WTF Hangzhou?

In the sky there is heaven, on earth there is Hangzhou, so the old Chinese saying goes. Steeped in history, Hangzhou was one of Seven Ancient Capitals of China, reining as capital of the Wuyue Kingdom from 907 to 978. Today it’s a prosperous city of more than 6 million people, spoilt with its picturesque West Lake, countless parks, and surrounding lush hills and mountains. It’s less than a one-hour fast train ride from the concrete grit of Shanghai, but a world away. It’s hard not to feel at ease amongst the peace and tranquility of one of China’s most famous lakes.


Hangzhou's beautiful West Lake

Hangzhou’s beautiful West Lake

We were staying a short stroll from the lake, along narrow tree-lined streets back to a quaint lodging in a restored historic building. On Friday night, I fell asleep in crisp white sheets only to be woken at 5am, yes 5am, by a large scale construction site next door. Clanging, banging, a chorus of 3-tonne trucks loading up with boulders, diggers, drillers, yelling, hoiking – a wonderful way to start a weekend morning in the city of serenity. That racket night continued well past 11pm that night, before finally fading. Then at 4:45am on Sunday morning, it started up again, as loud, if not louder than on Saturday.


Seriously Hangzhou? I know China is all about setting construction speed records and not letting the discomfort of few people get in the way of progress, but isn’t this a little shortsighted? Like most hotspots in China, construction is a fact of life in Hangzhou, but does it really need to start before 5am on a Sunday morning when the city is full of weekend tourists seeking tranquility?


Hangzhou is one of China’s top tourism cities, and one of the fastest growing, with 86 million tourists visiting last year, injecting USD$22 billion dollars into Hangzhou’s economy. I would have thought the local Government would do what it can to ensure that those tourists leave Hangzhou all warm, fuzzy and at peace? Even with rules banning construction to start before 9am on a weekend, how much of difference is that really going to make to a project’s delivery time? Hangzhou, so much to offer, but a few little tweaks could make all the difference.

Biking around Hangzhou's West Lake on a Tandem

A fun thing to do in Hangzhou: Biking around the West Lake on a Tandem

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My wife Ellen and I are currently living in China, bumbling our way around this fascinating and fast-changing country. We kicked off our stay with a semester of Intensive Mandarin studies at Beijing Language and Culture University and are now living in Shanghai. These posts cover some of my experiences, views and curious facts in and around the Middle Kingdom. Please let me know what you think!

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