Night cruises a popular way to enjoy West Lake

Wu Huixin
From March 22, visitors can enjoy spring breezes and evening landscape on night cruises on the West Lake.
Wu Huixin
Night cruises a popular way to enjoy West Lake
Ti Gong

Taking a night cruise can help visitors avoid the crowds.

It is the ideal season to cruise on the gently-murmuring West Lake as magnolia blooms and cherry blossoms reflect in the water. From March 22, visitors can enjoy the spring breezes and evening landscape on the night boats.

Night cruises have been a popular tradition on the West Lake, which avoids the jammed traffic around the lake, offering tourists a much more tranquil experience. Similar cruises have been loved throughout history for their pastoral views, as seen in many ancient ink-wash paintings and archival records.

This year, the committee of the scenic area has launched four types of cruises geared toward different visitors. The first route has a Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) culture theme.

Passengers can board a boat at the pier of No. 5 Park from 6:30pm to 9pm from Sunday through Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, the service lasts until 9:30pm. Boat tickets cost 90 yuan (US$12.47) per person and 45 yuan for children between 1.2 and 1.5 meters, and includes a package of gifts for each passenger. Passage is free for children below 1.2 meters.

Night cruises a popular way to enjoy West Lake

The route traces Bai Causeway, Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake, Su Causeway, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, Leifeng Pagoda, and Orioles Singing in the Willow Garden. Passengers can choose from two luxury night cruise boats, the Quanrao or the Baoshi.

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 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 The boat designers researched historical documents about the imperial boats of that period and designed the vessel by integrating Southern Song Dynasty aesthetics with modern conveniences.

The second cruise is available at the pier of No. 1 Park, with the same route, service time and ticket prices of the first cruise, but offers five different boats, the Yujin, Danqing, Wangzuo, Liuhui and Zhihan.

Among them, the Yujin is the latest boat launched last December. It is a large phoenix boat inspired by the Yuhuang Mountain where the ancient imperial city of the Southern Song Dynasty was nestled.

Yuhuang means "jade phoenix" in Chinese. The interior decor of the ship shows the designer's ingenuity. All the paintings, furniture and utensils feature classical Southern Song Dynasty aesthetics.

Passengers can watch authentic Jiangan sizhu music performances on the boat. Sizhu, literally meaning "silk and bamboo," refers to the traditional Chinese stringed and woodwind instruments.

The third cruise is available from the piers of No. 2 Park and the Hangzhou Children's Palace. Although the boats are less luxurious than those for the previous two cruises, tickets are only 50 yuan per adult and 25 yuan for children measuring between 1.2 to 1.5 meters. The service time and route are the same as the previous two cruises.

The last cruise is a chartered boat for hotels, restaurants and businesses. Dial 0571-87969090 to customize your own cruise route. The price varies according to the boat used.

Night cruises are impacted by weather conditions so visitors are recommended to check the service times beforehand through the Zhangshang Xihu (West Lake on the Palm) app or the official WeChat accounts of Hangzhou Fenghuangshan Hill and the West Lake Scenic Area.

In ancient times, people would often linger on the lake in boats. Floating on the serene water was a joy for the body and mind, which was often eulogized by poets throughout China's dynasties.

In addition to the night cruises, visitors could also board antique-style luxury boats, rowboats and sculls operated by boatmen during the daytime.

Each year around the Qingming Festival, the blossoms on the lakeside are at their peak. Sites where visitors can immerse themselves in the aromatic "sea of flowers" are swarmed with tourists, and taking a lake cruise can help visitors avoid the crowds.

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