Hangin’ In Hangzhou: Adventures with my Grinnellian Friends

Adam Dalton
April 4, 2015


                Last weekend, for the first time since my arrival in Shanghai in late February, I was able to escape the megalopolis of Shanghai and explore other parts of China. Don’t get me wrong, Shanghai is an amazing city. However, the city is not necessarily representative of China as a whole and furthermore doesn’t have a monopoly on China’s interesting places and events.  Since I wanted to see “Old-Chinese” history I decided to head to Hangzhou; due to its status as a former Dynasty capital, Hangzhou represents a beautiful look at the last 500 years of Chinese history. Furthermore, my better half (on a visit from America!) and I had a mutual friend who was enrolled in Middlebury’s Hangzhou Intensive Languages Program so naturally we had to take a visit because, what is more novel than meeting up with your friends halfway around the world?

                You could say that our journey to Hangzhou started out on the wrong foot; but in saying that you would be utterly understating the complete mistake-fest that was our initial journey from my apartment in Shanghai to our hostel in Hangzhou. Firstly, I “lost” my debit card (in reality my apartment front desk had it with them with full balance intact) and having no cash on me I had to borrow roughly $125 USD from a generous program-mate of mine (shout out to John). After that debacle my better half and I headed to the Shanghai South Railway Station to pick up our tickets; unfortunately we had another problem afoot, due to my “lost” card situation we received our tickets late and had to switch to a later train (in a process that involved serious Chinese/English language combos being spoken).

Having switched to a later train we were fortunate enough to be able to catch a bite to eat (we both hadn’t eaten dinner) and I reluctantly tried Chinese KFC for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised at their spicy chicken sandwich (it was much less greasy than American KFC, was spicier than American KFC, and was actually a discernible chicken breast; as opposed to a horrible amalgam of mystery chicken meat courtesy of *cough cough cough* American KFC) . Once we finished dinner we headed to the boarding platform together; and since I had never taken a train before, standing on the platform felt like I was boarding a modern Hogwarts Express. Once on the train we enjoyed the relatively short journey, chatted together, and were gifted an umbrella from a lovely young Chinese couple who said they had an extra and wanted to make sure we weren’t soaking by the time we reached our hostel (it was pouring out)!

The next day went by like a blur but was absolutely an amazing experience. After waking up, Anthony and I went for a run around West Lake, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) which due to the weather conditions was draped in a porridge-like grey mist. If running around West Lake wasn’t enough, we also ran up the mountains around the lake; which reminded me exactly of the time I spent in the Smokey Mountains in Alabama. After getting into nature (it was about time; a month in Shanghai with no green space literally drove me crazy…I need wide open spaces and nature!) we met up with Willa Collins (our friend studying in Hangzhou) and had lunch in a traditional hole-in-the-wall noodle restaurant. Following lunch we toured a Qing Dynasty aristocrat’s home, took a veritable prom-level volume of photos, and talked about our individual and collective experiences in China.

To close out our amazing day we all headed to a 500 year old Song Dynasty Pagoda and garden; an awe-inspiring experience. While climbing to the top of the pagoda, as the city grew smaller and smaller below me, I had a moment of serendipity in which I felt like I was simultaneously experiencing “Classical-China” (the ancient pagoda) and “New China” (skyscrapers being constructed right across the river from me). Finally, we took the bus back to the Hangzhou metro together (which having only 2 lines is quite quaint by Shanghai standards) and parted ways with Willa. All in all, my day in Hangzhou was an amazing experience and I am looking forward to seeing more of China in the coming months!

Until next time,

Adam Dalton


Adam Dalton

<div>My Name is Adam Dalton and I am currently a junior at Grinnell College majoring in Economics and Chinese Studies. I am originally from Mason City, IA and will be studying abroad in Shanghai with IES Shanghai next semester. Aside from academics, my interests including playing guitar, enjoying the great outdoors and running (I am a member of Grinnell&#39;s T&amp;F and XC teams).&nbsp;</div>

2015 Spring
Home University:
Grinnell College
Chinese Language
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