Tuesday, January 18, 2011


March 15, 2007 SHANGHAI and SUZHOU

We both woke up about 3:30 am and spent about an hour working on personal tasks before turning out the light again; the alarm rang at 6:30 am and we managed to have breakfast downstairs before the scheduled leaving time of 7:30 am...we had a train to catch....

The weather has turned colder and it is still raining. We took taxi cabs to the train station for our tour by train to Suzhou today. Chris, our local guide for Suzhou helped us cross through the muddy construction site outside the train station after our arrival. Like Shanghai, Suzhou is under major rebuilding. Still raining after our forty minute train ride but getting lighter all the time.

Toured the town, small by China numbers this 2500 year old city only has two million residents and a world renowned architect was born in Suzhou: I. M. Pei, he designed his last building for his hometown. He designed the pyramid at the Louvre and also the library in my home town of Columbus, Indiana. We then continued to our destination of The Garden of the Master of the Nets, a thousand year old estate that was restored in the eighteenth century. During this time the rain finally stopped but we never saw the sun.

Leaving the gardens we walked to the nearby silk factory for a tour to see how silk is made and then had an opportunity to purchase some of the goods that was made available. We all enjoyed shopping but no one purchased anything.

A buffet lunch at the huge restaurant adjacent to the factory was followed by a canal boat ride down the Grand Canal and then into a narrow side canal to view some of the many bridges that Suzhou residents use to transgress the many canals that crisscross the old city. This city is considered China’s version of Venice…yes, I know we heard that story yesterday about the village that we visited outside of Shanghai.

Interesting sidelight: most of the sculptures found in this area are stone free forms that have been roughly carved and then put into the lake for the water to erode and create the final naturalistic artwork. Other than government leaders there are very few realistic statutes.

Back to the train station waiting room, we got to use the “Soft Waiting Room”…so called because the seats were padded…for a forty-five minute wait. Then another forty minute train ride back to Shanghai. Arrived at the hotel about 5 pm and had the evening to ourselves; everyone decided to stay in for the evening. Jim did take a walk and found a couple of silk ties to take home with him.

Another note of interest is that Suzhou has implemented a new rule regarding the government’s mandate on only one child. Because the population is aging so rapidly they have agreed that if both parents are only children they may have two children.

Tomorrow we have the Shanghai Museum and then fly to Beijing in the late afternoon for the official start of our tour when we meet with the other eight people for a total of sixteen in the tour group.

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