Published: December 24th 2008December 24th 2008
New Town, Shanghai
View across the Yangtze River
So after another mission on the sleeper train...15 hours of hell this time...we arrived not in Sudong but in Suzhou, which is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the East because of the numerous canals that the city is built around. A 10 minute taxi ride took us to our hotel, a small but pleasant looking abode down a side street.
Appearances can be deceiving.
Checking in seemed lovely enough - the reception was nicely furnished and the whole place looked very upmarket. When we reached the room, however, the trouble started. It was FREEZING COLD and some idiot cleaner had left the window open even though it was the middle of Chinese winter and the temperatures outside were -5...electing to play it safe we dumped our bags, got an extra room key, turned the heating on to full and went to the supermarket (wherein was another nightmare of hidden bread, but that's besides the point...)
On our return we met with the others and headed to the Garden of the Master-Nets, a beautiful little place that was tranquil and far removed from the nightmarish smog-covered rat race of Beijing. We wandered for a good hour before
In the Garden of the Master-Nets
Tranquil hamlet in the red-light District
checking out the canal with Travis and Melitze, two of the Canadians who were in our group. One thing you notice about normal Chinese life is the way they treat their dogs - they're either food...or dressed in clothing. We saw numerous old Chinese women walking dogs along the canal path, and out of 4 or 5 only one dog was not wearing a jacket/jumper/shirt/suit. An odd sight, really, especially after having seen roast dog on sale in Xi'an only the day before!
Our evening was fairly uneventful after the walk, just sorting out documents, reading and listening to music until we grabbed some food and headed out to a bar for a couple of drinks. We came upon the most surreal experience of our lives just down the road from the hotel - stepping into what seemed like a sure bet we were met by a Meatloaf song, followed by other classic rock songs from the 70s and 80s, in an 'Italian' bar that was covered in English memorabilia!
At this point we should have left, but compelled to finish the beer we'd spent 60RMB on (more expensive each than the food we'd chowed down on half an
More of the Garden
The lake at the heart of the Garden
hour before) we played a couple of games of pool with the barwoman in disbelief that Andrew and I weren't brothers...
We headed back to the hotel totally weirded out and tryed our hand at the business centre computer...though after an hour of trying to load Facebook we both gave up and headed back to the room, dozing off at about 11.
At 1 the pillow hit my face and I jerked awake into the light, with Andrew in hissy fit mode ranting and raving about the 'f***ing rat! f***ing huge rat!' He buggered off to reception and brought the idiot desk clerk back who gave us the room key for next door which, guess what, was EVEN COLDER than our room, and we fell back asleep. It turns out that Andrew woke up in the middle of the night with something on his head, touched it, felt the rat, jumped up and flicked the light on in time to see the thing rush across the room and hide under the sink. He sat there waiting for 5 minutes until it suddenly reappeared, having a munch on the bread that we'd bought...which was when he made the executive
decision to get the hell out of the room as quickly as possible.
To compensate we had a free breakfast (which was fairly poor quality anyway) and dazed and confused we stumbled to the train station to go to Shanghai.
Our final Chinese train experience was a pleasant one! Dragon told us it would take an hour to get to Shanghai but less that 35 mins later we were pulling into the station, boarding a taxi and going to a nice hotel which was WARM with HOT WATER and nice showers! One of the nicest moments of the trip based on what had happened.
So we're all but caught up! We went to the bund which is a couple of blocks away and looked out over New Town, where all the massive skyscrapers such as the TV Tower and Financial Tower are located, and took in some of Old Town, where we're based for our time in Shanghai, and which is very much a throw back from Colonial times, with a lot of the old buildings though condemned still standing and giving the area some personality! In a little while we're meeting the others for food and
a few drinks and then it's to the Acrobatic show for a Christmas Eve performance. Of all the places in the world to spent Christmas Day, I'll be in the Shanghai museum, which is fairly fitting for me, and I'll try and get a Merry Christmas Update if possible tomorrow. If not, Seasons Greetings and have a good one!!