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Visit Hangzhou, China

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Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang Province and the local political, economic and cultural center. As the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, the city is located on the lower reaches of the Qiantang River in southeast China, a superior position in the Yangtze Delta and only 112 mi (180 km) from Shanghai.

The subtropical monsoon climate contributes to varied seasonal sceneries, making Hangzhou one of China's most popular travel destinations all the year round. The West Lake is undoubtedly the most renowned landmark, noted for the scenic beauty that blends naturally with many famous historical and cultural sites. The "Ten West Lake Prospects" selected from the most frequently visited attractions around the lake give travelers a panoramic view of the city’s highlights. Take a stroll along the causeway by the lake; you’ll feel the peaceful ethos of the city and better understand its time-honored fame as 'Heaven on Earth'.

Explore West Lake

West Lake is the heart of Hangzhou and one of China's most famous lakes. Walk around the colorful grounds, over bridges and above massive schools of koi. Take a private boat ride across the lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Return to the lake at night to see "Impression West Lake," a famous musical production performed by dancers seemingly floating across the water. (The stage is submerged a few inches below the surface.) The show was created by the director of the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so it's high caliber.

Get away in the wetlands

Hangzhou is a huge city, with 8.7 million residents. But you can truly escape into nature, right in the middle of the city. The Xixi Wetland Park is one of the most surprising destinations in Hangzhou. It's 40 square miles of lush vegetation and winding waterways in what used to be a small fishing village.

Today, it's a carefully-preserved natural space, home to 150 bird species. Some of the former houses are open to the public as museums and teahouses. Pro tip: Book a chartered boat ride through Xixi - you can't navigate it yourself without getting lost.

Tour a tea plantation

Imagine rolling hills of green tea trees, stretching as far as you can see. That's the Meijiawu Tea Plantation, where Hangzhou's famous Longjing green tea is grown. You can arrange a beautiful and educational tour of the 600-year-old farm, and learn about tea's important role in Chinese history. Wrap up the experience with an authentic tea ceremony - and you'll never drink a cup the same again. The plantation features a whopping 160 tea houses.

Visit a thousand-year-old temple

Hangzhou is a history buff's paradise. It's home to the Lingyin Temple, one of the world's oldest Zen temples. To get to the still-active temple, you'll walk past more than 400 huge, ornate carvings on the side of the mountain.

Climb the Leifeng Pagoda

A visit to a pagoda is a China must-do, and the Leifeng Pagoda is our favorite. It's awesome for its history - it was originally built in year 975, and rebuilt in 2002 - and it also provides a spectacular 360-degree view high above Hangzhou. If you go, wear comfortable shoes and bring bottled water. The climb up all those stairs is not easy, but the view is well worth it.

Surround yourself in silk

Hangzhou is located in China's main silk production province, which means you can find some of the world's finest silks here. See silk worms in action in the Xixi wetland museums, and then head to the Wensli Silk Museum, the largest silk museum in the world.

This museum provides a remarkably extensive display of silk throughout China's history. And at the end of the guided tour, you'll end in their silk shop, where you can buy scarves, lingerie, robes and silk accessories to take home. The museum's shop is more expensive than the street shops, but rightly so: their silks are superb and worth every penny.

Treat your taste buds

Chinese food is not like the Chinese food Americans know. There are four main schools of Chinese cooking. Hangzhou's is a bit sweet and, being coastal, heavy on the seafood. Hangzhou cooks also tend to prepare lots of delicious vegetables, and rice and tea are generally served alongside the food.

Not sure what to order? Look for a teahouse that serves "Buddha Jumps Over the Wall" soup. You'll love it. The Lakeside House, located right on West Lake, is one of the best places to dine in the city. The high-end food here is served up with some of the best views of the lake, too - day and night.