Saturday, September 15, 2007

Feeling heavenly on West Lake's earthly bank

When I was younger, I used to secretly think that the descriptions of the heavenly beauty of Hangzhou and its West Lake by grandmother and other elderly relatives and neighbours were either chauvinistic exaggerations or jingoistic fantasies but, having been there to see and feel about it, I must now admit I was wrong and they were right.

My fellow traveller Abdullah Ahmad (left), who first visited China and met Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing in May 1974 on an official delegation led by ex-PM Tun Abdul Razak which established the bilateral relations between Malaysia and China, shared my fascination with the poetic and romantic Hangzhou and its West Lake. It was him who proposed the last-minute change of the duration of stay in Hangzhou from one day to two and he certainly enjoyed the view of West Lake at night from the balcony of his room at the Shangri-La Hotel which is located on its bank.

Although the Hangzhou Shangri-La Hotel is essentially very Western in its interior decoration, menu, musical performances and services, it is now also selling moon cakes and brightening up its lobby with traditional lanterns as the Mid-Autumn Festival is fast approaching. Like Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and other parts of China, halal restaurants and groceries are also easily available in Hangzhou as Islam or Hui Jiao has been an enriching element of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Chinese civilisation for the past 1,300 years.

Hangzhou epitomises ancient beauty of China


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