Shanghaied in Shanghai ;-)

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November 20th 2014
Published: November 20th 2014
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Duck FarmDuck FarmDuck Farm

Between Shanghai and Suzhou
Shanghaied in Shanghai ;-)

We are on our way back to Shanghai! We had such a great three days here last month that we are looking forward to going back. Since we didn’t get to go to Suzhou (the Venice of the East) last time as we spent the time tin the city, we thought we’d head to the suburbs this time.

When we came in on the Amsterdam, we were able to go right up the river and dock in downtown Shanghai. This time our ship is twice as large and cannot go up the river or under the bridge so we are docked an hour away. Suzhou (pronounced Sue-Jo) is an hour south of Shanghai and we are docking an hour north… so a couple of hour trip to get there. We will not be going near Shanghai but taking the 6th Ring Road which is many miles out from the center of the city.

We were up early and met in the Explorer Lounge at 7:30 am with our fellow passengers who were going on this adventure, and did it turn out to be an adventure! One schedule said
Home on the CanalHome on the CanalHome on the Canal

Suzhou, Venice of the East
we were gong to depart at 7:30 and another at 8:30-a little confusion to start the day. The Chinese authorities took longer than expected to clear this ship for disembarking, so we didn’t even get on the bus and moving until around 9:00. It was a Saturday and lots of locals were off work for the day and out shopping. There was also an artist’s festival in Suzhou; the traffic was backed up for miles. Our tour guide kept calling the other tour busses to decide what to do as it became evident that this was going to be at least a 3 hour ride. They decided that we would go to lunch first as that would allow us to take another road and bypass some of the traffic… fine by us… we just looked out the windows and saw farms, and duck farms where the ducks were penned with fencing that allowed them some land space as well as some water space and fish farms-lots of water. We passed a huge IKEA, shopping center, mid-rise apartments and all the things you’d expect to see in the suburbs. Finally at 12:00….after a really, really long bus ride….we arrived! We had
Old homes, New carsOld homes, New carsOld homes, New cars

Along the canal
a nice lunch at a typical (for us on this trip) hotel Chinese restaurant with a lazy Susan that they fill with all kinds of Chinese food, including sweet and sour shrimp, fried fish, beef, and steamed vegetables with rice, and, as always, watermelon for desert.

After lunch we headed for the Canals of Suzhou. Suzhou is a medium sized city of 7 million people, and an hour from Shanghai by car, or 30-35 minutes by subway, and a bus. It is made up of community gardens, and many, many lakes where people raise, catch and sell fish, and harvest lotus plants and roots for food. Suzhou is known as the “water city” and the area produces much of the vegetables and crops consumed by the residents of Shanghai. Our tour guide on the bus said that when Marco Polo came to China on his travels in the 1600’s, this town of Suzhou, with all of its canals and homes along the canal, had already been in existence for 400 years.

Since we were running so late, the tour guides talked among themselves and with the bus drivers and decided that we would have
Mother and childMother and childMother and child

Seen all over China
to skip the Silk Embroidery Institute and Research Center…. Fine by us… but not so fine with some ladies on the trip who said that was the only place they wanted to go and had booked this tour just for the Silk Embroidery Institute! Hmm ….what’s a tour guide to do? ;-) Take a vote of the passengers. Yea… we are going to skip the Silk Embroidery Institute. The ladies are grumbling and not happy.

Finally, we are delivered to the moat around the old city where small tourist boats plow the waters.

There is a large wall that also surrounded the city but most of it has been destroyed by poor people taking the rocks to build their own homes and more recently by “urban development”.

We all board one boat and head down the moat. We initially thought this was not going to be a very exciting trip just boating around the city moat, but we were very pleasantly surprised as we turned off into one of the side canals. There are miles and miles of canals with very, very old houses lining the water. There were new cars
Humble Administrators GardenHumble Administrators GardenHumble Administrators Garden

Thank Heavens People Can't Walk on Water... Peaceful
parked next to some of these very old homes that only got indoor modern toilets within the last 20 years. Women were washing clothes in the canal, a man de-feathering a duck, people watering their “window box” gardens, people eating in restaurants and going about their business.

Not surprisingly, this is not Venice with it’s grand homes, but China, where the homes, while pleasantly located on the water, are not kept up and maintained and so they looked rundown and were. But, the location of the homes and the sides’ streets and canals was really very pleasant. Lots of folks riding their mopeds around the neighborhoods. Since we were late we only did a one way trip on the canals and met up with our tour bus at a local neighborhood dock.

So it now is really getting late and we still have the The Humble Administrators Garden to visit. The gardens were so full of people we could hardly walk. Evidently this is a VERY popular place on a Saturday. At one point 40 people lived in the compound around and in the gardens, now over 3000 people a day visit. We followed our guide single file from one courtyard to another, by one lake and stream and another and finally to a courtyard devoted to Bonsai trees. Finally a little less crowded and the trees were spectacular in their pots. Many of them over 200 years old. The ladies who were upset about the Silk Embroidery Institute could now indulge their flair for shopping at a little shop in the gardens. While we waited for them, we bought an ice cream cone ;-) We could see that a lot of thought had gone into the gardens with the beautiful landscaping, buildings, statues, and trees. Everything was so well designed and blended together beautifully. It was certainly one of the nicer gardens we have seen in Asia, but we certainly would have enjoyed it more had there not been so many people and if we were not so rushed.

By now, we were done in for the day and were grateful someone else was driving us back to the ship. Fortunately, since it was so late in the day, the traffic has decreased significantly so it was only a 2 hour ride back to the cruise ship. It was dark and staring to mist a little when we got back to the ship at 6:15 and we were exhausted and late to dinner, so we decided to just go to the buffet on at the Horizon Court on the 14th deck. Every tour throughout our trip has been wonderful in some way or other… even places that didn’t initially sound too interesting turned out to be VERY interesting. But, the tide turned today. This was our worst day of the entire trip as far as sightseeing goes. We were laughing about it and in good spirits but would never recommend this tour to anyone. Nothing could get worse…or so we thought…….

While exhausted and eating dinner, the Captain came on the intercom… to make an announcement… uh oh... the Captain does not make general announcements… what’s up? Oh gosh…it seems that many people have presented themselves to the medical bay on the ship and are very ill. We have a major outbreak of the Noro virus on the cruise ship!!!!! Definitely Shanghaied in Shanghai!

Next: Coming Home to Hong Kong


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