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Published: April 3rd 2008
Urgh, I have so much to catch up on and I really cannot be bothered writting about it all. It has been two weeks since I last wrote a blog so I am going to start at the weekend before last. This was the weekend when I first discovered the fabulous fabric market, having since clocked up my third visit (which, considering it shuts at the same time I finish work, is pretty impressive).
The fabric market is a bit out the way, not being within reasonable walking distance to any of the metro lines, but is definitely well worth the 2 quid taxi ride to get there. It consists of three floors of stall-like shops, housing every type of material you can think of. You can browse through examples of coats, suits, trousers, dresses and skirts that hang above the rolls and rolls of material and have something made to measure, or bring along your favourite clothes and have them copied exactly.
So far I have put together the foundations of a new wardrobe. I am an official shirt convert - only if they are tailor made though! It's pretty cheap too; the shirts I had made cost me 7
pound each and are really good quality cotton. I feel a new shopping addiction coming on. Pearls or tailor made clothing, what's it to be?....maybe I can do both.... oh dear.
On the Saturday night I went along with a big crowd of my friends to my first proper concert in China, Maroon 5. I was kind of hoping that the atmosphere would be really different to a concert back in the UK and would be a great cultural experience, which it wasn't. “It's going to be so much fun seeing a concert in China, it's going to be crazy!” etc, was a bit of a misjudgment. Well, a huge amount of people had spent their hard earned money on giant flashing glow sticks to wave about, which I guess was a bit random. Lighters are so last century obviously!
Maroon 5 were "alright" but I wouldn't buy their album anytime soon, or possibly ever. It was a fun night though. I have since decided that if I really want to experience something a bit different along the lines of a concert, I’m going to have to get tickets for Celine Dion next month. This is not just a
dodgy excuse to go and see her, honestly (even though I would sing along really loud to The Power of Love then deny it afterwards).
I cannot count the amount of male taxi drivers I have met who have either been listening to Celine Dion or going on about how much they love her. Even my Chinese flat mate, Mr Lu has her 'Live in Concert' DVD. I can't think of anywhere I have been in the western where a good chunk of the heterosexual male population would be happy to actually admit 'I love Celine Dion, she is my favourite'. With this in mind, think of the pure entertainment quality of a whole stadium of tone deaf women and men singing along My Heart Will Go One, immense. All the guys reading this back home in Edinburgh now going, “no way that would be my worst nightmare of an evening” - we know you sing along to her on the radio when no one else is around. Stop trying to be macho, drop the act and just admit it.
Just to keep things balanced with the whole shopping addiction, I also went and bought some more pearls during that
weekend, which brings me to a rather funny and rather horrifying (for me) story. It happened in a pearl shop while I was allowing the sales woman to talk me into another pearl necklace which I don't need. I was having a good browse, trying to be sensible, resist etc, when the shop assistant patted my belly and exclaimed with beams of congratulatory smiles 'bebe, bebe!’ Eh no. No, don't worry mum and dad, or Craig for that matter, I am not actually pregnant.
So completely thrown by the cliché of this situation, I wasn't sure how to reply, so just kind of smiled back and said “no I just have a big fat belly” (which she obviously did not understand anyway). To be fair to myself, I was standing with my back arched and was rather bloated.... still though, it's not the happiest day when someone mistakes your beer belly for an actual living being (although sometimes after a heavy weekend my belly does appear to have a life of its own). If I had been really smart, I would've been very insulted by this, only to be comforted by a humongous discount.
The rest of the weekend
was pretty uneventful but good fun. I went to a club called Mao which was a bit like somewhere on George Street in Edinburgh, but with actual good looking people. Oh and there was a midget dancing on the bar. Politically correct? What is that? It wasn't my thing despite the music being OK and the club itself being pretty cool inside, even if it was lacking a decent space for a dance floor.
Fast forward to this weekend just past - (finally) I can't remember much eventful happening during the week. That is actually a lie, I just can't be bothered writing about it so I will put it into a summarised version:
Easter dinner in an Irish pub
Friend's bike was stolen from fence outside - ripped the fence off to get it
DVD remote control working again, yey, Prison Break evening marathon sessions were go
Went to see a punk metal band called Horse the Band - they were a bit like Slipnot, if Slipnot sampled Daft Punk - awful.
Bought skate shoes (wheels you attached to just the back of your shoes) - impossible and ridiculous.
Got held hostage by small begging children who
grabbed hold of my legs while I was walking. I had no choice but to drag them along the ground - sad and shocking but I hate to admit, it was kind of funny.
This weekend I went to Suzhou, 'the Venice of the East', with my friend Liz. We got the train on the Saturday morning (I bought the tickets in advance all by myself, check me out) and checked into our twin room in another hostel that was part of the Mingtown chain. This hostel was even nicer that the one in Hangzhou, situated on an old street, sided by a canal, and too narrow for cars to drive along or park. The building itself dated from the Ming to Qing dynasties we were told and was so beautiful, with dark wooden beams and tiny square courtyards dotted around the web of small white washed buildings. It was nothing like what you would expect from a hostel and I’m sure it must have been far nicer that most of the hotels in the area, despite being a good bit cheaper and our room being en-suite!
We went for a walk to try to find
The Garden of the Nets, one of the many old gardens which Suzhou is famous for. Using my trusted map we navigated our way in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go (Liz’s fault this time, I had it correct from the start surprisingly) and luckily, due to the shear number of them, ended up at another garden called The Humble Administrators Garden. Despite the completely crap weather, the garden was really nice and we managed to take some pictures that were not full of Chinese tour groups. We also had our picture taken at least four times with various Chinese tourists who obviously recognised me from my various appearances on the television. Liz seemed to think it was simply because we were westerns and look so different - I kept the real reason to myself.
As Chance would have it, our friends Jane and Sam were also in Suzhou on the Saturday and we conveniently ran in to them on our way around. The four of us then went on a boat trip along the one of the canals together, a must do in Suzhou I can now say. Our driver (sailor seems like that wrong word,
due to the lack of sails) sang us a song on request and then continued to sing song after song for the rest of the trip, which was ‘different’. He was singing in Chinese so we didn't know what the songs were about, although he gave a back story to each song first. There was definitely one about Mao.
We did some more wandering around after this then ended up in a pub called Janes Bar, a British style pub that served all the traditional heart-attack pub food. A few drinks and pies later (the shame), the pub then randomly flooded with Scottish expats wearing Celtic shirts, who had turned up to watch the Celtic vs Rangers game that was showing that night. Of all the pubs in all of China eh....
The next day Liz and I spent the whole day walking around visiting more gardens, museums, temples and of course shops. By the time I got home on Sunday night I was officially shattered. Probably even more so than you are now after reading this mammoth blog entry and probably even more so than I am after writing it. Make sure you check out all my photos too!
This weekend I am going to Xi'an to see the terracotta warriors and generally amerce myself in culture 'in that.
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