On our last episode, we stepped into Tiananman Square and the Forbidden City, and saw a very interesting play. Today begins with a plane ride from Beijing to Shanghai.
The Beijing airport had some very interesting things to see, even though it was around 6:30AM when we arrived there. I tried some very tasty macarons from McDonalds (I was surprised too), and visited a very hip art shop in the terminal.
Beer in the vending machine! (And available at 6:30AM in an airport – when I most feel the need to drink)
As we were waiting for our plane to arrive, I noticed a man eating ramen, which is sold in vending machines. I stopped for a moment to wonder where he got the hot water, but then I remembered that no one in China drinks cold water and all of the water fountains dispense boiling hot water. While I was truly missing my cold water, I did think about how useful it would be to always have access to ramen (hey, it's better than what we have in our vending machines in Canada!).
We landed in Shanghai, and then were stuck in traffic for a few hours as we moved through downtown Shanghai traffic on our way to Suzhou.
Everyone hangs their clothes outside to dry. What if something blows off?! These buildings were at least 40 storeys high.
We saw someone being pulled over by the traffic police – who have a pavilion in the middle of the highway. I guess it's common.
Most of the street signs have Roman characters – which was surprising.
I liked the look of this guy. Taking a break.
Luckily, our faithful national guide Eric had some interesting things to share. Apparently, it is common to ask for a bathroom by saying that you need to "sing a song", and referring to the bathroom itself as the "happy house". I personally really like that last one. He also explained that Chinese people believe that there are four elements that must be present in a garden for it to have proper feng shui. Those are: plants (the most obvious); buildings (someone should be able to live on the land to enjoy it to its fullest – or at least be able to take shelter when necessary); water (for life); and stone (I forget why, but something to do with strength I think).
We finally arrived in Suzhou, which is a town famed for its beauty (both in geography and in its people). We met our wonderful local guide Jessica, who explained that Suzhou women are highly desirable for marriage. There is a saying, "To be born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, die in Liuzhou." I was more interested in the boat ride down one of the water ways in the town. It was so majestic, just like I think Venice might be. People were waving at us from their house along the shore as we floated by. I would love to be able to do this again one day, but at night.
My beautiful mama inside the boat.
After the boat ride, we visited an embroidery factory. Never have I seen such fine detail in my life. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside, but the work was beautiful. I especially enjoyed the silk embroidery screens with animals on them, because the threads lend themselves well to look like fur. One thing that I had never seen before was double-sided pieces with two images on a swiveling panel. Apparently these are the most complex to create, and both sides must be completed simultaneously. We saw some workers doing their embroidery, and I honestly couldn't even see the needles in their hands. They were that thin. There was also terrible lighting and a large lack of ergonomic furniture/equipment, so it is understandable that embroiderers can only work for about twenty years of their lives.
Outside the factory, there were some fruit vendors with some things I had honestly never seen before.
A duck friend!
We also drive through the wedding dress discrict. Apparently brides still feel the need to wear the traditional Chinese wedding apparel (in red) but will also buy a Western-style dress in white – even though white symbolizes death in China.
This was kinda weird.
We ate in the embroidery factory, and then drove to our last stop for the day – Golden Rooster Lake. It was so beautiful to see at night, with all the multi-coloured lights. Apparently there is an area nearvy in Suzhou that rivals Times Square, but we were a bit pooped by that time and had to go to bed.
A vendor sold light-up toys by the side of the lake.
On the way back to the hotel, Eric told us that if you are ever lost in China, you can find clues of your location based on the local food. Northern food is salty, Western food is spicy (the Hunan region), Eastern food is sweet, and Southern food is just plain strange (his words, not mine).
And so concluded our third day in China. Stay tuned for day 4, which includes our last day in Suzhou visiting some beautiful gardens, and on to Wuxi for the Buddhist Disneyland and the most beautiful teapots I have ever seen.