West Lake boat cruises provide serene water views away from the crowds
Ducks paddle on gently-murmuring currents, and water reeds rustle as magnolia blooms and cherry blossoms reflect in the water. It is the ideal season to cruise on the West Lake, enjoying the spring breezes stroking your face as well as the water views and surrounding landscape while filling your lungs with fresh air.
Night cruises on the West Lake started from March 27 this year, one month earlier than in previous years. A popular tradition in Hangzhou, similar cruises have been much-loved throughout history for their idyllic views, as seen in many ancient ink-wash paintings and archival records.
Passengers can choose from two luxury night cruise boats, the Quanrao (荃桡) and the Baoshi (宝石). Each departs from Hubin No. 5 Park.
The Quanrao is an impressive dragon boat, built based on a painting by Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) artist Wang Zhenpeng. The scenic area committee designed the boat as it would have appeared centuries ago in order to offer an elegant glimpse into a bygone era.
The second choice, the Baoshi, is a royal-style vessel featuring upturned eaves, engraved windows and painted beams, reflecting Song Dynasty (960-1279) elements. The boat designers researched historical documents about the imperial boats of that period and designed the vessel by integrating Song Dynasty aesthetics with modern conveniences.
Tickets cost 90 yuan (US$13) for adults and 45 yuan for children who measure 1.2 to 1.5 meters, and include a package of gifts for each passenger.
The routes begin at Hubin No. 5 Park, linking the Bai Causeway, Zhongshan Park, Su Causeway, Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon, Temple of King Qian and Hubin, before returning to the park.
Boating is traditionally one of the most popular ways to tour the West Lake, and gliding over the serene water can be a joy for both body and mind.
In addition to the antique-style luxury boats, Hangzhou's gondolas – rowboats and sculls operated by boatmen, are another traditional way to enjoy the lake.
A rowboat costs 150 yuan per hour, while sculls are priced at 180 yuan per hour. Different from the night cruises, these are only available during the daytime.
A rowboat can take a maximum of six passengers, while the sculls can take up to 11. The rowboats and sculls can be boarded from piers at Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor, Shangri-La Hotel, Zhongshan Park, Temple of King Qian, Hubin No. 1 Park and the Children's Palace.
The 3-kilometer-long Su Causeway, which is lined with peach trees and willows and crossed by six stone bridges, is considered a wanghong (Internet celebrity) during spring. From as far back as the Song Dynasty, "Spring on the Su Causeway" has been regarded as the best of the "Top 10 Sceneries of the West Lake."
Each year around the Qingming Festival, the blossoms on the lakeside trees are at their peak. Sites where visitors can immerse themselves in the aromatic "sea of flowers" are often swarmed with tourists, and taking a lake cruise can help visitors avoid the crowds.
Shanghai Daily highly recommends that visitors take a boat from the pier at Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor, from where the boatman can guide passengers to the Turtle Pond and Yuhuwan, two of the most picturesque hidden nooks on the West Lake.
Only the most experienced shutterbugs know of the two wonderlands secluded in lush vegetation on the western side of West Lake. They are still tranquil spaces because few people venture there. Now is the best time to observe clouds of peach and cherry blossoms, and immerse yourself in the heady bouquet of the other flowers there.
The Turtle Pond existed for centuries after a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) governor Yang Mengying dredged the pond, but it became silted up again. The pond got its name because a slope beside the pool looks like a turtle. Since most of this area is a wetland, visitors can find secluded pools and observe wildlife that differs from that in other parts of the lake.