Hangzhou is a suburb city of Shanghai and is a nice city of 4.2 million people. It is modern and prosperous and is famous for the scenic lake (West Lake) that adjoins the downtown area. There are many western companies and restaurants located here. In a 20 minute walk I saw 3 KFC’s, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Pappa John’s and probably one or two more I’m forgetting about. I didn’t see it but I later learned that there is a Hooters in Hangzhou. The first evening there my blog buddy Carol came to meet us and took us to dinner at one of her favorite Chinese restaurants. Carol is Canadian, lives in Hangzhou and has been teaching in China for 3 years. I ran across her blog about 6 months ago and sent her a comment. She responded to my comment and we became e-mail friends. She answered my many questions about teaching in China, blogging and etc. It was great to meet her in person and she brought us a local travel booklet, a map and some handwritten tips on what to see and do locally. I will try to remember to add a link on the right under “my links” to Carol’s blog so if you’re interested you can read hers as well.
The second day in Hangzhou we followed Carol’s advice and visited Lingyin Temple but it was so hot I never made it inside the Temple. It was in the upper 90’s and humid so I was dripping wet with sweat. The pictures you see labeled Lingyin Temple are from the hills next to the temple and are considered part of the temple grounds. The temple was built in the year 326 and the carvings were made at various times after that up until the 1300’s. We visited some of the scenic areas around West Lake and sampled some local cuisine. After lunch we went to see the former residence of Hu Xueyan (a wealthy businessman) which was built around 1870 (see pics). Apparently he created a monopoly on the silk manufacturing in China and raised the prices very high. All the foreign buyers got together and refused to buy any of his products and his business failed very shortly after that. He lost everything including 3 of his 4 wives! We also visited some shopping areas which included some silk shops as this area is famous for silk. There were many other places that would have been worth seeing but we didn’t have enough time for them.
We are now in Xi Tang which is about an hour away from Hangzhou by bus. It is an old and small town and is famous for the old part of town and it’s canals. It was made more famous recently as they filmed a scene for Mission Impossible 3 here. The scene was the one where Tom went to save his wife. In the movie the scene is set in Shanghai but it was filmed in Xi Tang. We’re staying in a very old house that has been converted into a Chinese style B&B. From the bus station we took a bicycle taxi to near the hotel then we had to walk the rest of way. Check out the pic’s of the walkway to the hotel and the bed in my room. The room did not come with towels, toilet paper or sheets. Fortunately I had my silk sleep sack with me although that didn’t make the bed any softer. There was only a thin piece of foam on top of wood. The room did have hot water and a/c which made it tolerable and the room cost about $13. Xi Tang was interesting but I think it would have been better to stay in Hangzhou and see more things there. We left Xi Tang and took a 2 hour bus ride to Suzhou which is very similar to Hangzhou. Along the way part of the time we rode alongside the Grand Canal which dwarves the Panama Canal. It runs from Beijing to Hangzhou and I’ll try to remember to add some facts about it later to put it in perspective.
Suzhou is both an old town and a new town. It has a long history and has an old section of town but is mostly very modern and prosperous. Early this morning we went to see “The Humble Administrator’s Garden” which is on the World Cultural Heritage list. We went early because of the heat and were there waiting for the doors to open at 7:30. We were finished seeing the garden by 8:30 and I was already dripping wet. Even though it was only 8:30 it was really later than that by U.S. standards since China only has 1 time zone and in the East the sun comes up now by 5:00 and sets by 7:30. In Kunming where I will be living I’m guessing that the sun came up today about 6:30 and set about 9:00. The garden was nice (see pics) but not worth the price of 70 yuan per person (almost $10). Now that I’m living in China I have to think about the cost of things in terms of how much I’ll be earning. Then we went to see the Suzhou Museum just down the street and it was well worth the price of 20 yuan. It is a new facility that just opened last October and was designed by I.M. Pei who’s family happens to be from Suzhou. I’m not a big history buff or knowledgeable about crafts but I’m learning about Chinese history and the incredible talent of their craftsman. The museum showed many fine examples of this some dating back as far as about 6000 years. As part of the museum complex they have included the former residence of Zhong Wang Fu which is a very impressive complex. As an added bonus and almost worth the price of admission was the great air conditioning that keep the museum nice and cool. After a quick lunch of cold rice porridge with watermelon tossed in we went see the Silk Museum. Suzhou has a long history with the silk manufacturing and trade. The Silk Museum was worth a quick visit and I found the most interesting parts to be the machinery that was used in the past. Quite ingenious it was. We also visited a silk factory (see pic) which was pretty interesting. As part of the process they stretch the silk to about 100 times it’s original size. Well that’s it for my visit in Suzhou, next stop is Beijing!
Now for some odds and ends. I don’t if I have mentioned it before or not but I have not seen a fortune cookie since I arrived in China. It’s now been about 3 months since I moved out of my apartment in Oakland. In some respects I have kind of gotten into a groove of living out of a suitcase but on the other hand, I’m getting tired of not having a place to call home. As time goes by I’ve reduced the amount of things that I’m carrying around with me. I have 2 bags that I left with one of my teachers in Zhuhai and I have 1 bag that I left in Guangzhou. Some of those things are things that I’ll want when I get into my apartment. I’m kind of anxious to get into my apartment in Kunming and have a place to call home. I don’t really expect to do much cooking there as food is so convenient and cheap here to get out. There are 2 or 3 cafeterias/restaurants on campus very near where my apartment will be.