Study Tour Blogs

Hangzhou is making a name for itself.

This morning we had a shorter time to get up, drink coffee, and eat breakfast as we had another very busy day ahead of us. Today, we were going to take a tour of the city center and focus on the economic development of Hangzhou. When we got off of the bus we could tell we were in downtown Hangzhou, something we had only seen from a slight distance via the West Lake. However, actually standing in the middle of it, I was amazed at the enormous size of the business district. My roommate Pablo stated that he counted over 100 cranes in the area and he stopped counting. I had heard that about 25% of all large construction cranes were located in China and now I know why. They are truly investing in their city's infrastructure trying to make Hangzhou a better Shanghai. Shanghai has the coast, but Hangzhou has the West Lake.

As we walked around the downtown area, I was stunned at the different types of modern buildings being constructed in the area. There were numerous skyscrapers and many more to come. At the center of it all was a building that looked like the sun (holding a large conference center and hotel) and the moon (holding an opera house). After an overview, we visited two musuems dedicated to City Planning. The first was an exhibition of what Hangzhou is going to look like. They are planning hundreds of more skyscrapers in the near future - perhaps building this city to hold at least 20 million people. As of now, the city holds approximately 9 million plus undocumented migrant laborers. Think about that, they are projecting this city to look like New York City. China already has 100 cities with 1 million people or more. According to this exhibition, they are telling the Chinese people "come to Hangzhou." One of the things that amazed me was that they are taking all of their shopping districts downtown and putting them underground. No more eyesores of 30 year old malls, put them underground and build a beautiful park for the people to enjoy and put the mall underground. It will save on electricity since it will be cooler and it creates a more aestheticly pleaseing city.

After being amazed by the numerous models and pictures of what was to come, we went to the City Planning Exhibition hall to see what the city used to look like to what it looks like today. I am not sure if the two are linked, but it made sense to view them both consecutively. This hall gave us an overview of the history of the Hangzhou area from pre-Shang Dynasty all the way up to the present - focusing on the economic, social, and geographical features. The showstopper here was the model of the city that took up nearly the entire third floor and from the fourth floor, one could view the city as if one was in a helicopter circling the city. It was very detailed, but more importantly, one could begin to assess the sheer size of the city sprawling in all directions. If the Chinese want Hangzhou to be the model for the rest of China (and they are known to do this - find an idea and have others copy it). The pictures may not do this model justice for how big it was. To give you an idea, it takes approximately 8 miles to bike/walk/drive from the northern part of the West Lake to our campus in the northwest part of the city. This was on the map and the West Lake is just west of center. It is a sprawling metropolis and it is not done yet.

Lunch was canteen/buffet style and it was good. I must say I missed the sign for dumplings (sadly because they looked delicious), but having it all in Chinese Characters makes it a bit harder to understand. There was a picture, but not being able to read the characters makes it a bit difficult. Lifes little challenges.

After lunch we gathered together and went to an airraid shelter. This airraid shelter is no longer being used for its intended use, rather it is a place to stay cool. People were playing cards, watching TV, and spending time with family. It was MUCH cooler than the balmy 95 degrees outside. I was told it was built in the 1940s to counteract the Japanese bombing of Hangzhou, but I also wonder if it was possibly used during the Chinese Civil War and Cold War. Although Hangzhou would not have been directly affected, it was like the shelters in the USA - built for fear. For those that want to get a chuckle, look up the duck and cover videos from the 1950s. One could probably find it on Youtube. Great look at Cold War mentality.

From here we walked through a Drum Tower and into a area of shopping - mainly for tourists. Many of my colleagues were very interested in doing some shopping and checking out the items for sale. There were some knickknacks for sure, but very interesting things as well. Pablo and I were very interested in the commercialization of Mao himself. I am sure if Mao Zedong same himself on the back of someone's backpack or handbag, he would roll over in his grave. However, this is the new China with a market economy and if this is what people want to spend their money on, then that is what entrepreneurs will produce. I was most fascinated in the 10 Yuan store. Everything in the store was 10 Yuan, like a dollar store only this will be approximately 1.50. Finally, I stopped and picked up two hand carved stamps and had my brother's and mine name carved in English and Chinese on the bottom. We are 12 years apart and both of us were born in the year of the Snake.

