Issue #2: West Lake Journey to Four Seasons Hangzhou
To visit the incredible Four Seasons Hangzhou, guests usually arrive by taxi or private car. On a recent visit, I rethought this approach. Why shouldn’t the trip be worth the reward? I chose instead to begin at the legendary West Lake. An iconic and inspirational place is where myth and romance reside amidst forested hills just west of the city. Poets, scholars, and artists have been influenced by its beauty since the 9th century and this UNESCO protected landscape is home to numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens, and ornamental trees.
The Temple of Soul’s Retreat (Lingyin Temple) is in a long, narrow valley between Fei Lai Feng and North Peak on the northwest of West Lake. Above me is one of the ten most famous Buddhist temples in China. In 1961, it became a key provincial historical and cultural site, and today it is a major travel destination for Chinese and foreigners, not only for the incredible amount (and size) of its Buddha statues but for its literary collections and the Pharmaceutical Master Hall.
I begin the serene journey from No. 6 Lakeside Park Wharf after negotiations with the operator of a painted boat. We meandered past the Music Fountain, along the Bai Causeway, Zhongshan Park Wharf, and glided through the narrow strip between the Ruangong Islet and the Mid-Lake Pavilions. It was very quiet out there with no wifi connection on the water, a frigid wind, and the occasion crane flying by.
The sun rapidly disappeared into a nest of yellow and orange which turned to flaming red before disappearing and the water was blanketed in darkness. It was glorious and all but impossible to capture. After 45 minutes of bracing cold, the operator dropped me at a footpath that wound through a lush forest lit with twinkling lights which led right to the front door of the Four Seasons.
Wendy Mitchinson, Director of Sales and Marketing, led me to a table in the lobby lounge. She said either hot chocolate or a Scotch, whatever my choice, would cure the chill of the evening. The hot chocolate was divine – complete with dark chocolate slivers, a crispy chocolate chip cookie, and two crunchy meringues.
The interiors of the hotel were modern and architectural, the artwork and sculpture exceptionally displayed, and the service impeccable. The hotel is known for its tranquility and property filled with ponds, courtyards, Chinese gardens, willow trees, and mist-covered lagoons. The daylight hours offer up views of mountain peaks and ancient temples.
Four Seasons Hangzhou is not a ‘vacation’ location but a ‘hideaway’ destination that fashions itself as an intimate village on a legendary lake.