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BLOG: Venice of China

Suzhou Travel Blog

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Today, we took a side trip to Zhouzhuang, over 1 hour from Shanghai. This place is an old authentic Chinese village set along canals. It is a Chinese Venice, with World Heritage status. It was a bit of a challenge getting here due to some misunderstanding ... we were looking for buses and all that were available were relatively expensive "tour buses" which we used in the end. As it turned out it included both way transport, all entrance fees and a bottle water ... you roam the place yourself.

We said our goodbyes to Mike and Anna there and came to Suzhou while they went back to Shanghai. Suzhou is full of historical gardens which we'll explore tomorrow. Pre-APEC junkets were held here in September this year.

So, far everywhere is very clean probably due to APEC. However, I maintain that China is very clean (often more so than Hong Kong), except for pollution and in some cities dust from the desert. Communism seems to have done some good in terms of law and order. I also maintain that China is one of the easiest countries to travel in independently. Everything is so systematic and orderly (probably Communism again). You just need to speak some Mandarin and even better be able to read it. If I could read rather than just speak some of it, we'd have saved a bit of confusion so far!

Before I go for reflexology and massage, here are a few interesting bits:

  • Crabs are in season. You can buy crab and minced-pork dumplings in steamed buns (xiaolongbao). We could see a whole row of kitchen-hands crack the crabs by hand for this. I LOVE crabs. Crabs are COOL.

  • Our bus ride from Zhouzhuang to Suzhou was interesting. Woman came on board the bus with a net full of baby crabs. Oooh ... crabs on buses are NOT COOL. However, she started peeling oranges and the mix of smells made it quite bearable. That's the inspiration for my next recipe ... orange and chilli crab. And ... spitting chewed orange pulp on the floor on the bus wasn't cool either.

  • Aquariums are common place in Chinese restaurants as you know. Pick your own fresh seafood. In one sitting, we had 2 crabs climb out and run past Kim, and a fish do somersault spalshing aquarium water into our food. Fortunately we didn't fall sick from continuing to eat the food. We did change tables though, and shortly after that one fish committed suicide by jumping out from the head-height aquarium on to the floor.

  • Internet in China must be BEST in the world. We get lightning fast ADSL access for NZD1 an hour in an internet cafe. Wonder what the bulk rate is.

  • The shopping here is great. In one floor of a non-descript minor Shanghai department store, we saw more electronics than all of the electronic shops in Auckland CBD put together. Imagine what is in all the other bigger brighter places! There's stuff we've never seen before like Mars-bar sized things which record sound and images for transmission by email. Finally found air-cons that heat and cool ... one-third the price compared to home. Bought some suits (excellent workmanship at attractive prices and excellent service) just in case I decide to work again.

 

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Suzhou
photo by: sylviandavid