Other than the West Lake, the other item on my Hangzhou hitlist was a housing estate in the city’s far suburbs, a twenty minute taxi ride from the last stop on the Northern subway line. But this was not just any housing estate, but Tianducheng, an ill-fated replica of Paris, complete with its own Eiffel Tower.
Despite the amazing scale and spectacle of the place, it was noticeably quiet when we arrived. A gust of cold wind blew a plastic bag down the street, eerily vacant except for a couple of construction workers and maintenance crew and a bridesmaid playing with her phone on a park bench in a sparkly yellow dress, as a distant procession of brides and grooms climbed the steps to the mini-Sacre Coeur for wedding pictures. Most of the shops along the avenues were vacant or closed. We wandered around the dusty streets, ate delicious Uighur food on the Champs Elysee, and then caught a ride back to China.