Some traditions transcend cultures.

Like shopping at post-holiday sales.  The second day of the new year, lots of things went back to normal.  Many stores and restaurants reopened and although people still randomly set off fireworks, they did so less frequently and the fireworks themselves seemed to diminish in size.  Things were…calmer.  So when Liz suggested that we shop and have lunch on Friday, this was all I expected.  A nice girls’ day out, back by late afternoon, early to bed.
I’ll skip through the early part of the day.  Shopping at the malls here is like shopping at the malls at home, except the prices are different (199RMB is a great price for a sweater) and the sizes for skirts and pants measure your height in centimeters.  Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to 8 malls in one afternoon, but Liz was determined to show me all of the great places to shop.  The only other 2 items of note during our morning/early afternoon shopping trip was that 1) Liz bought me a Taiwanese milk tea, served with a really fat straw, which I quickly found out was meant to suck up the giant jello-like pieces that lurked at the bottom of my cup; and 2) I discovered this line of hair care products.  English teacher nerds, this is for you:

After a few hours, we went to lunch down by West lake at a restaurant Liz said is a “Hangzhou must-do.”  First, she bought me a street “snack,” a deep-fried patty of pork and vegetables (yum), and then we stepped inside the busiest restaurant ever.  She paid a cashier and received some tickets in return, told me to find a seat, and then disappeared into the mob of shouting people, pushing and shoving each other to order at this counter which stretched across the entire length of the restaurant.  Finding a seat was hard.  I ended up sharing a table with a family of three and saving a seat for us both.  Eventually, Liz appeared with this:

