This weekend, Greg and I took a road trip with Kenny to the city of Hangzhou. Hangzhou is about a 2.5 hour drive from Shanghai and is considered to be the Happiest Place in China. There is an old Chinese saying
生在苏州, 活在杭州, 吃在广州, 死在柳州
“Be born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, die in Liuzhou.”
The meaning here states that Suzhou is known for its beautiful and highly educated people. Hangzhou for its scenery. Guangzhou for its food and Liuzhou for its wooden coffins. Yikes.
I’m almost sure, I’m going to hear from my Chinese co-workers on Monday after reading this, as they will dispute where the best place to be born, live and eat. Seems ancestral heritage and knowing where to the find the best food comes with a real sense of pride. Square Melons. Try discussing the same topics with a Texan.
The big attraction to Hangzhou is West Lake, a fresh water lake that boasts ancient pagodas, temples and gardens.
West Lake is surrounded by mountains on 3 sides and Hangzhou city on the other. The bamboo covered walking paths around the lake is 15k or about 10 miles. It can be longer if you chose to take some of the side paths.
We took off for our walk as soon as we arrived, late Friday afternoon. Kenny walks a 10k every day. A walk in the morning and a walk in the evening. He’s a fast walker. He can walk the loop in about 2 hours. Something he was proud to share with Greg and I. I think he quickly realized we weren’t going to break any records when we kept stopping to take pictures, ask questions about the buildings and take in some good people watching.
Near our hotel was the best people watching. There were several live performances, dance lessons, of course tai chi and a few weddings. We first heard a high pitched, Mariah Carey”ish” voice. As we got closer to the scene, we saw her. She seemed to own the microphone and was more or less driving the crowds away from the performance. I felt sorry for the guys in the band. When there was a break in the lyrics, the music from the instruments was actually very soothing.
You could rent bikes to ride around the lake. Pretty, bright colored bikes with bells attached to warn walkers on their approach. When we arrived at the bike rental place, I went over to inspect them. They looked like miniature bikes or toys. The seat just reached between my knee and my thigh. No chance we could fit on any of them.
As we made our way around the lake, we started asking Kenny some questions. Things we were curious about. Like why do people walk backwards? Yes. It’s true. We’ve seen people by our apartment and again at West Lake walking backwards. Not turning their heads to see where they are going but walking in clean strides, arms swinging, walking backwards. Kenny shared that if a person has neck problems, they should exercise by walking backwards. It strengthens the neck.
As we continued on, we saw a couple ahead of us and every other step they put their hands out straight in front of them, chest high and clapped.
He said that clapping while walking is good for your digestive system. He shared that people with digestive issues should clap their hands while walking. I whispered to Greg “I think they’re clapping to cover up the sounds of their digestive systems.”
That makes more sense doesn’t it?
I took a short break from asking all my questions to enjoy the beautiful sights along the way. The air was clear, the sun was shinning and we were shaded by the bamboo. It was such a great break from the big city life of Shanghai. It’s funny to think that a break or a get away to a town of 8.5 million people can be that different, but trust me, you can tell when you’re getting away from 20 million people, the noise and the pollution of a big city.
Across the lake stood the Leifeng Pagoda. A beautiful structure that stood above the trees. It seems the original Pagoda was built in 975 AD. During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), Hangzhou was attacked by Japanese Pirates and the wood portion of the Pagoda was burned leaving only the brick skeleton. Later, due to superstitions that the brick powder could repel illness, many people stole the bricks from the tower to grind into powder. The Leifeng Pagoda collapsed in 1924 and was rebuilt in 2002.
There were several koi ponds along the way. We stopped to look and I was surprised to see how many turtles were in the ponds. I asked Kenny if he’s ever eaten turtle, thinking this might be something we could connect on as I’ve had turtle soup while on a trip to New Orleans.
Wrong. Kenny seemed a bit put off and shared that in Buddhism, turtle is a sign of longevity. His family owns 3, one for each family member. Embarrassed, I could not change the topic fast enough.
Just up ahead of us was this lovely couple walking with smiles on their faces, greeting people as they passed. I noticed they were both wearing NIKE.
I had Greg and Kenny doing a shoe count with me as we walked. Never not working, we saw 3 runners total. 2 were wearing NIKE and 1 was not. A lot of the younger people were wearing NIKE so when I saw this older couple sporting the brand we had to talk. Kenny shared with them I worked for NIKE.
They both put their hands together and he said “NIKE good.” He shared that they were both 80 yrs old. They walk 2 times a day. 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. He did share with me that his shirt was not NIKE. I loved it.
At dinner that night, Kenny shared some insights on good health and eating. He said the only alcohol he drinks is red wine. He only has vegetables at dinner. He eats fish, pork and chicken at lunch giving the body enough time to digest. Greg and I were listening carefully as we ate our sweet and sour pork ribs and drank a cold beer.
He said to only drink hot or warm water. Never cold and never ice. It’s too hard on your system. He said that drinking green tea calms you and lowers your blood pressure. He shared several times the importance of walking in the evening.
When I shared with him about my sleep issues, I only sleep about 4 hours a night, we learned that soaking your feet and having your spouse wash them is good for circulation and a better nights sleep.
I actually looked into this and learned that in Chinese medicine, soaking your feet every night will draw your overactive mind back into your body and promote mental relaxation.
So here’s my take away from spending time with my new spiritual, mental and physical advisor Kenny.
Drink hot water. Walk. Walk backwards for neck problems. Clap you hands while walking for any digestive issues. Walk. Drink red wine. Eat any proteins or meat at lunch. Only eat vegetables at night. Walk. Drink the powder of bricks to ward of illnesses. Wait. That wasn’t advice from Kenny. Scratch that. Soak your feet at night and have Greg wash them. Drink green tea instead of coffee. And never, ever eat turtle.