Located 115 mi/185 km southwest of Shanghai (at the southern end of the Grand Canal),
Hangzhou, China, is an excellent place to schedule a few days for rest and relaxation—a vacation from your vacation.

The capital of Zhejiang province, Hangzhou is extraordinary in the sense that on the one hand, it has preserved its historic sites and scenery, and has also built a modern city that rivals just about any other in China, each in harmony with the other.

The Grand Canal, the longest artificial waterway in the world, once linked four major rivers—the Huang (Yellow), Yangtze, Huai and Qiantang—and several major cities in the north and south of China. Like the Great Wall, the Grand Canal was built as a series of monumental projects extending over a number of dynasties. The major portion of the work came in the Sui Dynasty, when Emperor Yang Di conscripted millions of laborers to link his new capital, Luoyang, to the older capital, Chang'an (now Xi'an), and to the city of Hangzhou.

Over time, sections of the canal have disintegrated, silted up or simply fallen into disuse. Although much of the canal is impassable and what remains is often rather polluted, it's still an interesting way to glimpse life at the water's edge. The main route, by passenger boat or ferry, runs from Hangzhou to Suzhou.

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