Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 3 and 4, Suzhou

Tiger Hill
We don't know why it was called by that name. Perhaps tigers roamed there at one time. But it was pretty and had a nice big pagoda on the top. Pagodas are also alway built with odd numbers of stories. Always 7, or 9 or 13. Never as small as three, apparently.
And it included steep stairs everywhere, so Berenice came in and we all used the bathroom (my first "floor model" experience!) and then went back to the bus to wait for us.
There are interesting details everywhere. This is a rooftop. None of the stairs have handrails, the rocks/stones that were placed for stairs actually looked as though they might have been re-built and arranged differently than the original. The carvings didn't always match up, for example. But I didn't take a picture of that. Just an observation. But I would think that things this old would have had some 'renovations' over the eons.
Closer to the pagoda so you can see some of the intricate details.

Above is a group of us. Me, Linda (the other one), Suzette, and Carol.
It was a very pretty garden area, it had wells, bridges, walkways, buildings (souvenir shops, tourists), pretty things that will one day soon burst into bloom. And even a Buddah. (below)
OK. I need to back up a little to the beginning of day three. We left Beijing and went to the airport to catch a flight to Suzhou on the 3rd day of our visit. If it's Wednesday, it must be Suzhou. I believe it was March 17 and I didn't even wear green. I had asked Wally to please try to arrange for a wheelchair for Berenice's use at the airport, but Wally was not able to make arrangements for it. Well, he sort of did. It would have been available in an hour from when we got there. But we needed/wanted to be at our gate sooner, so we just walked. It's a little different set-up there. We did have the benefit of many moving walkways to get us to where we needed to go, but after we are at the gate, we get on regular buses to transfer to the plane and we had to walk up stairs to get on. There was no jet way. Needless to say, we were the last ones on. She does OK, but has to take it very slowly, and it just plain hurts her knee very badly. But, again, she never complains. Our flight to Shanghai was about 1 1/2 hours long. They fed us a snack of some kind. Kind of like a manapua in Hawaii. Hot, steamed roll with meat mixture and beans or something inside. It was lunch time, so we were glad to get it. Although, we did have our granola bars with us! And nuts and candy. Some of our group had an interesting experience at the airport before we left Beijing. Berenice and I got a head start and went on through security with no difficulty and headed off to the gate, but a member of our group was stopped because of some liquids in her carry-on. She had to go back and check the bag, rather than just surrender all her makeup. So she did take the time to do that. It might have been scary in a foreign airport like that, as our tour guide had assisted with our initial check-in at the ticket counter there. However, good ol' "Beijing Wally" was watching the security checkpoint area and could see there were some hang-ups, so he waited and helped her to get her bag checked. And it was a good thing--by then there was a long line and she might have missed her flight! We were sad to say goodbye to our Beijing Wally.
Here is our (messy) hotel room. Honestly, we were so tired all the time, few things got hung up or put away. And we were only there one night in this place! It was a Holiday Inn. Not quite the 5 star quality of our previous one, but comfy beds and a nice bathtub for soaking feet in at night. With a window in it again. So odd.

After our NEW guide, David, gathered us at the airport in Shanghai, we put our stuff on the bus and headed to Suzhou, about a 3 hour drive away from Shanghai airport. That hotel (above) was where we landed our things, had a minute to "freshen up," met in the hotel lobby and headed out to our first excursion. We took a canal boat ride!
First, here is typical street traffic. No lanes, really. I mean, they are painted on the street, but everyone just kind of drives where-ever... and no honking is allowed in this city! Imagine that! Actually, I could tell a big difference between here and Beijing. Suzhou was David's "hometown". It has a population of FOUR MILLION PEOPLE.
I didn't have my camera on the canal tour. It's called the "Venice" of China. Having seen Venice, I have my doubts. Granted, they HAD had a lot of rain. The water was murky, the homes very VERY old and falling down. I supposed it has potential to be lovely in certain seasons. Winter didn't do it much good. We saw people doing laundry in the canal. And one man brushing his teeth and dentures in the canal water. Ugh.

We hopped off once and walked briefly through an authentic market. It was crowded, smelly, noisy, confusing, small, dirty, interesting and I spent quite enough time there, thank you very much. He left us on our own to wander and browse!! It was mostly food-stuffs, living and not quite so living. It was amazing to see, however. Local residents use electric motor bikes. They make no noise (electric motors are quiet and pollution-free!) BUT they beep their little horns at you to move out of their way. I just didn't know what all those squeaky-beepy noises WERE, so we were slow to move. Well, some of us just move slowly, anyway.

I guess there was more than just food and animal items there. I did see a pile of fabric at one place. Nothing appealing, however. But there were turtles, the biggest bamboo shoots I've ever seen, live ducks and chickens and chicks, eels, other un-identifyable items. Lots of smells. Public bathrooms with seemingly limited plumbing (I didn't go in--that's just what my nose gathered). PUBLIC means they are for the people who live in the hovels there. I'm sorry, they are masonry buildings. Just small, old and very run-down. Very little indoor plumbing.

