Xixing Ancient Town, Binjiang District, Hangzhou

Siqi and I went with his parents for a walk in Xixing Ancient Town. It’s a historic neighborhood surrounding an old canal that used to be important. A couple of old houses have been renovated and decorated as trendy coffee shops, and we saw a few people posing for photos on an old bridge like tourists, but it’s largely still a pretty quiet residential neighborhood (according to the Wikipedia page for Binjiang, inhabited since the Spring and Autumn period, which ended in 481 BCE), complete with unmentionables and other laundry hanging out to dry. There are a few signs in Chinese and English describing the landmarks.

See below for 18 photos from our stroll.

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A Stroll by Nan Hu

It was a Saturday. Siqi and I took a walk near where we live.

Looks pretty dense and urban, right?

Yes and no! Yuhang District is developing so fast it makes my head spin. And there were already a lot of these tall housing blocks in the town of Yuhang before the latest wave of tech company offices and transportation infrastructure got built. But Zhejiang Lab, where I work, was plonked down in the middle of a bunch of farms on the other side of Nan Hu (South Lake).

I commute from one side of the lake to the other five days a week. It takes about 20 minutes by car. Siqi drives me or I summon a car and driver using an app, which costs 15 to 25 rmb (3 to 5 Singapore dollars, 2 to 4 US dollars).

Now that they’ve opened up a bike and pedestrian path beside the lake on the east side, we can actually try to enjoy living near this lake. Eventually I think they’ll build a path that goes all the way around.

See below for 13 photos from the peaceful water’s edge.

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Tirana, Albania (Day 1, afternoon)

Albania was constitutionally atheist under communist rule and religious people suffered persecution. Now, religion is back. On my first afternoon in Tirana, on my wanderings, I saw a new church, an old mosque that somehow survived, and a mosque so new it hasn’t opened yet.

See below to find out who the guy on the horse is and see photos of:

  • Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral
  • Skanderbeg Square
  • Et’hem Bey Mosque and the Clock Tower
  • Toptani Mall
  • Toptani Castle
  • Namazgah Mosque (and Downtown One)

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Tirana, Albania (Day 1, morning)

When I woke up in Tirana, I had a vague plan to walk around and see some of the sites I’d seen in a couple of listicles on my phone in the airport while waiting to board the plane in Frankfurt. I had no idea just how far I’d walk, or how much I’d see!

Luckily, the hotel was right in the city center, and the weather was fantastic: a little cold, but amazingly bright and sunny, and I saw in real life almost everything the internet told me to look for.

See below for photos of:

  • Tirana Marriott Hotel, Air Albania Stadium, and some university buildings
  • Dëshmorët e Kombit Boulevard
  • The Pyramid of Tirana
  • The Lana River at Dëshmorët e Kombit Boulevard
  • Rinia Park and the Taiwan Center

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A Trip from Hangzhou, China to Tirana, Albania

We did not go to Albania on a train. That was just the first part of a long journey!

I made this on https://www.greatcirclemap.com/. (Yeah, we flew over Russia…)

For the first time in a long time, I got on a plane (two planes, actually) to go somewhere for fun that wasn’t my hometown. But first I got in a taxi, and on a train, and in another taxi, and spent the night in an airport hotel, and took a shuttle bus, lol.

Why Albania? Siqi was invited to a workshop, and I decided to take leave from work and go too. I’d never been to Albania!

We left on the evening of Tuesday, January 23 and returned in the afternoon on Monday, January 29. We had three full days in Albania, which I’m posting about separately, and then we did the whole journey again in reverse.

See below for more on the journey from Hangzhou (to Shanghai to Frankfurt) to Tirana, Albania.

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Flowers at Zhejiang Lab Nanhu Campus

I posted about the trees that bloomed at the start of spring. Here are some non-tree flowers that came along subsequently. I’m astonished at the beauty and variety! There are roses, irises, lotuses, and many kinds I don’t know the names of. It’s so good to be able to walk around and just look at this stuff. There’s a lot to see.

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The Road to Suzhou

Every place is a place, and connecting places, there are roads. Along the roads, there are trees, plants, buildings, bridges, lights, power lines, signs, and maybe animals. There are millions of combinations of things you can see out the window of a car. And if you’re not driving, you can take photos. Which is what I did on the road to Suzhou.

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Suzhou

My boyfriend Siqi drove us to Suzhou for a short vacation when we had a long weekend for the Dragon Boat Festival national holiday here in China. Suzhou is famous for “Venice-like” water towns, ancient residential complexes with exquisitely landscaped courtyard gardens, and the city museum adjacent to the city’s most famous garden.

We didn’t plan very far in advance—in fact, we didn’t plan much at all—but we still enjoyed our time. The main tourist sites were completely booked and/or full of people, but we were lucky with the weather, and were able to amuse ourselves just fine by walking around in the historic district. Now that we’re more familiar with Suzhou’s geography, we know where to go when we go back, which is easy to do since Suzhou is just next door to Hangzhou.

I took photos mainly of:

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