Getting the hang of Hangzhou

Like other Chinese cities, Hangzhou endures its share of air pollution

With a population of nine million, Hangzhou is just one of countless, densely-populated Chinese cities. Or is it? Philip Chandler checks out Queenstown’s sister city during a recent visit.

Pulling up to our Marriott hotel, we spot a Bentley 4×4 in the carpark.

Looking around the foyer with its polished marble floor and opulence, the hotel screams five-star, but among Hangzhou’s 16 Marriotts, it’s apparently only a three-star.

Welcome, then, to a wealthy, sophisticated city that utterly defies the stereotypical image of China.

Although it might look like just another mushrooming Chinese metropolis, Queenstown’s sister city is both China’s tech hub and a tourist magnet.

Hangzhou’s best-known feature is the prosaically-named, smallish West Lake.

It’s famous for coming to life, literally, with a dazzling nighttime music, light and dance show called Enduring Memories of Hangzhou.

Queenstown mayor and mayoress Jim and Karen Boult at the G20 summit conference centre

Choreographed for the 2016 G20 summit, it features hundreds of performers who appear to walk and dance on water – the stage is in fact three centimetres under the water.

West Lake, along with the Grand Canal, are two World Heritage sites which help Hangzhou attract a staggering 100 million visitors a year, including about six million from overseas.

Study Queenstown’s Aaron Halstead, who joined last month’s Destination Queenstown-organised China Tourism Exchange, says Hangzhou is “a bit of a dichotomy”.

-Philip Chandler visited China with assistance from Auckland International Airport and DQ.

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