On the right is a bowl of pork and shrimp dumplings, and on the left is a bowl of beef soup with noodles made from sweet potatoes.  Both dishes- especially the dumplings- were fragrant and hot and fresh.  So, so good.  I can see why this place is a Hangzhou must-do.
Liz after lunch.  The downstairs of the restaurant, where we ate, is first come, first served and seat yourself.  Upstairs, you need a reservation.
After lunch, Liz took me to a flower and fish store (yep, a store that sells only flowers and pet fish), and then to a famous pedestrian mall called Hefang Road, which is adjacent to West Lake.  I heart Hefang Road.  It felt like the fair, but without the livestock and the white people in cutoff shirts and shorts.  Well, without the white people in general, I guess.  The next series of pictures are all from this area.
West Lake. (I looked at this picture and said, “The lake is so pretty!”  Liz said, “You are so pretty!”  I love her.)
The gate to Hefang Road.  These people with bunches of balloons are everywhere.
A view of Hefang Road.  Isn’t it fair-like?!
You can buy lots of traditional Chinese instruments on Hefang Road.  This is a Chinese saxophone.  It reminded me a lot of a clarinet.  Alisa and Becca, you could both totally rock out on this.
More street food.  This is a type of fruit called shan zha; I’d never seen or heard of it before.  (I looked it up on the world wide web, and it’s also called a hawthorn berry.)  The berries are caramelized with crunchy sugar, and they taste (to me) a lot like strawberries with big seeds in the middle.  De-lish.  I could eat approximately 85 of these every day.  Sidebar: I should’ve guessed, early in the day when we got Taiwanese milk teas, that Liz was going to buy me every single type of food she thought I should try in Hangzhou without asking if I was hungry.  Yet another reason I love her.
This man was engraving small ceramic animals with whatever people wanted on them.  A woman behind him would then tie a Chinese knot through them, and they’d ready for cell phone or key chain decoration.  I bought a small pig for me and a small dog for Matt (our Chinese zodiac animals) and had our names engraved on them.  I can’t wait until we have matching cell phone decorations.  Our relationship will finally be serious.
A photographable Buddha!  This one you rub specifically for luck with money.
This woman was painting sugar treats onto a wax board.  You pick the animal or design you want, and she creates it while the sugar is hot and melty.  On the right is a lantern; on the left is a bird.
As they cool, she lays a stick onto them, and then carefully pops them off the wax board when they’re ready.  Kids love these.
Another treat for Jenne!  This is a rice cake that Liz said was her favorite when she was little.  It’s from the Song Dynasty.  I asked her a few times what the stuff in the middle was, but she just giggled.  (She’s really good about giving me the history of so many things here, but sometimes when I ask her a question that she thinks is silly- like, “Hey, what’s our itinerary for the trip to Hainan Island next week?”, she just laughs.)  It looked a lot like refried beans, but I think it might have been some sort of pureed prune and sugar mixture?
A woman weaving silk “paintings.”  Very pretty.
A king! At this stand, you can put on traditional costumes and get your picture taken.  
(Exactly like the fair.)
This guy was painting pictures inside these hollowed out marbles.  He must have the patience of a monk. 
Look how pretty these are!
More sugar creations.  This man was turning this hot liquid sugar into…
These!  Liz said this is a very traditional snack and art form.
The Year of the Rabbit!  Everything, everything, everything is rabbits.
A tea house.  I’ve mentioned before that Hangzhou is known for its Dragon Well tea; when the weather gets warm, I plan to visit one of these out in the country.  I think it’s sort of like going to a vineyard: you get to enjoy the tea where it’s harvested.
As we passed this shop, Liz lowered her voice to a whisper and explained that it is a place where you buy representations of earthly things that you want your deceased relatives and friends to have in the afterlife.  That silver-y chain on the door represents money.  These things are then cremated with the deceased.  I got a little chill here.
We also passed this medicine shop that sold mostly ginseng.  Being from Wausau, WI, I have some familiarity with the properties of ginseng, but Chinese people believe that drinking from the root will cure anything and can save people from death.  Liz told me that it saved her grandmother when she was very sick.  There was one root, under glass, that cost 117,800RMB.  Which is almost $18,000.  I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of it.  Liz said it was so expensive because it was so old. 
These next pictures are all taken of me (and one little girl) in front of this art exhibit on Hefang Road.  There are four big stone panels that represent cutaways of a traditional Hangzhounese home.  Pretty cool.
Going through the fake door.
Washing my hands at the fake faucet.
Climbing the fake stairs.
Riding my fake bike.
I included this picture because this little girl was so cute, but it also shows a wider perspective of the art.  Each panel is sort of a like a flat diorama. (<–I could not figure out for the life of me how to spell that word.  I had to look it up!)
Here’s a real traditional Hangzhounese home, right off of Hefang Road.  It’s preserved; no one is allowed to live here.
This block has similar preserved homes.  Liz said that she and Mr. Jiao took some wedding pictures here.  You better believe I’m going to get my hands on those pictures.  I told her she has to show them to me sometime.
Hefang Road at dusk.
Walking under this arch, where some kind of military skirmish happened (I wish I could remember which one, but some of the details of yesterday are a little fuzzy), took us back to West Lake.
After we had turned off Hefang Road, Liz said, “Follow me!” and took off at her breakneck pace.  We walked through yet another unfamiliar part of town, and we ended up at…a massage parlor.  “Jenne, I would like to invite you to have a massage!”  Well, don’t mind if I do!  Her timing could not have been better.  We were guided into a small, warm, softly-lit room with big squashy chairs and ottomans, given hot tea, and told to relax.  Um, not a problem.
My masseuse was a man because his energy balances mine to uphold the concept of yin-yang. (Men, you would have a woman for the same reason.)  I’ve only had two formal massages ever in my whole life, and this was not like either one of them.  First, I got to keep my clothes on, which was nice.  Second, it was all based around acupuncture points.  Third, it was sort of…dynamic.  Like, for part of it, he pulled and rotated my arms in different directions, almost like a chiropractor.  At one point, he put a pillow over his lap, had me sit in front of him, and then pulled me backwards so he could use his knees and legs on my lower back.  And when he got to my legs, he used two rubber mallets and skipped up and down my calves and shins and feet like a xylophone player.  This is when he said something in Chinese to Liz, who turned to me and said, “He says you have a bad waist.”  I was a bit taken aback.  (Oh really? Tell him I don’t like him either.)  “He can tell in your feet that you carry stress in your waist and your lower back.” Ah, well that’s different, then.  And probably true.  Sidebar: I am really glad that my Chinese physical didn’t ask anything about my waist, because I might not be sitting here, telling this story!
The massage was wacky.  And awesome.  And best of all (well, for the person on the receiving end anyway), really, really cheap.  40RMB for an hour, and because no one in China tips, it’s actually just 40RMB.  People, that is about $6.  I could get a massage at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every day, for the rest of my time here.  Granted, at $6, a massage is about 3 times as much as my normal meals cost, but I think it’s worth the indulgence.
Refreshed and rested after the massage, we headed back to West Lake.
Dragon Boat by day.

Dragon Boat by night.
To end our day, we found a bench to sit on to watch the fountain show at West Lake.  I’m crossing my fingers that this video works, because with the fireworks in the background, it was pretty cool to watch.

And afterwards, finally, finally, it was time to go home.  Liz laughed in the car because she said she was impressed that I could keep up with her all day, but that she wanted to show me the city she is so proud to be from.  I told her she’s the best host I could hope for and that I’m beyond thankful for her friendship. 
Then she said her husband will think she is crazy for staying out all day and night, and that might make 2 of us, but I love her crazy.  Best Chinese friend ever.

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