February 24th, 2009 – by: LivYorDrem
I was lax about my last few days of journaling so it is now June and I am writing for my travel blog about my last few days of the trip! Better late than never. Perhaps you thought I was shanghaied in Shanghai, after the abrupt stop to my reports! Hopefully I can remember what happened next!
I had arranged a tour to the watertown of Zhouzhuang and the city of Suzhou. It was a gray and drizzly day when I headed out to the dock but I didn’t see anyone waiting for me, only the ship’s tours and some other private tours.
A helpful guide called my guide’s phone number and I was quickly united with my guide and driver. It was a very private tour as I was the only one there! I can’t remember the exact order of things I saw that day. We made several stops in Suzhou and visited a traditional home and garden, Net Master Garden, “the best and most celebrated as a model Ming Dynasty Garden in all of Suzhou”. Then we went to see the Ancient City Gate and Grand Canal in Suzhou. As we walked through the town, we stopped at various houses and gardens open to the tourists. I was ready to see something different. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant but I since I was alone, I was facing a solo lunch. I invited the guide to join me so at least I had a little company. The food was only so-so, yesterday’s was much better. We went to another Silk Factory where I was tempted to buy more but refrained. (I waited until I got home so I could pay shipping fees after I realized how much I loved my silk duvet!) I was still fascinated by the process of making silk.
We then went to the water village of Zhouzhuang. It was very similar to Zhujiajiao. It was quite touristy but most of the tourists were Chinese. The canals were lined by narrow streets with houses and shops lining the edges and stone bridges crossing the water. We took a gondola ride with some other tourists from China. There was much conversation around me and several times the rower would sing a song. I was the only one who did not speak Chinese but my guide later told me what they were saying. The rower of the gondola was paid the equivalent of $2 per 15 minute boat ride. But he was a young single man who wanted to find a girl. Unfortunately no girl will have a man unless he could first establish a nice home away from his parents. So to supplement his income, he would sing for tips. He made some extra yuan that ride!
When we were ready to leave Zhouzhuang, we could not find our driver and van.
The guide’s cellphone had no reception and he was getting pretty worked up. He went off in search of our missing transport. While he was gone I bought some candy that was similar to taffy and sat down near a bus station. I sat next to an elderly Chinese woman and offered her a piece. This drew an instant crowd of Chinese men who were waiting for the bus. I offered everyone some candy but no one wanted any, which I don’t blame them because it was rather yucky! Again, they were all very impressed with Kevin’s hanging watch with compass and temperature. Every time someone new came up, it was immediately pointed out to the new guy. But we all chatted, them in Chinese and me in English, no one understanding anything. One man asked for my camera to take a picture of me and the lady next to me. Being such a trusting soul, I gave him my camera. At first the lady didn’t want her picture taken but finally relented. It was the most fun I’d had all day. I finally headed back to where I had last seen my guide but still no sign of him. I wandered up and down the street in the rain for a few more minutes and he finally showed up, saying he had found our driver. He looked pretty relieved!
When we got back to Shanghai, we stopped at a tea house where a young Chinese woman performed a tea presentation, showing me the different types of tea and pouring each brew into a small cup with a sniffing cup. It was all very elaborate and of course I left with my bag of tea purchases!
I headed back to the ship and, after my usual evening, called it a night.