On Monday we went up absurdly early to catch a high-speed train to Hangzhou. Naturally there were traffic jams all the way there so we got there too late, but apparently the tour manager managed to make the train wait for us. Crazy, but nice. Despite general tiredness and nothing but snacks all day in the way of food, it was a very pleasant journey. About a thousand kilometers in eight hours, that doesn't happen in Sweden even if the trains are on time. We were five orchestra people who shared a compartment with a friendly Chinese guy. He turned out to speak very good english, living in New York, so we ended up talking all through the journey. Playing poker, him teaching us a bit of Chinese, we teaching him a bit of Swedish, discussing cultural differences. At the end of the journey we had made a new friend, and he promised to come to one of our concerts in Shanghai. That train ride was probably one of my favourite parts of the tour, and definitely one of the best train journeys I've experienced. I like travelling by train.
The day ended on a rather miserable note for me, though. Not having found anymore vegan food to eat on the train other than nuts, dried fruit and small bits of tofu, I was too tired and head-ache stricken when we at last got to Hangzhou to even be hungry anymore. Dizzy and in misery, I went to bed instead of joining the others for dinner out on town.
The following day I woke up feeling better. After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel me and my roommate headed out for a walk through the city. For once we actually were close enough to where we wanted to go that we didn't have to take a taxi. I really prefer strolling to taxi or subway, but you don't get to see much of a 20-million-people city that way. The things I'd heard of Hangzhou before we got there were 1) that it is a very beautiful city (possibly the most beautiful in China), 2) that there is a lake called West Lake in the city that supposedly is so beautiful you just had to see it if you got the chance of visiting the city and 3) that it is famous for its tea. So, we headed out to the lake in the hope of seeing some of the city's beauty, and possibly purchasing some tea. Regrettably the fog lay thick over the city all the time we spent there, but the little of the lake's surroundings that was visible through the haze was quite nice. Not mindblowingly beautiful, but I could imagine it would be on a clear day, being able to see the lake in its entirety, as well as its surroundings. Alas, we had to hasten on, otherwise I gladly would have stayed for a few more days and waited for better weather. At least tea was found, bought and packaged within five minutes of roasting. Green tea is better the fresher it is, apparently. Not so for black tea I learned, but more on that later.
The afternoon was spent rehearsing, and in the evening we played a concert. This time as well in a great big concert hall that felt a bit overwhelming for me who'd never played in such large venues before. Apparently there were over a thousand seats, and most of them were filled. How come so many Chinese people want to see a student orchestra from Sweden? Apparently we had been quite well-promoted, but it's still surprising. I mean, we're not even professional. Anyway, the concert was a huge success judging by the audience this time as well.
This we celebrated in the Hotel's rotating skybar later on in the evening. Some with beer, others with wine or fancy drinks. Me with watermelon juice, since I had made it a small quest of mine to try as many strange juices (vegan juices, mind you, before anyone makes any gross associations) as possible during the journey. Let's see if I remember the ones I tried... Apple, orange (not so strange, but included for completeness), corn, watermelon, tomato, coconut, kiwi, and carrot. Most of them freshly made while I waited. All of them good but oh my gods kiwi juice really is a stroke of genius. Seriously, you just have to try it. Unless you're allergic to kiwi. Then it sucks to be you, I guess.
That's all for now. In the next episode of this immensely entertaining travel blog: we're off to Shanghai! Stay tuned.