THE Chinese city of Hangzhou, with its rich history and picturesque scenery,

WHAT happens if a poet, instead of a bureaucrat or politician, becomes the governor of a city? within the case of Hangzhou in southeast China, it’s become the foremost magnificent city within the world, as in keeping with Italian traveller traveller 700 years ago.

As history has it, the poet governor, referred to as Su Dongpo (1086-1094), transformed Hangzhou (about five hours´ flight from Malaysia) into a city of superbly designed gardens, stone bridges and lakes.

Visitors to Hangzhou´s famed West Lake are greeted by a stone statue of Governor Su, a statesman during the dynasty, who´s also an adept artist and calligrapher.

Heavenly embrace

Hangzhou, which basked in splendour some 2,000 years ago, remains as charming and stylish as today. there’s a quaintness about Hangzhou that creates it “different” from other crowded, polluted Chinese cities.

In China, there’s a saying: “Shang you tian tang, xia you su hang” which implies “up there’s heaven, down here is Suzhou (a city in eastern China) and Hangzhou.”

I instantly understand the meaning of the old saying when taking a ship cruise on West Lake and marvelling at its picturesque scenery. Embraced by three mountains, the 60 sq km West Lake has top 10 spots with poetic descriptions about their scenes.

They are: Spring Dawn At Su Causeway, Breeze-ruffled Lotus At Quyuan Garden, Autumn Moon Over The Calm Lake, Lingering Snow On The Broken Bridge, Viewing Fish At Flower Pond, Orioles Singing within the Willows, Three Pools Mirroring The Moon, Twin Peaks Piercing The Cloud, Evening Bell Ringing At Nanping Hill and Leifeng Pagoda In Evening Glow.

It is an honest time as any to let your poetic soul take a tour of the ten spots.

While taking a stroll at the lake, I tackle a musing mood and are available up with a verse or two like “Going to Hangzhou without cruising the West Lake is like visiting Beijing without climbing the good Wall”.

Charming tale

Fittingly, Hangzhou also features a great romance to inform – that of Lady White Snake Bai Suzhen who married scholar Xu Xian. Later, Bai was captured by a monk and imprisoned in a very deep well at the Leifeng Pagoda (near West Lake).

Charmed by the story, I visit Leifeng Pagoda. It´s an area where mythology and technology meet, because it is that the first pagoda i’ve got ever visited which has escalators. How about escalators for tourists at Batu Caves?

West Lake is sort of a beautiful woman that wears different clothes for various seasons. It takes on a distinct explore for each of the four seasons as lotus, willows and plum flowers move to decorate the realm in spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Food for body and soul

For spiritual seekers, Hangzhou has ancient pagodas, temples, cultural places and scenic spots to stay them occupied.

For Muslims, there’s Phoenix Mosque, one among the four ancient mosques in-built southeast China during the Tang dynasty, and was rebuilt in 1281 by a Persian named A-La-Ding.

The Christians have Santa Maria, the most important cathedral in Hangzhou which was inbuilt 1661 by an Italian clergy, Martino Martini.

On the commercial front, Hangzhou may be a thriving city dotted with hotels, restaurants and shopping centres. With over 9,700 restaurants, it’s called town Of Gourmet Food.

The better choice?

The citizens of Hangzhou, pleased with its rich culture, generally feel that they need “better living conditions” than the inhabitants of Shanghai.

Evidently, there’s an on-going rivalry of sorts between the people of Hangzhou and Shanghai, only 45 minutes away by passenger train and three hours by bus.

Hangzhou citizens wish to say that Shanghai (15 million population) could be a city of giant shopping complexes whereas Hangzhou (six million population) could be a garden city with clean streets.

“Which is healthier… sleep in a mercantile establishment or in an exceedingly garden?” asks David, a guide from Hangzhou, without expecting a reply.

“Shanghai people are busy making money in order that they live a stressful life. Hangzhou people are more relaxed and friendlier,” he adds.

From my experience and from speaking with Malaysians who are to Shanghai, I agree. Hangzhou folks are indeed more accommodating than their Shanghai counterparts. Marco Polo, I´m sure, felt the identical way too.