From here, we ventured to another market, this time a produce and animal market for locals. One could find many different spices, vegetables, fruits, and animals. Interested in watermelon? Check. In the mood for pigs feet? Got that too. How about dried duck? Yep. Frog or eel? Of course. It was very clean and orderly. We talked to the manager of this market and he said that every single thing in the store can be traced back to the exact farm or village. Think about that...every mushroom or lotus root has a barcode (so to speak) and once this is scanned, a person can quickly discover where it came from and then if there is a problem, deal with that problem. Although it was not mentioned, this is one of the first markets with this technology. Apparently the Government paid for this, but will they pay for the others? That was not discussed. We did notice that there were many Communist Party awards and propoganda in the room. This was clearly a very important market to them. Foreign dignitaries had visited here on tours throughout Hangzhou in the past. Was this new system a reaction from the Avian Flu and the recent Milk disaster? That is not known. However, it is amazing to think how far they have come with their system in a short time.

In the final part of the organized part of the trip, we visited State Street. They are an investment managing corporation based out of Boston. While this did not pertain to us, the people working there were from the University - hence our connection. We got to meet local people living and working in the city. After talking with some of them, which was fantastic to hear where they came from and how they go about their daily lives in Hangzhou, we broke up into groups to go out for dinner. We had a bit of an adventure trying to find the place, after about 20 minutes of wandering we did find it. To be fair to our hosts, it was in a very odd place, lower floor of an office building and difficult to locate. We went to a place called Grandma's kitchen and ate like kings. The food was AMAZING! The funny think about their waiting system is when they call your table number, they tell you "Grandma is inviting you to dinner." Hilarious and very clever. Our food had so much seafood, meats and tasty vegetables, I felt like I was having a going away dinner. However, this was just an average meal at this restaurant. When the bill came, one of the ladies grabbed the bill and we were immediately worried that she was trying to pay for the tab. We insisted on helping and she agreed, but she paid with her card to get a discount. She had a Unionpay card and this gave us some discount. Our bill came to about $6 a person! For all that food. All and all, it was a fantastic day. Looking forward to the next adventure tomorrow.

Click an image to zoom with description

  • One of the many newer buildings in Hangzhou.  This one is modeled after the sun.
  • Model of the City of Hangzhou in a Museum.
  • Air Raid Shelter.
  • Feeling Crabby
  • Merchandising....Merchandising
  • Dinner with State Street Friends.

The one big difference between Chinese food in the US and in China is breakfast food. Here are some examples:

Click an image to zoom with description

  • Rice congee with pork.  There is also a plain rice congee without meat.
  • Dried small shrimp.  These can be placed into the rice congee.
  • Black rice cakes.  These are beyond delicious.

Hangzhou blog in pictures July 11, 2012

Click an image to zoom with description

  • This is where to donate books at the undergraduate library on the Zijingang Campus. The heart says it all!
  • Jennifer is checking out the periodical section of the undergraduate library on the Zijingang Campus.
  • You're never too young to help out in the undergraduate library on the Zijingang Campus!
  • Your never too young to enjoy the undergraduate library on the Zijingang Campus!
  • Our second lesson Chinese language class on campus was outside. The use of a fan was still welcome!
  • Unusual but charming  things grow on the Zijingang Campus- like a PA system disguised as a giant polka-dot mushroom.
  • Emily, Stephanie and Mimi enjoy Chinese ice cream cones in the hot afternoon outside the Student Canteen on campus!
  • A student takes a fishing break on the beautiful Zijingang Campus.
  • Mimi poses with Chairman Mao art at Hangzhou's China Academy of Art.
  • Sara poses in front of the Chairman Mao statue on Hangzhou's Yuquan Campus.
  • At Hangzhou's Song Town our class enjoyed watching performance #13,081 of Romance of Song Dynasty by the Songcheng Art Troupe.

