Sail through a mesmerizing sea of white-and-silver reeds
A Hangzhou-style gondola glides across the water, passing across a stretch of snowy reeds, while ducks relax close by. A flock of birds flies by. This is a typical winter view in the Xixi Wetland.
The Xixi Wetland Snowy Reeds Festival is underway until January 1. The beginning of the festival was marked by a traditional ceremony honoring the 1,044 writers who have been venerated in the ancestral hall for a century.
The large feather-like flowers of reeds bloom at this time of the year, and birds appear to be everywhere. Taking a boat into the inner marsh and lingering over the reeds shimmering in the winter breeze is a classic Hangzhou pastime.
Organizers have set up several routes for visitors to ply their boats among the white-and-silver reeds. Both electric boats and rowing boats have been made available for this year's festival.
A rowboat can carry a maximum of six people. It runs from the piers at Zhoujia Village and Meizhu Pavilion to the pier at Qiuxue Nunnery. The round trip is open from 8:30am to 4pm.
The nunnery was founded during the Song Dynasty (960–1279) and was named after a Tang Dynasty (618–907) poem. Visitors to the nunnery can admire 24 hectares of blossoming reeds of three species, namely, dilu (狄芦), luzhu (芦竹), and luwei (芦苇).
On sunny days, their seed heads catch the gold of the setting sun as they disperse in the breeze. People in the rowboat can hear the oars paddling in the water.
The round trip for electric boats begins at the wetland's north gate pier, continues through two distinct watercourses, and concludes at Qiuxue Nunnery. It's open from 9am to 4:30pm. People can enjoy the snowflake-like dilu flowers along the banks.
A traditional sizhu band will perform at the nunnery on Saturdays. Sizhu (丝竹), which translates as "silk and bamboo," is a term used to describe traditional Chinese string and woodwind instruments.
The nunnery is adorned with Chinese-style art installations, and visitors are advised to dress up in traditional dresses such as hanfu and qipao to enjoy the reed marshes in an "ancient setting."
Xialong Shoal, which is located across from the nunnery, features a huge area of verbenas in full bloom. The shoal is known for its kaleidoscope of colors.
Throughout the four seasons, the area is painted in a mixture of yellow, orange, red and gold by maples, cornflowers, sunflowers and persimmon fruit.
In addition to the reed festival, the annual Xixi Dried Pond Festival is also about to begin.
The locals drain away the water, pile up silt at the water banks, and catch fish. Since the fish are in the marshes for a year, winter is the best time of the year to enjoy them.
Fishing gear is available for hire, including waterproof pants and backpacks. If they manage to catch fish after digging through the sludge, they can cook it according to their preference at local family-run restaurants.
On weekends, vendors will set up food stalls and sell seafood and fish ball soup. The Yanshui Yuzhuang Restaurant at the Xixi Wetland offers a wide variety of regional cuisine made with fresh fish and vegetables.
The 18th Yangguo Festival is a must-see if you're a fan of red meat over freshwater fish. Wintertime mutton meals have been prepared at Yangguo Village, not far from Xixi.
The flavor, fragrance and tenderness of Yangguo's red-braised mutton are well known. Over the past 16 years, about 5 million tourists have flocked to the village to sample its appetizing dishes.
From November 10 until the Chinese New Year, the villagers will serve three different types of meals: a small pot good for three people costs 300 yuan (US$42.1), a medium-sized pot for three to six people costs 600 yuan, and a large pot for up to 10 people costs 860 yuan.