Meet The Parents (In Hangzhou)

The very next day after my marathon day trip to Guangzhou, I took a train to Hangzhou to catch up with my parents who are touring China all the way from England. Shanghai wasn’t on their itinerary but as Hangzhou is just a short train ride away, I decided to meet them there.

This is how rail travel used to be not so long ago – overcrowded waiting rooms with very little options for refreshments.

I rarely take trains in China, so this was the first time I visited Shanghai’s new South Station. The last time I went to Hangzhou was a decade ago back in 1999 when it took 2 hours. The new CRH (or “D train”) service costs around 50rmb (one way) and takes a mere 75 minutes.

Not Shanghai’s newest airport, this is Shanghai’s ultra modern South Railway station.

Modern rail travel in China : WoAi enjoys some quiche, salad and a cappuccino at Shanghai’s South Railway station while waiting for a train to Hangzhou.

First class costs only slightly more than second class (an extra 10rmb or so) and for this reason, the tickets sell out very quickly, although second class was perfectly okay. My travel agent was unable to get me the return ticket though and advised me to buy the return ticket on arrival at Hangzhou railway station. This is NOT a good idea, as the queues are horrendous as they are at every Chinese railway station. I queued for a while but quickly gave up and hoped the hotel I was staying at would be able to help me book tickets. Luckily they were (for a small handling fee) able to help. However, I recommend getting the return tickets together before travelling, because I did not get my desired time and had to get a slower train that went to Shanghai’s older station.

Hangzhou itself was wonderful, but the railway station isn’t really the sort of place I’d like to spend much time in, so it’s best to plan to arrive as close as possible to your train’s departure time if you’re leaving from Hangzhou station.

I can only stay at crappy hotels when I travel on business, so as it was just for one night, I opted to pamper myself with some 5 star luxury and stayed at Hangzhou’s Sofitel Hotel, just by the West Lake’s Xi Hu Tian Di area, which has some nice coffee shops and cafes, including a Starbucks (naturally) and Costa Coffee.  I think the similarity of the name with Shanghai’s Xin Tian Di is quite deliberate.

I met up with mum at her hotel around 3pm and we had a light late lunch at a food court on the top of an upmarket department store on (Hangzhou’s) busy Yan An road.  We then tried to have a walk by the West Lake, but something very weird was happening.  EVERY taxi we stopped, after hearing where we wanted to go, refused to take us and drove off. We watched as other people suffered the same fate, so it wasn’t just us – they would simply discuss with the driver through the window and then almost without fail the driver would shake his head and drive off. I started to think it was the location that only had picky taxi drivers so we walked to another location but the result was the same. It was after about the 5th time that we had to ask the driver why he didn’t want to take us and he explained that 4-5pm was the change of shift. That’s right, every taxi in the entire city changes shift at the same time, which means between 4-5pm getting a taxi is almost impossible, so be warned.

WoAi and mum by Hangzhou’s famous West Lake at dusk (that’s a Starbucks in the distant background).

Eventually, we bumped in to a very kind old man who walked with us for 15 minutes to take us to a bus stop where we could hop on a bus for 3 stops to the West Lake. So by the time we got there, it was almost sunset and there was only time to get one or two photos before the light disappeared completely.

Dad was on a day trip to Shao Xing (mum was too tired to make the trip), so we waited for him to get back before heading for our evening meal which I’ll write about tomorrow.

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15 Responses to Meet The Parents (In Hangzhou)

  1. SHE in China says:

    Lovely reading! Although annoying w the taxi thing.. happens a lot to me here in SZ as well (and that’s why I cannot wait for the SZ metro to be finished!). About the train station… the new south station looks like a paradise compared to the north one (which is the one I always end up at when I come from SZ). I hope they are planning to fix up the north one too soon, it’s quite a mess. Although I don’t know what is worse, the messy train station or the ticket mess every time I am going somewhere… I miss ‘booking online’ although I guess it wouldn’t work over here…

  2. Beverly says:

    Hmm will have to try the train to Hangzhou soon, looks really nice.

    And you look so adorable with your mum! Cuuuuute. (i mean that in the manliest possible way of course)

  3. Miss Jane says:

    Taking the train in China is way better than driving IMHO. Hangzhou is like the back door to Shanghai but still it’s no Shanghai.

  4. WoAi says:

    SHE in China – Yeah at least in Shanghai different taxis have different shift arrangements so there’s no common time when everyone is changing shift. Typically drivers share a cab and work one day then off one day, or one does day and one does night. I came back from the north one and it was horrible compared to the south one even though it’s also quite new (well I mean it’s been newly renovated, whereas south station was built from scratch). Definitely book online or through an agent rather than trying to line up at the station. I just can’t do it.

    Beverly – Thanks Beverly, HZ was really great, but I was so lucky with the weather.

    Miss Jane – I think it really depends on what kind of train and the length of the journey. CRH is relatively painless but some trains are horrible and you certainly don’t want to be on those routes.

  5. wisemanofasia says:

    Will be interesting to know what your dad thinks of shao xing it’s my favourite place in china that I have been so far!

  6. WoAi says:

    He loved it. So out of the 3 Peters I’m the only one who hasn’t been. Might have to check it out. What is so good about it? I think dad was more in to the historic sights and that kind of stuff.

  7. Seraph says:

    I also like Hangzhou, better city for living than in Shanghai. Shanghai is too noisy, bad air, pollution.

    btw, first time I saw CRH, I was suprised. CRH is exactly the brief of my Chinese name…

  8. Swiss James says:

    Love that South railway stataion and it’s a lovely photo with your Mum.

    Seriously though mate you’re going to have to watch the diet- that huge salad, quiche, cappucino and a soft drink all just for you? Tut tut.

  9. WoAi says:

    James – That wasn’t all mine, they hadn’t cleared the table from the people who were there before and I couldn’t be bothered to go to a nice clean table even though there were many available. After all, I’d spent so much time setting up the tripod for this shot. It’s a real pain to get decent photos when you travel alone.

    Seraph – Yes, it was definitely more calm and peaceful compared to stressful Shanghai. Hey, my name is China also!

  10. Informative post! I reposted a selection of this post on the travel forum of We are always getting questions about train travel from travelers, so I’m sure it will be appreciated.

    Here is the link:

    Drop me an email if you are interested in having more of your travel-related posts on the forum.

    Forum Editor

  11. CP says:

    Hangzhou is one of my favourite Chinese cities so far. I found a decent little expat bar called Maya on a night when the manager was experimenting with cocktail recipes and frequently passing them out to all and sundry. I don’t remember much else for some reason.

  12. Rich says:

    Nice write up. I was wondering how they were enjoying their trip.

    Is it normal for people to use your blog material (including pics) without 1st asking permission?

  13. WoAi says:

    CP – Now you tell me!

    Rich – Yeah, mum’s a bit tired from the hectic schedule but dad’s having a great time.

    You raise an interesting question. I suppose thinking from a legal perspective, the lawyers would say that a blog by nature is public so it’s hard to claim you’ve been harmed. I personally think if it’s fully credited then it’s fine. I’ve seen people copy stuff and pass it off as their own which is really not on!

  14. I have taken the Train twice to Hangzhou ( May and August , last year ) love that City . I also taken the D-Train to Beijing from Shanghai and back . Wonderful experience .

  15. Pingback: I Love China » Blog Archive » Cook With WoAi Sunday

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