Hangzhou is picture postcard perfect. The popular Chinese city south of Shanghai boasts beautifully manicured gardens bordering its expansive lake, and the fragrant blossoms of its seasonal flowers lure visitors from far and wide.
Sunlight dances off the rippling waters, and the surrounding gardens offer a kaleidoscope of colour in the warmer months. Drops of fresh snow on West Lake convert the majestic body of water into a winter wonderland.
West Lake invites wandering. Stroll along its banks and admire the flowers, or stop to picnic at its shores. Waterborne craft ply its waters for an immersive experience.
Evenings promise yet more visual splendour. During warmer months, the lake comes alive at dusk with a wonderful light show featuring shooting fountains and an uplifting soundtrack.
Nearby Xixi National Wetland Park offers yet more beauty. The vast network of marshes, lakes and ponds plays host to a multitude of birds and wildlife and holds enough treasures to entertain visitors for hours or an entire day.
Of course, when something is so beautiful, it must be protected. This explains the abundance of public advisory billboards scattered throughout the city.
Billboards featuring cartoon like characters warn locals and visitors to avoid unsavoury habits such as smoking, spitting, bribery and traffic violations.
The anti-smoking message isn’t working. China is awash with cigarette butts and the stench of cheap Chinese tobacco. Smoking is banned in many places, but tolerated everywhere. Spitting is just as prevalent, and ignoring traffic violations seems to be something of a national sport.
The bribery billboard is interesting. The message is sound, but the Chinese man in the image seems to be accepting a bribe from a foreigner. Does this mean that only foreigners would dare offer a bribe in China? Also, the foreigner has red hair. Are red heads less trustworthy?
The only message that appears to be cutting through to its audience is this one:
Chinese people are extremely patriotic. They don’t always obey the law (see above) but they are fervently patriotic and will defend their national honour with passion and vigour.
At least in the case of Hangzhou, they have something of which to be proud.