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One of China's most beautiful cities enjoys an enviable location on West Lake and at the end of the famous Grand Canal.

This ancient capital has been impressing visitors as far back as the 13th century, when noted explorer Marco Polo commented upon its noble beauty in christening Hangzhou the "City of Heaven". He might perhaps have been referring to the view of the magical West Lake from the Broken Bridge, surrounded by rolling mountains and dotted with small mysterious islands. Or perhaps its collection of pagodas and temples, or its charming tea houses and traditional gardens.

Whatever Marco Polo was most captivated by, he certainly wouldn't have had the convenience of travelling between Shanghai and Hangzhou in in roughly one hour on the speedy Bullet train. For a more leisurely travel experience you can take the water ferry up the historic Grand Canal up to the historic Gongchen Bridge, first built during the Ming dynasty, over 500 years ago.

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Hugh Clayson

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