Someone asked me before we left for this trip if there were a lot of people living out in the countryside when we traveled in China. Before, when we were in China, we had gone to Bejing and visited the Great Wall. In order to arrive at the base of the wall we traveledd through the countryside for 40 miles or so over back roads. Our guide implored us not tell anyone “official” because the road was over two mountains and a river and it was supposedly dangerous at that time of year. On that particular journey we saw the real rural China at it’s best. People lived very basic lives and there was no crowding at all. The only danger we encounter was when the driver had to stop and ask directions as to which “dada’ (road) we should take. I did see a Gobi Desert camel on that drive. But it was not dangerous although it was pretty amazing!!!
But on this journey Andy drove the van over beautiful six lane freeways at 72 kilometers per hour and in the 1 1/2 hours it took us to get from Shanghai to Suzhou we never left the city. While farming was going on among the housing and apartments and industry, we never once could look in any direction and not see these things. In fact, we commented that once you entered the Shanghai city limits, you could see city from horizon to horizon in every direction.
Suzhou was amazing and you must visit Amanda’s blog (highlighted in my first blog entry at the mention of Andy and Amanda) again to get a feel for what we did there. I loved the canal community so much. We ate in a restaurant where you could get a picture across a canal by opening the bathroom window and stand on the squatting toilet seat (the usual arrangement in most of China). I took a picture of a cook preparing a meal outdoors. He smiled at me when I was done and I felt I was not the first to take this type of picture.
We ate Bejing Duck for dinner, an amazing and delicous treat. We love it most because you just cannot get it everywhere in the world and have it be so authentic. The other dishes that Amanda and I ordered were very spicy hot, some to the point that I was a little uncertain about what the consequences of eating it would be. We do wonder just exactly what we are eating sometimes but as long as it is steaming hot we seem to be fine. We have NEVER gotten sick.
You will remember from the beginning of this blog that we shopped a little, ate a little (at an Italian restaurant, sorry but we were hungry for Italian) and learned a lot. The day included a trip to The Garden of the Master of the Nets, and of course we did some shopping. Now you need to remember, when you shop abroad, to shop in grocerie and hardware stores. ( I learned this trick from my friend Norah Pratton.) You are bound to find something you just cannot live without as I did today. I bought two red clay teapots, a glass jar, and a strainer of the variety that the Chinese would use to scoop things from the wok or soup pot. All wonderful, inexpensive finds. I will admit I bought a teapot in the Shereton Hotel gift shop. BUT the owner was very willing to bargain because it was Chinese New Year and came down more that half price. She was happy I think and so was I. That is the perfect outcome.
I might add that Suzhou is a city of over 2 million people. We became royally lost on our way in. But with a big map, a good navigator (my husband) and an excellent driver (my son) and two capable back seat drivers (Amanda and Me), it seemed like a snap. We were, according to us, only sight seeing and next time we go to Suzhou, it will be SOOOOOOO easy. The drive home was wonderful and when we got there we were full of the day, tired and as for me, not hungry. Not even a little bit.