So Steve has been in a different country every year for the past three years for his birthday. England, then Brazil, and now Suzhou, China. But he said today that out of all the countries he's been at for his birthday, this one is the coolest. :) Of course I was determined to give Steve the best birthday ever.
So we woke up and went to look for some breakfast. I wanted to get breakfast at a little food stand I always went to when I was here before but it wasnt there anymore! So we went to another side street and got some breakfast of scallion pancakes type of thing. Then we went to the bank to exchange some more money and then rent bicycles for the day.
We got our bikes for only 20 yuan (around $2.50) per bike. Riding bikes all day was really fun. First we rode back to our hotel to pay for a second night's stay for tonight. Then we rode to the Master of Nets Garden. Suzhou is well known for its canals and gardens and this garden is suppose to be a good one. So we toured the garden which was nice. Then we rode to our next destination which was the Suzhou silk museum. Riding our bikes around was really fun and we were able to get to places a lot faster. We got to the silk museum and went through it which was pretty interesting. It showed the process of making silk and even had disgusting live silk warms making silk.
Then we went to eat some lunch.
We found a restaurant nearby and it turned out to be a noodle shop. So we had two bowls of noodles for lunch which was really cheap, the whole meal was only around $2 total. Then we went to a pagoda that was nearby. This was the northern pagoda. The entry ticket allowed us to go all the way up the pagoda which was 9 floors. It was really cool and had a great view of Suzhou.
Next we went and got our bikes and rode them back towards the main shopping area. I remembered that my sister wanted one of those chinese style dresses, so we went to shop for one. I finally found one I thought she would like and bought it. Then we rode all the way to the other side of town where the area changes suddenly to very ritzy, clean and wide streets.
North Temple Pagoda
It was fun to ride in this part of town. There were fewer people and it is a very rich part of Suzhou. We rode all the way to a park where 2 years ago my team had a 4th of july party at. It was really nice at that park. We sat there on a bench for a long time enjoying the breeze from the river. In case I forgot to mention, yes it has been disgustingly hot everday, especially as we go further south. It is so hot, a couple minutes outside and you are drenched in sweat. But we enjoyed the breeze and walked around the park a bit. Steve is still a little sick with a cold so I think he was getting tired a little easier. So we rested at the park awhile and then went back towards our hotel.
At 7:30pm, I had arranged to meet 2 of the Chinese girls I met here 2 years ago.
North Temple Pagoda
We were waiting at the gate of Suzhou university, but around 7:45 they were not there and I was worried I was not at the right spot. So we asked a guard at the gate if he had a phone (using hand signal and charades of course). He let us call on his cell phone and it turned out we were at the wrong meeting place. So the 2 girls came to where we were at. When they got there, the guard asked if they were the ones we called and then demanded money from them for using the phone!! I couldn't believe it, it was only a small amount he asked for, but still, it was suprising.
Then we walked with our friends to a restaurant. We finally found one to eat at and they ordered for us, a sweet tomatoe dish, a tofu dish, a big fried egg thing, fish in a bbq like sauce, and sweet and sour pork.
Arum on 2nd Floor of Pagoda
We ate well and chatted with difficulty to my Chinese friends. By that time it was already late, around 9:30pm, and we went to return our bicycles we had rented. Then since we were pretty close to our hotel, we all went back to our hotel room and hung out a bit before the 2 girls left to go back home. As I was showing them some pictures I had brought from home, they remarked about how different our lives are compared to theirs. They looked at things like the fact that I had a car, and had a pool in the backyard, and even got to travel for the summer, and said that life in America must be better because ordinary people can have these things, although in China only the very rich live like we do. That put some things into perspective for me, as I often realize that I am way more blessed than I realize and take a lot of things for granted.
I asked Steve a bunch of times today what he wanted for his birthday, but he always just said to be doing exactly what we are doing now. We saw it all in Suzhou, ate a lot of food for cheap, and had an adventure, pretty much many of his favorite things, so I think by the end of the day, Steve had a great birthday!