We arrived kind of exhausted after we had seen Nanxun that morning, so we rested and watched really weird Chinese teenage vampire soap opera TV. Wow. Then we made our way to the nearest HappyCow listing, the Qing Xin Vegetarian buffet at a near-ish temple complex, about 30 minutes walk away through the forest. It's getting dark earlier now - no more northern Russia endless sunshine! - so that was a little rough at times with the streets not lit well, but we found the complex it was in - it had a KFC, a Pizza Hut, and two Starbucks! And lots of Chinese restaurants, of course. We queued up the name of the vegetarian buffet in Chinese and showed it to a lady in a convenience store, who helpfully showed us a staircase in the middle of the shopping center and pointed up. Thanks lady! We bought our drinks and stuff from her whenever we were nearby as thanks.
Unfortunately Qing Xin seemed to be closing down! It was only 6:30pm or so! Darn. A nice lady who worked there tried to communicate that it was shutting soon, but that I could take food from the 8 or so trays that still had some food in them. So, okay! I was hungry and we wouldn't find anything else probably for an hour so I'll eat the remnants of the monks' dinner happily! The few dishes had enough to make a pretty decent plate of food, so it was fine. I scrounged up enough vegetables and tofu to be balanced, and then took a lot of this amazing thick noodle dish that I'm obsessed with now. It was sad to see rows and rows and rows of the food display empty, but we were coming back the next day to see the actual temples nearby, so we planned on coming back right when it opened for lunch! Yay! I finished my portion and went to find the nice lady to pay, and she motioned that I didn't have to pay because I just took the scraps and it wasn't the full thing. Sooo nice! I was like really? What country is this? Love her.
After our great meal, we bought tickets for the temple grounds so we could see Lingyin Temple, the most famous one, and all the other temples on the grounds. Neither the book nor the ticket lady for the temple grounds told us this, but you need SEPARATE tickets for Lingyin Temple. See I DO give helpful tips YOU'RE WELCOME. Anyway, they aren't that expensive and it's worth it to see all of this because there aren't that many sights in Hangzhou besides exploring the natural beauty. And by visiting these temples, you are seeing some serious natural beauty simultaneously!
So Lingyin is Hangzhou's most famous Buddhist temple, which I guess is why it's the only one on the grounds with a separate entry ticket. It was built in 326 but what's there now is not the original - it was destroyed and rebuilt 16 times! There's lots of grand Buddha et al. statues, including a grand one that's 20 meters high and built from camphor wood. Lingyin is a pretty pleasant temple and even has a vegetarian noodle restaurant onsite.
Other than that, it was a nice visit. It requires several hours to see even part of what's out here. I think I enjoyed the Yongfu temple up at the top of the grounds the most, which has a short climb to a viewing platform of the lake. We were excited for that, but the lake was still far away so it's like a baby view.
My favorite thing in Hangzhou though was probably walking to and around West Lake. It's really beautiful. And yes it's super crowded with Chinese tourists who don't know how to walk in public, but it's worth it.
But that wasn't even my favorite find of this center, because next door was a little shop selling a Chinese sort of pirozhok, the Russian stuffed bread rolls. I confirmed with the few important words I learned which were vegetarian, and got a cabbage filled one. I really should have gotten 100 of them and somehow froze them and shipped them to London for studying, or just eaten 100 immediately, because they were one of the best things ever. I was obsessed. They were just perfect. Dammit I want one now. I have to learn how to make pirozhki when home. I will blog about it if I do.
We kept walking through the beautiful waterfront for awhile until we reached the causeway that would let us cross part of the lake. It was so fun!
The second was decent, but it wasn't a Gong Cha or Coco (the famous chains) but a 1Tea, which I really like now, but I didn't know then (my first from them) that when you say zero sugar to them (who am I kidding - I mean when you point to the zero sugar option on the menu), it actually IS zero sugar (at the others, it's still sweet!). And I got a lemon tea drink, so it was suuuper sour and hard to enjoy the bubbles.
But then we found a third! And it was a Gong Cha! It was too sweet of course and I was suuuper sick from having so much tea in such a short period but I couldn't turn it down!
I also got a big ass plate of broccoli with some mushrooms in vegetarian oyster sauce, mostly because I need a big plate of greens as often as possible, but also because veggie oyster sauce! So fun! It was great, as most broccoli is. Then I got the Taiwan-style sauteed rice noodles, with veggie meat, cabbage, carrot, and mushrooms. It didn't have as much of the non-noodle parts as the menu picture suggested, but still, really good!
Almost embarrassed to share the next picture, but come on, you know me - if there's one on the menu when I'm traveling, I'm GONNA get it:
Lastly, we got the most inventive, delicious, and all around amazing dish on the menu. Okay that's a bold statement because as always in Chinese vegetarian restaurants the menu was 1000 pages long, and we got five things only, but this was off the charts. It was just called Golden Suncake, and the ingredients on the menu said "green bean, pumpkin, and soy protein". I had no idea what we'd get, despite the picture, which was very vague and sort of dumpling looking. What came out, was a vegan replica of a fried egg, with a mashed pumpkin center. Not just any fried egg. The most delicious one ever. It was PERFECTION. Eggy and the perfect texture but without being too weirdly gross eggy, and with that pumpkin yolk part? Ridiculously good. Also TELL ME how this is made of green beans?!