Since we last wrote, we've been on some interesting day trips around Zhejiang Province; so we thought we'd take the opportunity to write a brief blog and upload some of the photos.
The area that we're living in has a number of ancient water towns dotted around, within about an hour's drive of Jiaxing. We visited one of them - Xitang - last week. We went with the two other foreign teachers and Charles, one of the Chinese teachers from our school, as the guide. The modern area of the city is similar to many others in the region, but the old section of the town is quite fascinating. Its buildings face onto the canals, and have been preserved in their original state - all wooden architecture and lanterns.
The town is not just a 'show town', but still lived in, with a variety of hotels, restaurants, and shops - many selling local culinary treats.
The Old Town was also used in the Mission Impossible 3 Movie. There is a section in the film that is supposed to show Tom Cruise running through the "old Shanghai" - but they actually used Xitang as the location instead. We
spent our time there wandering through the maze of streets, taking a boat ride down the winding waterways, having our photos taken by Chinese tourists, and of course, having dinner at a local restaurant. You could easily spend a few days relaxing in Xitang.
Into the Countryside
Several days prior to our Xitang visit, we'd been out into the countryside near Jiaxing to have lunch at the family home of some new friends of ours. The grandparents of the family were the cooks, and we were treated to a huge meal, consisting of about 12 different traditional dishes - all of which were delicious. They cooked the lunch in their 100-year old kitchen, which was separated from the main house, and only added to the rustic atmosphere.
Before lunch, our friends took us into the fields nearby, where Toby put his 'bamboo-digging' skills to use - collecting as much fresh fare as he could for the meal. The whole family had come to the house especially for the lunch, and since we couldn't all fit around the same table, they would take it in turns to eat with us - each time toasting us with rice wine, and
telling us to help ourselves to more food. We were stuffed by the end!
After lunch, our friends took us fishing nearby - at what we think was a fish farm. I am not that keen on fishing, and hence didn't catch a thing! So instead, the girls and I spent our time patting a very smiley golden retriever dog, whose name was something like 'ching ching', and who chose to sit with us. It was a very pleasant way to spend the day, and as with previous outings, the hospitality of our Chinese friends exceeded all our expectations.
Pinghu and Shopping
Summer is most definitely on its way to China, so our friends decided it was time we made a trip to Pinghu to do some shopping and bargaining. Pinghu is well-known for producing 'Western Sized' clothing and selling it for cheap prices at various market places. So, off we went in search of clothes to fit the tall and large people.
Pinghu is also famous for watermelons apparently. It even has a "big watermelon" sculpture in the city centre. It also has a series of canals running through it with old stone bridges, and a
lake known as the East Lake - fringed with gardens and pagodas.
It's a fairly picturesque town in places - although not as pretty or interesting as Xitang.
Nevertheless, it does have a lot of clothes. The Chinese teachers that we went with (all female) were expert bargainers, and we came away with a few things. But my tolerance for shopping of any kind is notoriously low...so after a couple of hours, we gave up, and did some sightseeing instead. Much better!
The journey home was....interesting. Our friends had bargained with a taxi company to take us the 40 minute drive to Jiaxing, instead of catching the bus. The driver had initially agreed on 40RMB for the journey, but once we were inside the minibus, he decided he wanted 50RMB instead. Our friends argued with him and refused to pay more, and he seemed to begrudgingly accept and off we went. However, this did not stop him trying to squeeze an extra 10 RMB out of our friends all the way home! He was extremely persistent, and there was much shouting in Chinese from the front seat to our friends at the back of the bus. We didn't
know exactly what was being said, but he didn't sound happy, and neither did they.
In the end, peace was restored. But it was reassuring to know that it's not only tourists that are targets - the locals cop it sometimes too.
Tot: 0.093s; Tpl: 0.023s; cc: 11; qc: 59; dbt: 0.0139s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb