Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 4, Suzhou/ Hanzhou

We left Suzhou after we attended the "National Silk Embroidery Museum" or something like that. Another opportunity to see beautiful hand-made pieces of art work. They were truly spectacular, and again, "No photos, please." I'm very obedient most of the time. The buildings didn't have stairs, but they were very cold. The luncheons we attend are held in banquet rooms, usually NOT on the ground floor, so there are stairs. Sometimes we get lucky and Berenice can use an elevator. But sometimes not. Third floor banquet hall in a restaurant! That hurts after a while, you know? I'm so grateful for my healthy knees at this point in my life.

Don't you love the teapot above? It was in the tea plantation area of Hanzhou. We drove to Hanzhou after our one night in the Suzhou hotel. The drive was on toll and express ways. They moved fairly well most of the time, but we did end up in some heavy traffic. Luckily, the bus was comfortable.

When we arrived in Hanzhou, it is another large city, mostly industrial, very polluted, too. We never saw any rain, but it was overcast. I was never sure if it was haze, smog or fog. My lungs didn't burn, so mostly just haze and fog? Hard to say. I think it was about a three hour drive, so we got to our hotel in Hanzhou and went to the hotel we were staying in and had dinner in the Hotel restaurant. Yes, we didn't eat in the regular part--we were in a banquet area and were served the same fare we usually had. I have no complaints about that! As we walked through the regular restaurant with regular local people eating there, I kind of did not enjoy the smell of the foods they were eating. I was glad we didn't have to deal with menus and ordering on our own. That could have been scary. They took good care of us wussie Americans who eat with forks.

In the evening after dinner, a few of us went out to the nearby shopping center. It was interesting to see. One of the couples went, and they said it was so different from the place they were in the previous night in the previous town. Suzhou's market was crowded and had more of a Walmart feel to it (yes, they have Walmart in China); Hanzhou was a more high-end area in a newer part of town. It felt like most malls in America (only everything was in Chinese). Restaurants, shops, an arcade for youth, escalators, open courtyard.
Here is our Hanzhou hotel room. Yes, they all kind of blend together in the end. Maybe it was Shangha! At this point, I'm really not sure. ;-)
But that was live bamboo in the vase in the bathroom. This bathroom didn't have a tub with a window in it--it had a VERY tall shower with a rain showerhead on the place to soak one's feet in this place. If you looked closely in the one hotel room picture, you could see Berenice elevating her feet when we go there after dinner.
Above you can see a barge or two. Most rivers were much busier, but maybe the misty weather was keeping some of them clear. But you can see how NOT clear the air is. I think we were about 80 Km from the water (China Sea).
Above is an interesting photo snapped from the bus as we drove past a cell phone manufacturer. Their building looks very much like a UFO. And it is much larger, It's about three frames wide, actually. I'm just posting the middle section of the building.

Our first stop in Hanzhou on Day 4 was a drive through the mountains surrounding Hanzhou to the tea plantation areas. Lots and lots of tea plants being cultivated in the hills. We attended the required demonstration about green tea, how it is dried, it's anti-oxident features and other health benefits. Apparently, one benefit is to soothe your eyes with the steam. Isn't this funny? Here we are, steaming our eyes with green tea vapors. And none the worse for it, I might add.

We had a really cute demonstrator. She apologized for the people of China who, sometimes, will fill the top part of a tea leaf canister with top quality tea leaves for purchase, but really below the top layer was poorer quality leaves. She was sorry for that. So they were packing that top quality green tea right there in front of us for us to buy right then and there (guaranteed!) and we would know what we were getting. But I'm not a green tea buff, so I passed. Two of our group made a purchase, and of course the exit was via a gift shop.
The area around this little visitors' site was quite pretty. They had a LOT of buses coming and going through here. They must really cater to a LOT of tourists. Most buses were carrying way more than the 7 passengers that ours had. And they could have used a bigger parking lot.

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