OK. After we saw the famous Grand Canal Area, it was about dinner time, so we went to a restaurant to eat. It was the regular fare. We were informed by David that we would like it much better, because, after all, it WAS his hometown and their cooking was MUCH better than the stuff they serve in Beijing! My non-discerning taste buds could tell very little difference. I was grateful to be given a fork at every meal. And our Sprite. Always Sprite. The restaurant was in an area that had a very large concentration of wedding dress shops. Dozens. It was very pretty to see them as we drove by on our bus. THIS bus had a nice lower extra step up--Berenice was grateful.

There are many factories in the Suzhou area, there was lots of pollution. There were MANY canals and rivers. The canals were very full and busy with barges coming and going. It looked like mostly construction dirt and gravel to me. There are a lot of lakes in the region, too. So, there's a lot of humidity and my hair was very straight (well, it always is. Who am I kidding?). There seemed to be a lot of agriculture in the area, too. Lots and lots of new high-rises going up everywhere, in both Shanghai and Suzhou.

After our dinner, we went to bed early and were very , very tired. And Berenice had swollen feet and ankles. She seemed to be very VERY worried about them, but I put her mind at ease and let her know that considering how much sitting on planes and walking she's done in the past 5 days, it was to be expected and she must elevate, elevate, elevate! And she must drink more water! So she did, after a good foot soaking and foot massage, and pain relief rub for knee and shoulder. Her shoulder hurt from pulling herself in and out of buses, I think. I'm telling you, she never complained, but she was in a lot of pain. AND she took a pain relief pill every morning and every night (either Tylenol or Ibuprofin)! And she never takes pills of any kind. I thought that was something of a minor miracle, that I could get her to take any meds at all.

Our Holiday Inn didn't have washcloths in the room. Odd. I like washcloths and use them, so I missed them.

Now we begin on day four of our adventure. Early in the morning, we checked out of our hotel, we ate a great breakfast IN the hotel, then we loaded up and headed to our first place, called "Lingering Garden" This is pictured below in many different shots. I took more. Here's just a few.

Mosaics in the walkways.
More rocks. They love those rocks.
Ceramic barrell/stools to sit on at a table to have tea or what ever. They were icy cold! It was warmer in Suzhou, but still only 57 degrees F or so. Chilly weather and we were walking in shady areas most of the time. No sunshine. But it was warmer than Beijing. I just thought these were pretty. They had buildings in this garden, furnished beautifully.
And they had a lovely Bonzai garden area, too.
And pretty flowering trees. The guide tried to tell us they were magnolias. (the pink one in the back) Not your Southern ones, that's for sure.
Some workers moving marble slabs around. I didn't get the picture of them moving it with sticks over the shoulders and ropes...
And, Oh LOOK! Here's Judy again!
Even though Lingering Gardens was pretty, it was cold, and the walkways were uneven for Berenice and there were still stairs everywhere. But it was nice. I'm glad we went. It has a status there in China about the equivalent of what we would call a National Historic Site or something like that I think. Historic home? It was a privately owned entity at one time.

OK. On to our next stop. The SILK FACTORY! I was REALLY looking forward to this. But first: The BUTT chairs. Have you ever seen chairs with divots for your butt? I haven't. So I took a picture. And, yes, they were comfortable.

David is instructing us on the life stages of the silk worm.
And we weren't supposed to be taking pictures in the little "factory" area. They didn't really take us to factories. They had a room set up with the equipment that is used in the real ones. For the amount of things this country produces, I can only imagine how much space a factory would take up. And how many people to run it! Wow. We saw them spinning threads by machine. But there was no demo of dying it or weaving or printing. We did see them making the fluff for silk comforters. It's silk instead of down (or polyester fiberfill). They make it from the twin cocoons, which cannot be unwound to make thread, so they make the comforters and pillows out of those. I did see many many acres of little mulberry shrubs growing all around this city's outskirts, to furnish the food for these silk worms--which are quite large!

Here we are watching a brief fashion show. After we learn about silk, then we have the opportunity to BUY silk merchandise. This place did get my business. I bought a silk scarf and wore it to work on yesterday. It was a windy day, and I have to tell you, I LOVED the way the silky scarf fluttered in the breeze. Or gust. It just made me smile! :-)
Clean streets. And the broom is made of tree branches.

To be continued....


Donna said...

Those rocks look like the Indian Ocean type of erosion rocks - I love those too - so much character.
The Magnolias look like what we call Tulip trees here... I dont know what they really are, but I'm sure dad knows :o)

Robert said...

I'm glad you got your silk scarf. I wish you would have shown it to me when you stopped by the house last night. I didn't even think to ask.

Suzanne said...

That first picture of Lingering Garden is GORGEOUS! You should frame that one. And did you notice the birds nests in the trees? So cool! I love the rocks too. :-)