until 6am with bloody marys and brunch in the French Concession the next day to recover!

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