Travel in Beijing, Hangzhou, Zhuhai

How to Get to Hangzhou

Here’s a summary of the transport for you to use to reach the city. Hangzhou can easily be reached by plane and train.

From Tokyo

Air China International, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines International all run direct flights between Tokyo and Shanghai.

From Osaka

Air China International and Japan Airlines International run mostly indirect flights between Osaka and Hangzhou, with the latter operating direct flight to Osaka from Hangzhou, needing 3 hours only to cover the journey.

From Seoul

Air China International operates direct flight between Hangzhou and Seoul, capital of Korea. The flight time is 2 hours.

From Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a key hub of aviation. Many countries/regions have direct/indirect flights to Hong Kong, from where there is direct flight to Hangzhou every day. The Hong Kong-Hangzhou journey lasts about 2 hours.  The extra advantage of flying from Hong Kong is that you can easily and quickly get a China visa at the many offices of China Travel Service across the territory, saving you the time of getting one at your home country.

To be on the cheap, you can consider going to Shengzhen, Hong Kong’s neighboring city in China, and flying to Hangzhou from there. Shenzhen airport can be conveniently reached from Hong Kong by train or ferry, taking about 2 hours. Hong Kong’s KCRC company operates Hong Kong-Shanghai through train on alternate days. The journey is about 26 hours and there are different sleepers for you to choose: hard sleeper, soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleeper. Once you are in Shanghai, it is easy and quick to reach Hangzhou (please see below).

From Shanghai

Shanghai is the biggest city in China with many direct/indirect flights from all over the world. Once you are in Shanghai, it is only 2 hours’ drive on expressway to reach Hangzhou. Shuttle buses are available every 90 minutes from Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to Hangzhou’s city center Wu Lin Men, costing RMB85.

There are also shuttle buses every 90 minutes from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Hangzou Dragon Sports Center, costing RMB100. So if you fly to Shanghai, it is very easy for you to reach Hangzhou. Here’s the schedule of the shuttle bus:

Pudong–>Dragon Sports Center:10:30, 12:00, 13:30, 15:30, 17:30, 19:00

Pudong–>Wu-lin-Men: 8:40, 10:10, 11:40, 13:10, 14:40, 1610, 17:50

If you are already in Shanghai, you can take bus or train. Buses depart every hour from Shanghai Long-distance Bus Station to Hangzhou Long-distance Bus Station. The ticket costs about 60 Yuan. Trains are available every hour between the two cities and the ticket costs about 50 Yuan. Express train takes 2 hours and normal train takes 3 hours.

From Beijing

Given the capital status of Beijing, flight connection to Beijing is excellent. Once you are in Beijing, you can connect a flight to Hangzhou, which takes about 2 hours.

You can also consider taking the train from Beijing to Hangzhou. The fastest train between the two cities takes about 13 hours, departing at 18:53, arriving at 8:23 the following morning.

Hangzhou Airport and Train Station

Hangzhou’s international airport, bright and spacious, is situated 27km of the town. A public bus costing RMB20 operates to the center of town from the airport.

The train station has recently been renovated and is a huge but efficient place. It takes about 10 minutes from the center of town to the station, and costs approximately RMB20-30 by taxi.

Learn Chinese

Learn Mandarin Chinese in Hangzhou

There are at least five or six universities in Hangzhou which offer Chinese courses. Zhejiang University is among the best universities in China and its Chinese course has attracted about 300 foreign students at one time – out of about 600 foreign students studying Chinese in Hangzhou. The class is big and the teaching is so so. That is what I heard from the students who attended their classes.

Quite a lot of them changed to Hangzhou Teacher College because the class size is small and their foreign student dormitories are very new and well furnished. They have apartments of two bedrooms, with air-conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen, a balcony, and it costs about 60 yuan per day to have your own room and share the communal area. The apartment can be of a 3-star hotel quality. Two Americans told me of the same experience. They started at Zhejiang University and then decided to come to Hangzhou Teacher College because of a smaller class size and better accommodation. The campus is in the city center, and that is cool. They also say the teaching is not bad, and the teachers are willing to listen to their needs and adapt the teaching.

There are many other universities offering Chinese courses in Hangzhou. That includes Zhejiang University of Technology, Zhejiang University City College, Zhejiang University of Commerce, Zhejiang Forestry University and Zhejiang College of Tradtional Chinese Medicine. I cannot really comment on their programs or quality of teaching. But I heard that Zhejiang Forestry University has a beautiful campus and the teaching is not bad.

You can also find language schools in the city. Manda School of Chinese was set up earlier this year and wonderfully run by a Hong Konger and a German. But they have left the school and Manda is now run by local Chinese. Babel Language Training Centre, Tefle Academy, and Nova are three other language schools that offer Chinese programs, mainly to expatriates living in the city. These schools are all located in the Yellow Dragon area, the new business area.

If you go to China to study, prepare for non-Western style of teaching. Quality of teaching is a BIG problem, it seems to me. How can a rigid and centralized planned teaching system nurture creative teachers to give inspiring and professional teaching? So far I’ve not heard of a particular university or school that teaches Chinese being recommended just for its excellent teaching. If you know of one, let me know.

Hong Kong As It Is

The Democracy March in Hong Kong

It is 32 Celsius degrees – sweltering hot. It is Saturday. It is first of July. I, with thousands of others, joined the democracy marching demanding universal suffrage, on the streets of Hong Kong. I don’t think many of my friends in Hong Kong will attend the march, so I just go there alone. I took the bus from kennedy town to Wanchai, and joined the crowd there, walking for about one and a half hours to the government heaquarters in central.

People from all walks of life join in the rally. I see a man with long dirty hair hanging at the back, carrying an umbrella, and wearing a pair of broken cotten shoes, mothers and daugthers, young lovers, a man in his forty walking by himself…people are not shouting slogans at their top of voices, but there is passion and unflinching will there. “we want universal suffrage”, some shouted. quiet tears well from my eyes, strangely. i am touched by the sense of solidarity and the will to overcome barriers just to fight for things valuable in life.

I am bebating in the morning: shall I go to the rally in this unbearable hot weather, and alone? I decide to go, at the end. Because I know I would hate myself if I didn’t go. I don’t want to be a person of words only, not actions. If I believe it is people’s right to choose someone to represent them; if I believe democracy is about people being able to participate in the process of governing and decision making process; if I belive Hong Kong has been a hugely capitalist place where only businessmen’s interests are taken care of, then I should go to this democracy rally to demand for universal suffrage.

I am glad that I am in the rally. 

Travel in Beijing, Hangzhou, Zhuhai

Pipa orchard near Hangzhou

The month of May is the time Pipa fruit ripens in southern China. I joined a local tour to Tangxi near Hangzhou (about one-hour bus) to pick pipa. You don’t ususally see pipa in the West, and it seems to me that not many people in the east know it either. I was glad that I had chance to taste it.

What is the taste like? If it is a good one, pipa is pretty sweet and tastes fresh and good, but it means that your hands are all sticky from the sweet afterward.