I am an animal protection expert and I am very interested in the ecology and behavior of various animals. Last week, I went to the West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China with my two friends Mandel Sonmerfield and Isabel Addison. The West Lake is a beautiful lake with a long history and culture. Our purpose was to observe the birds of the West Lake, learn about their species, habits and distribution. We brought night vision binoculars, because we wanted to see the birds’ activities at night. In addition to bird watching, we also wanted to experience the food of Hangzhou, taste the local specialties and snacks. This was a trip that had both learning and enjoyment, which gave us a deeper understanding and impression of the West Lake and Hangzhou.
In this article, I will share our experience and feelings of watching migratory birds and tasting delicious food by the West Lake for a week. I will introduce the places we went to, the birds we saw, the food we ate, and our evaluation and opinions on these things in chronological order. I hope that through my description, you can feel the charm of the West Lake and the flavor of Hangzhou, and also have more attention and support for bird protection.
Our trip started on Monday, when we took a plane to Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport. We had booked a homestay near Maojiabu online in advance. The landlord was a hospitable old lady who introduced us to the nearby attractions and food. After we put down our luggage, we went to Zui Bai Lou, a century-old Hangbang restaurant located in the Feilai Peak scenic area by the West Lake. We ordered West Lake vinegar fish, eight-treasure fish head soup, scallion oil noodles and other dishes. The taste was delicious and light, which made us enjoy it very much. After dinner, we walked along the West Lake, admiring the night lights and water views, and also used night vision binoculars to observe some waterfowl swimming on the water surface, such as mandarin ducks, common teal ducks and so on. These birds were clearly visible in the dark, which surprised us.
The next morning, we went to Pushe Design Style for breakfast. This is a coffee shop with creative design and environmental protection as its theme. There are many exquisite handicrafts and green plants inside. We ate soy milk fritters and salty soy milk. The taste was crispy and sweet-salty, very suitable for morning appetite. After that, we went to Santan Yinyue, which is the largest island on the West Lake and also a good place to observe winter migratory birds. We saw many kinds of waterfowl, resting or foraging on or around the island. The most impressive ones were cormorants and fairy terns. Cormorants are small waterfowl with gray-black feathers and good at diving for fish. They look like a small boat when swimming in the water, a small plane when flying in the air, and a small sculpture when resting on the shore. Fairy terns are larger waterfowl with white-gray feathers and good at hovering and diving in the air. They fly gracefully and confidently in the air, land lightly and agilely on the water surface, and stay gently and intimately on the island. We used night vision binoculars to carefully observe their appearance and behavior characteristics, and took many photos as souvenirs.
At noon, we ate noodles at a nearby noodle shop as lunch. This is one of Hangzhou people’s favorite noodles. Noodles are soup noodles made with knife-cut noodles, with ingredients such as shredded meat, fungus, cilantro, etc., with a rich but not greasy soup. Small wontons are small wontons wrapped with thin skin and meat or vegetable fillings. After being cooked, they are added with broth, scallions, sesame oil and other seasonings, with a light but delicious soup. These two kinds of noodles are very suitable for winter eating, which can warm the stomach and satisfy cravings.
After eating, we went to Sudi or Beili Lake to see if there were any other waterfowl migratory birds. We found some uncommon birds, such as magpie robins, spotted doves, white-headed mynas and so on. These birds are land birds, but they also move around the water, looking for food or habitat. We used night vision binoculars to observe their feather colors and calls, and recorded their distribution range and number.
In the evening, we went to Kuiyuan Restaurant for dinner. This is a century-old noodle restaurant located on Jiefang Road. We ordered shrimp eel noodles and glutinous rice palm, which are the signature dishes of Kuiyuan Restaurant. Shrimp eel noodles are noodles fried with fresh shrimp and eel, with seasonings such as scallions, ginger, garlic, etc. The taste is tender and spicy, making people drool. Glutinous rice palm is a dessert made with glutinous rice and red dates, osmanthus, etc. It looks like a palm, with a soft and sweet taste, making people memorable. After eating, we went back to the homestay to rest and prepare for the next day’s itinerary.
