There’s an old Chinese saying: “Heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below,” and it highlights just how idyllic Hangzhou can be. The city of 9 million is just 45 minutes from Shanghai by bullet train, but this mystical place feels like a world away. Chinese and international visitors flock here to experience West Lake, which is surrounded by greenery and dotted with intricately carved pavilions filled with longjing (green) tea from Hangzhou’s tea fields. It is a well-preserved locale, with natural beauty at nearly every turn — think lotus-covered ponds, gorgeous gardens, and banks of bamboo and willow trees. You can imagine how life once was here; modern-day explorers can discover Ch’ing dynasty houses, temples, pavilions and pagodas. Fine restaurants serving local cuisine and luxury hotels have given this city a contemporary edge without diminishing its ancient charm.