Edit Blog Post
Published: August 16th 2006
The weeks have flown by and it's time for a well-earned break. We worked all the previous weekend, so as to have 7 consecutive days off. The students were very excited, as many of them had planned to go home to see their families and friends for the first time since Spring Festival Holidays in early February.
The first week of May is known as one of China's "Golden Weeks", the others being in the first week of October, and, of course, the Spring Festival in January/February. It is a time when a large proportion of the 1.4 billion inhabitants is on the move. Something not to be taken lightly, I can assure you!
Many people had warned me, "Don't even think about travelling during this time!" Consequently, I had not made any special plans. However, on the Friday before we finished, my boss, Arthur, suggested he would like to give me the opportunity to travel and he would arrange a trip to Shanghai and Suzhou. I happily agreed, but was a little doubtful as to whether this would be possible, considering no tickets had been purchased as yet.
Not surprisingly,when the ever resourceful Vivian went to arrange tickets,
there were none available. Instead we could go to Hangzhou in Zheijang Province for 2 days. Mei guanxi -(loosely, no problem) I was more than happy to go along with this new plan. I mean, everything was organized for me!
In the days leading up to to our trip, I generally relaxed, played basketball with my some of my students and Vivian took me clothes shopping. I also decided to branch out on my own and visit the nearby city of Yangzhou, famous for its canals and "Slender West Lake" (Shou Xi Hu) It is a narrower version of the famous West Lake in Hangzhou I would visit in the coming days.
Yangzhou is an easy bus ride of about one hour away from Taizhou. On arrival, having no map, I hailed a cab to take me to Slender West Lake. My first impression of Yangzhou was how pleasant, green, relaxed and quiet it was- until I arrived at my destination! Now it was obvious why everywhere seemed quiet- everyone must be here! The crowds were something that had to be seen to be believed. I couldn't even get a really decent photo! "Shoulder to Shoulder Shuffling" is
These young Americans are the first foreigners I have seen since Bobby and Victoria have left, so can't resist going up and saying "Hi"
the best way I can think of to describe the phenomenon. I took one look at the swarms of people and the entrance fee that had been doubled for the occasion- and beat a hasty retreat! Slender West Lake could wait for another visit!
Instead I decided to just wander around and see what I could find. I had a wonderful time exploring the small streets and canals, constantly coming across May Day Celebrations of one sort or another. I think the photos speak for themselves.
After a late lunch "on the run" I decided I should make my way back to the bus station in order to secure a ticket home. Hailed a motorcycle taxi and tried to explain in my primitive Chinese where I wanted to go. After several unsuccessful attempts, I called Vivian and she explained what I needed to the patient driver. I just love mobile phones at times like these! So off we went. In the end, he not only drove me to the bus station, but escorted me in, spent ten minutes trying to buy me a ticket (none left!), and finally convinced a lady to put me on a bus to
One of the many distinctive stone bridges spanning the myriad of canals throughout Yangzhou
Taizhou! Now that's service! All for 10Y (about A$1. 70)
The next day, Vivian and I were off early for our 2 day trip to Hangzhou. It is more than a 5hr trip, so we knew it was going to be a full-on time. As many of you know, I am not a lover of organized group tours, but I was keeping an open mind, and was most appreciative the college had organized something on my behalf.
Historically, Hangzhou, as part of the Grand Canal system, was a significant centre for trade and commerce and was also reknowned for its scenic beauty, especially the area known as West Lake (Xi Hu). These days, although not strategically important as a means of shipping goods from the South to the North of China, as in days gone by, Hangzhou is still famous for its West Lake.
However, our first stop in Hangzhou is not at West Lake, but for lunch and then on to Lingyin Temple Scenic Area. Lingyin Temple was first built in 326AD and is one of the ten biggest Zen Buddhist Temples in China. It is the largest in Hangzhou. The temple is surrounded by extensive
Floating restaurant on one of the larger canals
gardens and also encompasses a number of other historical "relics" including Li Gong Pagoda and caves containing many stone etched Buddha carvings. As was to be expected, there were huge crowds here, all rushing to keep up with their guide, waving his/her little flag and giving an endless commentary on goodness knows what- seemingly without taking a breath! There was also some Buddhist special celebration going on so we didn't get to go inside the Temple, more's the pity.
Next stop, Song Dynasty Village- a "realistic reproduction" of a traditional village from the Song Dynasty (AD429-479). We had several hours here and had "free time" to ourselves after first rushing in for a performance of traditional music and dance. The performance was very enjoyable, but I was disappointed not to be able to take any reasonable photos. Of course I could purchase a DVD for an additional 80Y if I chose to! Outside, we started to find our way through the crowds. Vivian and I chuckled at all the tourist tat and costumes for hire and then proceeded to the endless food stalls and restaurants. How the Chinese love their glitz and glamour- and eating! After grabbing a quick
snack, we went to the "lake" as once the sun had gone down, we were treated to an impressive sound and light show, telling the story of a famous legend between two lovers (of which, I had no idea, of course). Everyone seemed to enjoy it immensely.
After an early night, we headed off early for what most people would consider to be the highlight of the tour- a visit to West Lake. The weather was a bit dull, but it certainly is a beautiful area. The side we visited was very developed, and I made a mental note to return at another time and explore the quieter , less developed side. After a short stroll along the lake shore (with the thousands of others!), we were ushered on to a boat for a cruise that would last a very short 15/20minutes. It was then time to head off. Everyone was very disappointed- the highlight of the trip and we had spent less than an hour there! The reason-the obligatory visit to a silk factory! We spent over 2 long hours there- the main purpose being sales- and commision for the tour guide, of course. Many of our group
Stumbled onto these young lads having a very "serious" yoyo competition in the street. Note the lady on the right giving marks and the pro with the glove! The competition hotted up considerably when they realized they had a foreigner in the audience!
voiced their disapproval of this misspent time, but I just went with the flow and used it as an opportunity to experience the unwieldy animal that is Chinese Mass Tourism (in capitals!) Despite the crowds, I really enjoyed watching how they made silk quilts. However, as soon as we could, Vivian and I escaped outside to wait in the shade!
Final stop for the weekend was an ancient preserved town known as Nanxun, just over the border in Jiangsu Province, about a 2hr drive away. The old parts of town have received world-wide recognition for their importance to local cultural heritage. There are 9 distinct areas to be explored, some separated by more than a kilometre. We had our own personal local guide to help us appreciate it. We were whipped around at a rate of knots, and it didn't take long for Vivian and I to get separated from the main group. We decided the best course of action was just to do our own thing and take our time. After contacting our guide to let him know our whereabouts, we relaxed and really enjoyed ourselves. We only managed 4 of the 9 areas, but it was enough.
My New Pal
Meet my newest best mate, Zou yu qi, a delightful 5 yr old who doesn't miss a trick! His mother is a teacher at a nearby Veterinary college, but was very shy about trying to speak English. Not being able to communicate with me in English didn't stop this little dynamo!
When we finally met up with the rest of the group, they were totally exhausted, they had covered all 9 areas!
So, it was on the bus for the long trip home, entertained all the way by our new "tour guide", Zhou yu qi. This crafty little boy started singing his ABCs and other songs in English, watching slyly out of the corner of his eye to see my reaction! The first English he had spoken all weekend!
So all in all, the trip turned out to be very enjoyable, if a bit rushed (as these things always are). I met some great people, and did things that would have been very difficult for me to do independently- especially with the crowds. Thank you Arthur and Vivian for another delightful trip to explore this country of amazing contrasts!
Tot: 2.534s; Tpl: 0.06s; cc: 14; qc: 64; dbt: 0.0527s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.5mb