The next morning, we went to Chengtou Lane for breakfast. This is a thousand-year-old old street with many traditional snack shops and teahouses. We ate Baomei Shengjian and beef vermicelli, which are the specialty snacks of Chengtou Lane. Baomei Shengjian are pan-fried buns wrapped with meat or vegetable fillings. They are steamed in a pan until fluffy and crispy, then added with vinegar, chili and other seasonings. The taste is rich and juicy, making people want more. Beef vermicelli is a soup made with beef and vermicelli. It is stewed in a pressure cooker until soft and flavorful, then added with peppercorns, star anise and other spices. The taste is rich and spicy, making people warm and comfortable. After eating, we went to the Hangzhou Botanical Garden to see the land birds. This is a large botanical garden with many kinds of plants and flowers. We saw many kinds of land birds, moving or singing on the trees or grasslands. The most impressive ones were mallards and crested drongos. Mallards are medium-sized waterfowl with green-black feathers and good at swimming and diving in the water. They swim gracefully and freely in the water, rest quietly and gently on the shore, and fly quickly and flexibly in the air. Crested drongos are small songbirds with colorful feathers and good at jumping and hanging upside down on branches. They have a tuft of red feathers on their heads, like a small crown, very cute. Their tails have a pair of long feathers that can curl into a circle, very unique. Their calls are crisp and pleasant, like a string of silver bells, very beautiful. We used night vision binoculars to observe their colors and sounds.
At noon, we ate at Shanwai Shan in the botanical garden. This is a century-old Hangbang restaurant located on a small hill in the botanical garden. We ordered eight-treasure fish head soup, West Lake vinegar fish, glutinous rice ribs and other dishes. The taste was fresh and tender without losing flavor, making us praise endlessly. Eight-treasure fish head soup is a soup made with big silver carp head and eight ingredients (such as winter bamboo shoots, fungus, mushrooms, etc.). It is stewed in a pressure cooker until soft and flavorful, then added with starch sauce and scallions and other seasonings. The taste is rich but not greasy. West Lake vinegar fish is a dish made with live grass carp slices and vinegar, sugar and other seasonings. It is quickly stir-fried in a pot until cooked through, then added with ginger shreds and cilantro and other ingredients. The taste is sweet and sour but not fishy. Glutinous rice ribs are snacks made with glutinous rice and ribs. They are fried in a pot first then steamed until soft and crispy, then added with sweet bean sauce and sesame seeds and other seasonings. The taste is sweet-salty but not oily. After eating, we went to Xiwai Lake to see if there were any uncommon migratory birds. This is a more remote and quiet place, suitable for observing some hard-to-find birds. We found some rare birds, such as crested ibises, white-crowned forktails, red-billed leiothrixes and so on. These birds are all highly migratory birds, and they only stay in Hangzhou for a short time in spring and autumn. Their appearance and calls are very special, making us feel surprised and excited. We used night vision binoculars to observe their characteristics and habits, and recorded their migration routes and times.
In the evening, we went to Hefang Street for a stroll. This is a thousand-year-old commercial street with many characteristic shops and stalls. We ate Tianxing Lou’s scallion pancakes and Dingsheng cake, which are the specialty snacks of Hefang Street. Scallion pancakes are made with flour and water kneaded into dough, then added with scallions, salt and other seasonings and mixed well. Then they are fried in a flat pan until golden and crispy. The taste is spicy but not dry. Dingsheng cake is a cake made with glutinous rice flour and red dates, osmanthus, etc. It is steamed in a pot until soft and sweet, then cut into small pieces. The taste is sweet but not greasy. After eating, we went back to the homestay to rest and prepare for the third day’s itinerary.
The fourth morning, we went to Tanhua Temple Road for breakfast. This is a thousand-year-old ancient street with many ancient temples and nunnerys. We ate Jingfang Zhou’s sister’s shumai and small wontons, which are the specialty snacks of Tanhua Temple Road. Jingfang Zhou’s sister’s shumai are steamed buns wrapped with meat or vegetable fillings. They are steamed in a pot until full and soft, then added with vinegar, chili and other seasonings. The taste is tender and spicy, making people eat one after another. Small wontons are small wontons wrapped with thin skin and meat or vegetable fillings. After being cooked, they are added with broth, scallions, sesame oil and other seasonings, with a light but delicious soup. These two snacks are very suitable for morning eating, which can refresh and appetize. After eating, we went to the West Lake Museum to learn about the history and culture of the West Lake. This is a museum that shows the natural and cultural features of the West Lake. There are many precious cultural relics and pictures inside. We saw the formation process, change course, scenic spots, legends and stories of the West Lake, and had a deeper understanding and respect for the West Lake.
At noon, we ate at Zhiwei Guan near the museum. This is a century-old Hangbang restaurant located on Nanshan Road. We ordered clear soup fish balls, Dongpo pork, lotus root powder and other dishes. The taste was refreshing but not flavorless, making us amazed. Clear soup fish balls are fish balls made with grass carp meat and starch. They are boiled in a pot until elastic and transparent, then added with broth, ginger shreds and other seasonings. The taste is light but not fishy. Dongpo pork is a dish made with pork belly and yellow wine, soy sauce and other seasonings. It is fried in a pot first then braised until soft and flavorful, then added with rock sugar and scallion segments and other ingredients. The taste is sweet-salty but not oily. Lotus root powder is a noodle made with lotus root and starch. It is boiled in a pot until transparent and smooth, then added with sugar, osmanthus and other seasonings. The taste is sweet but not greasy.
