Hangzhou.

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.

Getting Around in China.

How do you get where you need to be in China? How do you negotiate your way around a country of more than one billion people?

You can cram yourself into an overcrowded bus. You can squeeze your way into the back door and feel it close on you as you are sandwiched between the door and your fellow passengers. Be sure to pass your 1 or 2 yuan bill to the front of the bus via the rest of the passengers. You never know which day of the year an inspector will board the bus, and if you’re found to have ridden without paying, the penalty is severe.

You could avoid paying altogether if you copy Tim. Tim, nice but dim, was a friendly but hapless ‘Gap’ student working at a private school in China, who discovered a novel way to travel for free. He ‘scanned’ his 1 yuan note on the ticket machine. He didn’t have a transport card to scan, and he knew that money sufficed in lieu of a card, so he scanned his money. It worked, until someone pointed out that waving a note over the scanner does not constitute payment.

The standard issue communist-era utility vehicle is a reliable option. Functional, easy to park, no-frills transport which was once ubiquitous on the streets of China. If you painted it blue, the three-wheeled mobile would look a lot like Mr. Bean’s nemesis.

Another mode of transport which was even more ubiquitous on the streets of China is the bicycle. Sturdy, heavy cumbersome bikes that carried citizens and their possessions from one place to another and formed a sea of two-wheeled humanity. The car has largely replaced the bicycle as Capitalist-Communism replaced Socialism, but the humble bicycle is still serving its purpose for many citizens.

You could drive a private car. If you can afford one, and if you’re willing to negotiate the notoriously dangerous traffic and ‘creative’ driving which always seems to find its way onto ‘World’s Craziest Drivers’

In Harbin, northern China, walking is not always an option in winter. The daytime temperature drops below zero and after the snow melts, then snaps cold again, the footpaths turn into ice rinks. Its better to take a taxi, and to take whatever taxi you can find. Even if that taxi is fuelled by coal. Not refined coal transformed into fuel and dispensed at a bowser of some description, but pure coal. Coal that is shovelled into the engine by the driver while he is driving. Coal that is inserted straight into a furnace sitting by the driver’s feet, and which exits the vehicle via a chimney running along the side of the vehicle.

Sorry I don’t have a photo. I was afraid my fingers would fall off if I’d removed my gloves to extract the camera from my pocket.

If you’re averse to suffocating on the fumes of coal-powered taxi, you could progress a few decades into a gas-powered taxi. You’ll have to get out of the taxi, though, when it fills up at the gas station. Sitting in the taxi while it fills up is too big a risk, in case the taxi blows up, but apparently standing one metre away from the taxi, while the driver smokes a cigarette and plays on his phone, is perfectly safe.

Advance a few more decades and you can travel in comfort and style in a far more sustainable vehicle. Hop on one of the tourist buses in Hangzhou and admire the impossibly beautifully lakes and gardens of this popular city.

Sun protection is vital. Protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays and prevent skin cancer. As you’re in China, it’s also imperative that you avoid a tan because you will never land yourself a wealthy husband unless you have fair skin. Also, it is considered chivalrous to provide comfortable seating for your female passengers.

A visor at the front of the vehicle doesn’t just look great, it also protects your eyes from the dust, and keeps your perm in place.

If you have a few goats to transfer from one place to another, why walk them through the busy streets of Xiamen? After all, if you can hire an Uber for your pet dog, why can’t you carry goats in a minivan?

What if you find yourself in a canal city? If you need to traverse a canal city such as Suzhou, which formed part of the enormous canal system that stretched from northern to southern China, how would you best get around? Driving could prove slow and frustrating in a city of narrow crowded streets, so why not take to the water, for a faster and more peaceful trip, perhaps in the company of some cormorants.

At times, speed is of the essence, and a water-borne craft with an outboard motor is the only vehicle which will suffice. Especially if you’re chasing the catch of the day or nipping between Gulangyu and the mainland.