Post By Patrick Hickey

When traveling in foreign lands it it always so simple to describe the countries we visit in comparative terms, grouping them into homogeneous categories in the interest of understanding and mental compartmentalization. Germany is this and Brazil is that and so the process goes on. Prior to arrival, I was operating under the assumption that ALL Chinese cities were encapsulated under a blanket of smog. I was assured that travel by foot inevitably involved the inhalation of massive amounts of two-stroke exhaust as the Chinese shuffled along during the course of their day. Consistent with many aspects of my experiences, my assumptions yet again were incorrect. Hangzhou is clean. Hangzhou is energized and dynamic. Hangzhou is pleasant to explore by foot. And most surprisingly, Hangzhou is relatively quiet given the fact that the population hovers around 9 million.

While exploring our surroundings the first few days I was initially startled by the repeated, albeit polite, beeps of various motorbikes in an effort by the operator to communicate their intent to pass. It was here that I realized that 99 percent of all the motorcycle type transit in Hangzhou is electric and therefore contributing to the silence. It was also here that I realized the explanation for the absence of the acrid exhaust by-product of commerce in a city where two wheels reign. I made the assumption that Hangzhou must have a regulation prohibiting the use of small engine gas powered vehicles. Once again, my assumptions failed me. I consulted Cheng Hao, one of our ever helpful guides, who informed me that there is no regulation whatsoever and that it is solely based on choice, with a little governmental encouragement, on behalf of the residents of this great city. I prodded a little more and Cheng Hao confidently stated, "Hangzhou is the future!" Nodding in approval I admired his pride. Yang Lu, another one of hosts piped in, "The people appreciate the efficiency when gas is so expensive." She continued, "nothing is more efficient with the exception of the bicycle."
The bicycle and Hangzhou have a very symbiotic relationship. Bike lanes abound and motorized and human power delicately dance in helemetless glory. The city runs a impressive bike share program with kiosks peppered throughout the city. Yesterday several of my NCTA colleagues and I provided our passport number along with a 100 Yuan and a 200 Yuan deposit and instantly became members of the great Hangzhou bike share. A remarkably easy transaction in a land where cashing a check can take the better part of the day. Swipe your card to release a, formerly shiny, red set of wheels and off you go. Return it within an hour at any of the hundreds of convenient locations for no charge. Complete your NCTA program collect the deposit. Simplicity.
Following a wonderful stroll around the beautiful West Lake after a jam packed day of visiting schools we embarked on our maiden bike share voyage. After a wonderful meal at mile 6 we got the check and pulled into our campus home 2 miles later at 10:30pm. Needless to say we are all exhausted yet again and looking forward to another wonderful day in China. Sometimes there is nothing better than that "good" tired feeling that lets you know you lived a full day of life filled with adventure and growth.

Safely arrived!

Dear friends and family of the 2012 NCTA Hangzhou Residential Program participants,

We all made it safely to our lovely hotel on the campus on Zhejiang University. We arrived in two groups, since the San Francisco flight was delayed quite a bit. The Chicago group boldly took a long-distance airport bus to Hangzhou. Our hosts greeted them at the bus station and conveyed them to the hotel. The other group was picked up by the university bus at the airport, and checked into the hotel at 11:30 pm. Long day! We have a full slate of activities prepared for us over the next two weeks, and each participant has been assigned a day to report on, so you should be able to follow our experiences. And it looks like quite a few people have already taken quite a few pictures. So I hope you'll see some of the sights we see, too.


A few days more and we'll be there!

Hi all,

I think it's great that we'll be able to blog about our experiences in Hangzhou and beyond. I'll be interested to see how many excellent photographers we have in the group!

Here's a map of the university campus (Zheda Zijingang fenxiao) where we will spend a lot of time.


Click an image to zoom with description

Map of Zhejiang University, Zijingang campus

Welcome to the site and the 2012 Hangzhou program

Hello NCTA-Zhejiang teachers,
We have been chatting for many months now on topics ranging from the assigned readings to travel tips, insurance, etc. At this point I just want to welcome you to the blog site which we hope you will use during your two weeks in Hangzhou. For those of you traveling after July 22 perhaps you will share your further adventures in Asia after half the group has returned to the US? Since I will not be with you during the time in China, your entries here allow me (and your family and friends who can read, but not contribute to the blog) to follow your commentary on this study experience.
All the best wishes for a wonderful experience which should have a huge impact on your classroom teaching,

Click an image to zoom with description

Hangzhou temple