In the afternoon, we went to see if there were any birds in the temple, such as white-necked crows, gray magpies, etc. These birds are urban birds that are accustomed to living with humans. White-necked crows are a kind of large, black-and-white, vocal birds that are good at imitating human voices. They fly freely in the temple, get along well with monks and tourists, and sometimes say some simple words that surprise and amuse people. Gray magpies are a kind of medium-sized, gray-and-white, vocal birds that are good at foraging and storing food on the ground. They run around in the temple, looking for food or treasures, and sometimes compete or share with other birds, which makes people curious and interesting. We observed their expressions and movements with night vision binoculars, and interacted and communicated with them.
In the evening, we went to A-Lin House Warm Tree Restaurant in the Lingyin Feilai Peak Scenic Area for dinner. This is a restaurant with creative dishes and environmental concepts as its theme, located on a small hill. We ordered sour cabbage black fish, cowboy ribs, soy sauce duck and other dishes. The taste was novel and traditional, which opened our eyes. Sour cabbage black fish is a soup made with black fish and sour cabbage. It is stewed in a pressure cooker until soft and flavorful, then added with chili, pepper and other spices. The taste is sour and spicy without being fishy. Cowboy ribs are snacks made with beef ribs and honey, sesame and other seasonings. They are baked in an oven until golden and crispy, then added with garlic paste, cilantro and other ingredients. The taste is sweet and salty without being greasy. Soy sauce duck is a dish made with duck and soybean paste, soy sauce and other seasonings. It is boiled and braised in a pot until tender and flavorful, then added with rock sugar, cinnamon and other spices. The taste is rich without being gamey. After eating, we went back to the homestay to rest and prepare for the fourth day’s itinerary.
On the fifth morning, we packed our luggage and prepared to leave Hangzhou. We had some simple breakfast near the homestay, such as fried dough sticks, soy milk, steamed buns, etc. Then we took a car to Hangzhou Zoo, which is a zoo that shows the living conditions and conservation awareness of various animals. There are many rare and endangered animals inside. We saw tigers, lions, elephants, pandas, giraffes and other animals, and learned more about their ecology and behavior. We also participated in some animal interaction and popular science activities, such as feeding, taking pictures, listening to lectures, etc., and gained more understanding and support for animal protection.
At noon, we had lunch at Shangri-La Hotel Hangzhou City Center Chinese Restaurant near the zoo. This is a Chinese restaurant with high-end dishes and quality service as its features, located on a high-rise building in the city center. We ordered Longjing shrimp, cat ears, sugar osmanthus and other dishes. The taste was exquisite without losing authenticity, which made us feel the elegance and taste of Hangzhou. Longjing shrimp is a dish made with fresh shrimp and Longjing tea leaves. It is stir-fried quickly in a pot until cooked through, then added with salt, chicken essence and other seasonings. The taste is fragrant without being fishy. Cat ears are made with flour and water kneaded into dough, then pinched by hand into small pancakes like cat ears. They are boiled in a pot until they float up, then added with broth, scallions, sesame oil and other seasonings. The taste is savory without being dry. Sugar osmanthus is a dessert made with osmanthus flowers and sugar. It is boiled in a pot until thickened, then added with rock sugar, osmanthus wine and other seasonings. The taste is sweet without being greasy. After eating, we took a car to Hangzhou Wild Animal World, which is a natural reserve that shows more wild animals. There are many primitive animals and natural landscapes inside. We saw wolves, leopards, deer, antelopes, hippos and other animals, and learned more about their survival and adaptation. We also took some sightseeing cars and cable cars to observe and experience the living environment and customs of the animals up close.
In the evening，we went back to the homestay to rest，and prepared for the fifth day’s itinerary.
This trip to West Lake gave us a lot of gains. We not only observed the birds of West Lake, learned about their types, habits and distribution, but also tasted the food of Hangzhou, experienced the local culture and customs. We were deeply impressed and nostalgic by the beauty of West Lake and the food of Hangzhou, and also paid more attention and support to bird protection. We thank West Lake and Hangzhou for providing us with such an opportunity to learn and enjoy, and also thank night vision binoculars for allowing us to see the birds’ activities at night. We hope to have the opportunity to come here again, discover more birds and food, and also hope that more people can care and protect the birds, so that they can live better in West Lake and Hangzhou.