IP:220.* * *
1. Lake living
As you gaze upon Hangzhou's West Lake and its surrounding lush hillsides, you'll understand immediately why it's been a great source of inspiration for artists, poets and philosophers throughout Chinese history.
The mountain-fringed West Lake grounds are speckled with pagodas, pavilions, temples and gardens.
The entire site covers more than 12,000 acres and there are numerous paths around the lake.
A favorite starting point is Beishan Road, off which you'll see large patches of lotus blooms and leaves that seemingly stretch to the horizon.
On the other side of the road are historic mansions and villas.
To best experience the lake's charms, hike up to the hills in the early morning or at sunset.
While the rest of the country is moving from two wheels to four, cycling culture is thriving in Hangzhou.
The city developed China's first bike-sharing system in 2008 in an effort to alleviate traffic congestion.
It's since grown into the world's biggest -- and one of the world's best -- public bike systems.
You can hardly go a kilometer without passing a bike-sharing station.
Hangzhou residents have access to over 84,000 bikes scattered across 3,300 service spots. The bikes have taken more than 600 million trips in the past seven years.
Want to get in on the action?
You'll need a "Transportation Smart Card Z," which is designed for visitors. They're available at the Smart Card Center at 25 Ding'an Lu, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Show your ID and put in a deposit of 300 yuan and you're all set.
Bikes can be dropped off at any station any time of the day.
It costs 1 yuan ($0.15) for the first hour, 2 yuan for 2-3 hours and 3 yuan/hour if you use the bike longer than three hours.
3. Longjing tea
Hangzhou grows some of China's finest and most expensive green tea -- Longjing.
Every spring, before the traditional Qingming Festival, tea lovers from all over the country come to Longjing, a village just south of West Lake, for the first cut of top-quality tea.
During tea season -- late March and April -- you can smell the fresh aroma of the tea terraces, when leaves are picked and roasted in the village.
The village is open to the public and you can pick your own after getting permission from the local tea farmers.
As for how to brew it, Longjing leaves are delicate so the water can't be too hot -- around 90 C.
Freshly brewed Longjing tea has a yellow-greenish color and an aroma of chestnuts and cut grass.
Among the top places to experience the region's tea culture is Longjing Imperial Garden at the rear of the village.
The compound houses a classic Hangzhou garden where you can sip tea and dine.
Meanwhile, the National Tea Museum offers displays highlighting the history and techniques of tea making, as well as tea ceremonies.